Ever offer up a prayer you didn’t feel God was taking seriously? One of the things we struggle with the most as a Church is diligence in our prayers. We don’t continue to ask God for the same thing until we receive an answer. Usually, we lift it once or twice and that’s it. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. We’re supposed to be persistent. After all, if something really matters to us, why would we give up so quickly?
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. – Matthew 15:21-28, ESV
My five year-old daughter reminds me a lot of me when I was her age. If there was something I really wanted, I was persistent. I didn’t let up. Every opportunity to remind my parents about whatever it was, I took. She is the same way. And I don’t just mean toys and things of that sort. I mean about everything. For instance, the other day she really wanted someone to read a book to her, but we were busy. Such is the case with a new baby in the house. She asked my wife, but she was busy. She asked her brothers, but they were doing chores. She asked me, but I was working on something at the time. A little bit later, she started the rounds again. She was polite about it. She didn’t pout or complain too much, but you could hear the disappointment in her voice. I was able to finish up what I was doing and so I told her I would read to her in a few minutes. When I was done, we went and read the book. Her persistence paid off.
The same is true in this miracle for the Canaanite woman. Jesus first says, “No.” Now why would Jesus say that? Well, actually He first says nothing, then says, “No.” There are two reasons I see for this. First, He was waiting to see the reaction of His disciples. I don’t believe it was because she was a Canaanite, a Gentile. After all, He ministered to the centurion’s servant at the centurion’s request, didn’t He? Absolutely He did. Now, you could argue that He did it because the servant was Jewish, but the remark about faith was attributed to the centurion. So that would imply that the healing was done because of the faith the centurion showed. So I don’t believe it’s because she wasn’t Jewish. Note how the disciples respond. They don’t want to help her. They want to get rid of her. This is a teachable moment. Jesus knows His ultimate purpose is to be a sacrifice for the Jew and the Gentile both. But He needs His Jewish disciples to understand this. They only see Him as the potential Jewish Messiah. He’s more. And here He is laying some of that foundation that we see finished in the book of Acts. Never count out anyone. The Lord will reach out to those He desires. We aren’t to judge who is worthy and who isn’t. None of us are worthy. We aren’t even close. We all deserve to die for our sins. Yet Christ overcame them and death, provided us with salvation, and enabled us to come to the Father. And if He’s willing to do it for us, we should not assume He is unwilling to do it for anyone else, regardless of background or reputation. The sooner we understand that, the sooner we stop playing favorites. And the sooner we become more effective for the Kingdom.
The second reason is to have the woman demonstrate resolve in her request. She surely heard the comments from the disciples. Jesus’ own words were meant to discourage. They were a test. Do you really want this? She did. She refuses to back down on her request. She wanted to ensure that He knew she was serious and she wasn’t going to give in. Her daughter was too important. Jesus’ response is telling. Her faith provided her with the request she so greatly desired. And her daughter was freed from the demon. Sometimes God looks for the same in us. If we really, truly want Him to act in some way, He might be looking at our persistence (or lack thereof). Do we stick with it? Do we refuse to back down because it’s that important? Do we keep bringing His attention to it? Actually, His attention never wavers, but what we reveal is that ours is focused on what we say is important. Sometimes Jesus is looking for perseverance and devotion from us. That may be why we don’t get an answer back on our prayer.
It’s a simple thing to continue to carry something to the Lord in prayer until He answers. We can be patient but diligent in bringing it up. That’s the way we should be if something is on our hearts. What is it that is important to you that you’ve not made a recurring prayer to the Lord? What is it that you’ve not continued to diligently bring to Him? Take it to Him now. And take it to Him patiently, reverently, and obediently, until He provides you an answer. That might be what He’s waiting on: our diligence. Let’s not miss out on a blessing or answer to prayer because we lack it.