Mr. Jones was a tough teacher in the 60s. Students considered him unapproachable, unfair and uncaring. Mr. Jones never went to church. He considered religion to be a crutch for the weak, and he was certainly no weakling! He was also a racist. He hated the Cold War, and even more, he hated the Russians whom he blamed for causing it.
When the new school year began, Mr. Jones was appalled to discover that he had a Russian child in his class. It didn’t matter that little Boris was a very polite, clean, well-behaved student, Mr. Jones still despised him from day one and sought ways to flunk him. He couldn’t very well do so, however. Not with a principal who believed that a failing student was a reflection of the teacher’s inadequacies!
One day little Boris became quite upset. He had received 9/10 on his math test. Although this is considered a good grade, Boris knew that the teacher had made a mistake! He knew that he deserved a 10/10!
This might not mean all that much to us grown-ups, but to a charming, perfectionist child, it was the end of the world. He decided to approach his teacher about it during recess, but to his dismay, Mr. Jones just shrugged him off: “Not now, Boris!”
Boris didn’t give up. During lunch break, he again tried to approach his teacher. Mr. Jones saw him coming, and quickly snuck off into the staff room. Imagine his frustration an hour later, when he stepped back out into the hall to find little Boris waiting for him by the door. “I don’t have time, Boris!” He snapped. “I have a class to teach!”
When Mr. Jones saw Boris headed his way during the last recess of the day, he hid in the restroom, and a similar scenario went on for three days. Finally Mr. Jones gave up: “What do you want!” He demanded.
He was definitely humbled to learn that he had, indeed, made a mistake on little Boris’ math test! Boris was granted his 10/10, and he left with a big smile on his face. His persistence had paid off!
This parable closely parallels the one that Jesus drew upon to emphasize the importance of persistence in prayer: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!”‘ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?'” (Luke 18:1-8 NIV)
In this parable Jesus makes a clear point: we need to be persistent when we pray! We need to NEVER GIVE UP! In fact, in verse 8, Jesus associates those who persist with those who have faith!
This story takes me back to my childhood days, when I wanted something very badly for my birthday. I hounded my parents about it for months. Why? Because I knew that the more I asked, the more they would realize how important this particular thing was to me, and they would try all the harder to get it for me. I had faith that they would come through!
Believe in God and in His mercy and you will be rewarded! “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7 NIV)
When my youngest son was five years old, he started hinting that he would like to take horseback riding lessons. Now, I came from a family who adamantly discouraged horseback riding. It was far too “dangerous!” And as a result, I immediately dismissed my son’s petition. What can I say? I’m meaner than Mr. Jones!
This didn’t deter my son in the least. He sought every opportunity to try and kindle my compassion for his passion. It took him an entire two years (It only took Mr. Jones three days!), but I did eventually give in. Now, five years later, my son is an accomplished rider who could spend hours at a time on horseback; and to my utter dismay, his favorite activities are cantering and jumping! Now he has a slightly different twist to his persistent harassment: He wants to own his OWN horse! I wonder how many years it will take for me to cave in on THAT one???
How can we even doubt that God will care about the things that weigh heavily upon our hearts? He cared for each one of us so much that he willingly died for us so that we could experience eternity with Him. How can we possibly believe that He doesn’t have our best interest at heart? How can he possibly ignore us? “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:9-11 NIV)
“Papa, can I have a horse???”
“Not now, son! Can’t you see I’m busy?”
What would you do in his shoes? Give up or persist?
(To access the entire “Important Elements of Prayer” devotional series, please click here.)