“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart…”
Once I prayed about something every day for a solid year. I was sure that the issue would never be resolved, but I kept after it with a dogged patience. Certain I was boring angels into somnolence, I nevertheless persisted. Day after day I brought it up – one day angrily, the next apologetically, sometimes whiningly, at other times disinterestedly.
Eventually the prayer was answered. A holy intervention moved things along. But that happy outcome came about not only as a change in the issue being prayed about but as a change in my understanding of it and everything surrounding it. Through keeping it continually before God, I myself came to see it differently. My persistence had worked a miracle of revelation as well as resolution.
A persistent prayer is soul-building as nothing else can be. First, it teaches us patience. Most of life’s thornier problems can not be resolved rapidly. Freedom from addictions, the ability to forgive, a desire for better circumstances, recovery from an illness – none of these things come about in an instant. Usually they take gradual, miniscule steps and involve backsliding and sidetracking. If we pray unrelentingly, we notice the little instances of progress, the little miracles along the way to the big ones.
Second, persistent prayer transforms our own attitudes. Most big requests of God, from “tell me what to do next in my life”, to “heal my wife of her cancer”, start out as a demand for the wrong thing. The trickier areas of human need are generally those which cause us to see from a little, narrow human perspective. Often we find that, over time, our prayer leads us to perceive a bigger understanding. “Tell me what to do next in my life” becomes “how can I serve you as I do that which meets my deepest longing and desire.” “Heal my wife of her cancer” becomes a combination of “I really love the woman who is my spouse and I don’t want to lose her”, and “I ache for her in her pain and her fear.”
But finally, and most importantly, unfaltering prayer makes us conscious. We become aware of ourselves in relationship to a problem. We also become cognizant of ourselves in connection with that which is most central to us, our God. We have this affiliation, this participation, that links our little ego personalities with the Holy that emanates from the core of our being and the Holy that permeates the Universe. No matter what happens to the requests we make, to the issues we bring up, to the understandings we yearn for, this central consciousness of us in relationship with God makes prayer worthwhile.
God of infinite patience, wisdom and love, may we pray what is on our hearts persistently, trusting in your never failing presence and response. Amen.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado