Writers of the New Testament letters call our attention to certain aspects of prayer peculiar to their situations and audience. I admit at times to feeling some tension as I try and harmonise so much information. Perhaps this is why I’m motivated to putting the following thoughts into print about prayer and paradox.
Paradox is ‘a statement that may be true but seems to say two opposite things.’ As I read some parts of the Gospels and epistles the following quotes arise: ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.’ Put that beside the parable of the Widow and the unjust judge in Luke 18. She nagged the judge until he gave her a hearing. Jesus summed it up with “will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? (Emphasis added) Will he delay long in helping them?’ In Revelation 6:9-11 is an illustration of further delays to long term pleading. ‘Under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; … cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?”’ The answer, not until the foreseen number of martyrs had been completed.
God has given us a wonderful privilege concerning our entering His presence in prayer. Some are called to be intercessors for specific ventures yet we are all called to be wrestlers in prayer on some issues. Epaphras in Colossians 4:12 is an example for us. He wrestled in prayer. Wrestling in this context infers a long and arduous contest. How different to Matthew 7:7-11. There we are invited to ‘ask, seek, knock’ with the conviction that the Father is keen to give good things to those who ask. Is this a contradiction? Is it a Paradox?
There are some things I’ve talked with the Lord about for a Long time. I don’t consider it ‘nagging’ but a son’s longing that his Heavenly Father will grant the request. I honestly don’t know whether He will grant it. This I do know, my Heavenly Father is good, gracious and generous. He also understands my heart and the issues involved. It is in the talking with Him that the paradox is held in proper tension and I do not become sour or fed up with prayer. How could I when God has answered so many other prayers, whether on a long term or short term basis.
I’ll accept Paul’s injunction in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ‘Pray without ceasing.’ My God who sees the heart understands I’m not in the league of the Gentiles Jesus mentioned. Nor am I in the gang of those condemned by James. So, along with many other praise responses I’ll keep making my petitions known. I wonder though, when I see Him in glory will He explain the reasons for His delays or refusals? Personally I doubt it for I’ll (we’ll) be so caught up with the wonder of being in His presence it won’t really matter.