Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary (Lk 18:1).
Persistence in prayer is not changing God. We are not wearing him down like the woman did with the judge. God does not need us. God is completely and totally self-sufficient. We are the ones who need him. Our persistence, our daily habit of prayer, changes us, helps us to develop our relationship by interacting with him more consistently. Things happening in our lives help us to see that we are fragile and vulnerable and in need of help. Our persistence in prayer, especially when we are in need, helps us to become more patient and to become more aware that, sometimes, what we believe is a crisis is not that much of one when some time passes. Also, when we are dealing with a crisis or very real trauma, our persistence and faithfulness in prayer will help us to experience the closeness of Jesus in our midst as he accompanies us through our suffering.
In fact, the practice of stopping everything and praying for five minutes when a crisis arises, often helps us to resist slipping into a fight or flight mode, helps us to resist reacting, and consciously breathing while praying helps us to act more prudently than impulsively. We may also come to see that what we thought was a crisis, was more of a problem to be solved rather than something catastrophic. Our instant reactions to perceived crises can often escalate an issue rather than de-escalate one.
In the greater scheme of things, God does answer all prayers of petition or intercession by saying yes, no, or not yet! Most seem to fall in the not yet or not the way we originally intended category. Remaining patient and faithful can help us to move away from seeking to conform God to our will and instead allowing him to expand our hearts and minds to his will. By being expanded, we can come to see the situation from a broader perspective. Our persistence in prayer also helps us to move away from seeking instant gratification to trusting more in God’s will and timing. Sometimes we become grateful for what appears to be unanswered prayers because with time, hindsight, and some distance, we find our original request was more an apparent than actual good.
Persistence in prayer is also a discipline that deepens the roots of our relationship with God. Ready access through our modern technology, higher internet speeds, one-click access, and overnight shipping, can offer plusses, but we have to be careful that this mindset does not shape our mental, psychological, and spiritual growth. Physical fitness, wisdom, or spiritual maturity does not happen in an instant. More importantly, development as human beings and our relationships take time, experience, discipline, prayer, and trust in God’s plan.
Patience, persistence in prayer, freeing ourselves from attachment, developing an authentic relationship with God and one another are all worth the effort. We need to take some time to breathe deeply, slow down our pace, discipline ourselves to resist even small acts of instant gratification each day. No matter how busy we are, we need to slow down, and the busier we are the more we need to slow down. Even if we stop to pray and feel like nothing has happened and it was a waste of time, something has happened. But to see the effects we must be persistent. God has our back, we can trust in that.
Photo: I stopped to pray yesterday at the Monsignor Oscar Romero Memorial Plaza, Los Angeles, on my walk coming from meditating at the Zen Center of Los Angeles and before continuing on to the noon Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.