Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. (Luke 17:7-8)
The only specific thing I can think of that the bible says God is slow about is anger. When it comes to helping His children, He will move as fast as possible.
So when it takes a while for Him to act, know that it doesn’t mean He hasn’t heard you, or that He doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t know what to do. He is perfect in His timing, swift in His acting, never slack in His concern.
“‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion replied, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.’ …And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed at that very moment. (Matthew 8:6-8, 13)
When Jesus walked the earth, He could have healed everyone He passed by without incident. He didn’t need to say any magic words or incite any special powers; He didn’t even need to pray. When Jesus willed a person be healed, they were healed.
Even today He could just heal the world in one swoop. He could speak the words, and anybody with any kind of ailment would be cured. But the Lord desires for us to reach out to Him in faith. He wants us to draw near to Him. He wants us to petition Him. He wants us to recognize that He is the source of life and healing.
“O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear.” (Psalms 10:17)
“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalms 50:15)
“The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” (Psalms 145:17-19)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Fixing one’s eyes on Jesus is easier said than done. Life is distracting. We have responsibilities. We have commitments. We have hopes and dreams, hobbies and interests–what does it look like to focus one’s eyes on Christ?
Meditation on God’s word is a gigantic part of it. Constant, consistent prayer is a large part of it too. But before you quit your job and join a monastery, remember that God is with us always. We don’t have to isolate ourselves from normal everyday life to focus on Him. As He said to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
God is always near. God is always present. God is always listening. God is always actively involved in every aspect of our lives. Acknowledging this fact, rejoicing in this fact, and taking advantage of our right-relationship with Him by consulting Him in prayer and filling our minds with His perfect Word–this is the walk of the Christian who is looking to Jesus, fixing his eyes on the love and grace of his Savior. And everywhere you turn in scripture, it can’t be ignored that focusing ourselves on God involves turning away from evil.
Lord, fill us with the knowledge of your love which surpasses all understanding and help us turn our eyes and hearts to you completely!
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:1-5).
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:19-23)
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Satan demanded to have you
The devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We learn from Job’s story that he even asks permission from God to harass people. He is not a make-believe entity who merely represents evil, He is real, and He spends his time ravaging the earth.
- 1 Peter 5:8-9; “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
But I have prayed for you
The warning we have concerning the devil is not to make us afraid, but to make us aware and watchful. And we have the same encouragement Peter had: Jesus prays for us.
- Hebrews 7:23-25; “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
- Romans 8:34; “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Though the devil wants to destroy us, we have an advocate.
- Zechariah 3:1-5; “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.”
- 1 John 2:1-2; “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
- Hebrews 9:24; “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
He prayed more earnestly
The agony Jesus endured pushed Him deeper into prayer.
- 1 Peter 2:23b; “When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
Jesus’ suffering, first and foremost, was to bring us to God. His suffering also gives us an example. When we go through trials on this earth, we, like Jesus are driven to pray all the more earnestly.
In the Psalms there’s a story of men at sea caught in a storm. It says, “They reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Often times it’s when we’re at our wits end that we cry out to the Lord. It’s then that it says, “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” Not always does He immediately change the situation, but He always hears; and, the affliction that we go through always causes us to grow in our trust in Him.
- Romans 5:3-5; “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
- 1 Corinthians 1:8-10; “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
Indeed, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
- Psalm 50:15; “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
“And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.'”
Ephesians 6:16 tells us that in the spiritual battle we wage, faith is a shield for us in very circumstance. No matter what fiery dart the devil shoots at us, faith will quench it. One of the ways faith manifests itself in our lives is through prayer. That is, if we truly believe God–if we truly rely on Him–we will be inclined to call out to Him in trouble.
The first line of defense we have against temptation is prayer. We can think of it simply as taking refuge in God, seeking His protection, taking shelter under His wings. Before temptation comes, we can run to the Lord, petition Him to strengthen us and lead us, not into temptation, but into righteousness.
Now, the Lord knows how weak we are without Him. He knows our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. He even knows we may not know how to pray, so He has given us some psalms for guidance.
- Psalm 19:13; “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
- Psalm 119:116-117; “Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!”
- Psalm 119:133; “Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.”
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
They ought always to pray
Though Jesus was speaking specifically to the disciples, all of us can take the exhortation of this parable as if spoken directly to us: we ought always to pray.
- Colossians 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
- Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
- Ephesians 6:16-19 “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel….”
- Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ‘Pray without ceasing….”
And not lose heart
Constant prayer is difficult to maintain. It’s exhausting. But we ought not to loose heart in our asking. We ought not to be discouraged. We should always be confident that the God who spent His blood to purchase our right to approach Him will always listen and always act. We don’t know how He will choose to answer us, but we should never doubt that He hears, and never doubt that He will show perfect love in His response.
- Hebrews 4:14-16 “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
- Hebrews 10:19-23 “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
- Ephesians 3:12 “In [Christ Jesus] we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.”
When it comes to praying we should not lose heart but gain confidence. We approach a God who, though we went astray, reconciled us to Himself through the offering of Jesus Christ. He took the initiative to gain fellowship with us. Let us take advantage of our audience with Him: the Creator of the World. Hear the heart of Jesus’ plea for us to pray: “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily;” Luke 18:7-8. When He returns, will He find a people who believe Him and act accordingly?