Importunity: Persistent in Prayer

Several years ago, I wrote a post about persisting in prayer; recently it came to my attention. I’m grateful for this reminder that scripture encourages us to plead with God. The “old” King James version uses the word “importunity” in Luke 11:5 – 8 as Jesus teaches his disciples the value of persistence in prayer. “Importunity” is not a familiar word in current speech.

Dictionary.com defines importunate:
1. urgent or persistent in solicitation, sometimes annoyingly so.
2. pertinacious, as solicitations or demands.
3. troublesome; annoying: importunate demands from the children for attention.

Do you have a persistent prayer? Something you’ve been asking God for a while? I do. I see myself knocking daily on his open door … please, please respond to my prayer.  

Do you wonder why God hasn’t answered? Do you question your faith as I have done? Are you lacking confidence in praying because this one prayer seems to go unanswered?

I wish I had recorded the day, time,
stream of thought that led me to Luke 11 and 18.

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Luke 11:5-10 NLT

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice,
because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

Luke 18:1 – 5 NLT

Clearly the lesson Jesus is teaching is that
we should ask and not grow weary.
The scripture says to pray and never quit.

“Family of Jacob, you have not prayed to me as you should.
    People of Israel, you have not worn yourselves out for me.

Isaiah 43:22 NIRV

God knows what we need. So why do we pray?
Why do we pray persistently
when we don’t seem to be getting an answer?

  • We pray to remind ourselves that we need God and to acknowledge that dependence before Him.
  • We pray to adjust our hearts to God’s heart and kingdom purposes.
  • We keep on asking to provide a means for Him to give, and not force on us, what we need and desire.

We of the twenty-first century are so like the people in Isaiah’s time. We want God to care for us and meet our every need, without ‘wearying ourselves’ to praise him, to walk in intimate dependence and to pour out our hearts to him for others as well as for our own needs. We are ‘too busy’ to pray (or too tired), yet Jesus modeled a lifestyle of prayerful dependence, fellowship and intercession.
The God who is ‘in control’ asks us to ask!

Mary Anne Voelkel, former Prayer Coordinator for InterVarsity

As I keep persisting in prayer, I realize that I am not trying to change God’s mind, or twist His strong arm. Instead, as I pray, I am asking for God’s intervention, for His pervasive presence to affect my life first, to grow me up, sanctify me, adjust my wants and desires. And I trust Him to do just that.  I want what God wants for me.  If what I am asking is not good for me, He will redirect my heart to pray otherwise. We worship and serve a good God who desires to give good gifts to His children.

And until He directs otherwise, I lift up my prayer.

Dear Father, you know my heart’s desire,
you know this thing I keep asking. I ask again today!

Quickly, Lord, please answer my prayer, quickly!

The Lord, who truly knows
The heart of every saint,
Invites us by His holy word
To pray and never faint.

He bows His gracious ear;
We never plead in vain;
Yet we must wait till He appear,
And pray, and pray again.

Though unbelief suggest,
Why should we longer wait?
He bids us never give Him rest,
But be importunate.

Then let us earnest be,
And never faint in prayer;
He loves our importunity,
And makes our cause His care.

John Newton
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