I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying about “praying” lately, and discovering that I know very little about the subject. In the end, I find that many of my prayers are just thrown up there without much thought, other than an emphasis on the “need” being prayed for. But along the way I discovered a word that lends itself to the true meaning of “answered prayer”… Importunate.
When someone is being importunate they are being persistent to the point of annoyance or intrusion; troublesome or annoying. And yet it is the importunate prayer that breaks through. The Bible tells us that we not only need to pray, but we need to pray again and again. Jesus continually throughout His life here on earth made it very clear that the secret to prayer is in its urgency. A perfect example is the parable of the importunate widow:
Luke 18:1-8 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
That is the definition of importunity. And that is the reason Jesus taught this parable… men ought always to pray, and not to faint. He put being able to importune as one of the main conditions of successful prayer. Look at what He said in one of my favorite chapters in the Bible:
Matt 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
And the result:
Matt 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
He was speaking directly to you; “everyone.” If we don’t ask and seek the answer by continually knocking, our prayers will not get answered. Just offering up a prayer and hoping for an answer is just that… hoping. Jesus wants us to learn the lesson of the widow. He wants us to learn how to hold on, press on, and wait on the answer, for every prayer is answered. Yes every prayer! Remember what I wrote last week.
Ps 91:15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.
John 14:13-14 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
One writer put it this way: Importunate prayer is not an incident, but the main thing, not a performance but a passion, not a need but a necessity… we are to press the matter not with vain repetitions, but with urgent repetitions. We are to pray with all perseverance. Charles Spurgeon said that asking is the rule of the kingdom. If our example, the Son of God, wasn’t exempted from asking, then why should we think we would be?
How often do we “faint” in our prayer life? I think the answer is far too often. I wonder how many times the answer to our prayer was just approaching our front door when we fainted, when we gave up? As I reflected on my prayer life I have came to the conclusion that too often I faint and quit praying at the very point at which I should be praying in earnest; importunately. I find myself letting go at the very point that I should be holding on the strongest.
Jesus taught us to ask and it will be given, and then He repeated His promise and said that everyone who asks will receive and for everyone who knocks it will be opened. There are no exceptions… everyone! Are we praying in accordance with the will of God, are we asking in Jesus’ name so that God will be glorified in His answer to our prayer? If so, then we know He has promised to answer our prayer and we can continue seeking and knocking until He delivers the answer. To do otherwise is just adding “in Jesus’ name” as a precursor to “amen” in our prayer, which has no meaning, no power at all! We are to Ask, Seek, and Knock in Jesus’ name that God may be glorified in His answer to our prayer.
What I’ve discovered is that the measure to which our prayers are answered is in direct proportion to the fervor of our faith, the fervor of our faith is directly reflected in the level of importunity in our prayers, and the level of importunity reflects the persistence we show in pursuing God for His answer. And that brings me to my life verse, the verse that changed my life:
Matt 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
What will ensure that when we Ask,Seek, and Knock (keep on knocking) in Jesus’ name that our prayer will be answered? If we are pursuing His kingdom and His righteousness we can be assured that His answer to our prayer will glorify Him.