Importunity in Prayer
By Virginia Brandt Berg
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Someone wrote and said they couldn’t find the words “prayer changes things” anywhere in the Bible, and yet we say it so many times. Well, it’s not in the Bible, but it certainly is scriptural! God’s Word teaches that, and it expresses the truth. It’s a truth that needs to be etched on the tablets of our hearts.
If prayer does change things, then oh, how we ought to devote more time in prayer! There are great needs around us, and so many things that need to be changed. But if prayer doesn’t change things, then what’s the use of praying? But we know that prayer does change things. We’ve seen things changed by prayer!
What victories we’ve seen won by those who really know how to pray! We can change those things that worry and defeat us. So, let’s pay the price; let’s really pray and get through to God.
“Well,” you answer, “I pray, but things are not changed.” Give God time! We used to have an expression, “I’m going to pray through.” You used to hear that expression a great deal; it means importunity. There is a scripture in God’s Word, in Luke 18 where this word is used.
“And Jesus spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint.”1 Now there’s our trouble. We do faint; we don’t hold on until we get the answer we seek.
And Jesus said, “There was in a city a judge which feared not God, neither regarded man. And there was a widow in that city, and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while, but afterwards he said within himself, Though I fear not God nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”2
Now listen to the last part of this:
“And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?”3
The Lord is saying here that this widow, by her continual coming, received her answer. Then the Lord says, “If that could happen with this unjust judge, shall not God avenge His own that are crying unto Him day and night?”
That is an example of the importunity that God’s Word speaks of. And here’s the other passage in Luke chapter 11:
“And Jesus said unto them, which of you shall have a friend and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
“And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are in bed with me. I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”4
Remember, this is the Lord Jesus Christ that’s speaking here. I will repeat it. He wouldn’t give to his friend just because he was his friend, but, Jesus said, “because of his importunity he will rise and give him as he needeth.”
“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”5
Dearly beloved, this isn’t just some little weak simpering sort of a coming to God and asking for something. This is an asking that has boldness behind it and importunity in it and a seeking and a knocking! “For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”6 That’s the Lord Jesus Christ Himself speaking.
This can be defined as a way of praying until you come to an assurance that God has heard you.
How many times in God’s Word we read about this! I’ve given you two wonderful passages along this line, and there are many others in God’s Word that show you that you must hold on.
You can’t just utter a little prayer in a hurry and then complain that God doesn’t answer. Wait on the Lord. Give God a chance. There are so many scriptures about waiting for the Lord.
Isaiah 25:9 says, “Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him and he will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him, and so we will be glad and rejoice.” And Psalm 112:7 says, “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings because his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.”
The psalmist here is not just saying a little prayer, and then forgetting about it and never expecting the answer. His heart is fixed; he’s trusting in the Lord to meet him. “His heart is established,” God’s Word says, “and he shall see his desire.”7 What a wonderful scripture!
I love to read the Psalms. I get such a thrill in my soul when David comes back from a season of prayer with this wonderful assurance that God has heard him. He said, “The Lord hath heard my prayer.”8
Sometimes when David prayed, he was almost in despair from some great trial. But then he came back from having had this talk with God, and he said, “The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.”9 And in another place he said, “Verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.”10
Beloved, have you come to that place where you have prayed with such perseverance, with such importunity, such “holding on” in fervency, until there comes the assurance to your heart that the Lord has not turned away your prayer? As the psalmist said: “He hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.”11 “The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord hath received my prayer.”12
When you pray like that, holding on in such earnestness, such desperation, that’s what God’s Word means when it says, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”13 When you have a fixed determination like that, and you hold on, then the answer will come according to what God knows is best.
There are many ways of meeting crises, but the best way is to pray straight through to the heart of God. Hold on, my friend; victory is on the way. God says so, and He has promised to answer. “In due season ye shall reap if ye faint not.”14 “Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.”15
God bless you. He is on the throne and prayer does change things.
From a transcript of a Meditation Moments broadcast, adapted.
Published on Anchor May 2022. Read by Carol Andrews.
1 Luke 18:1.
2 Luke 18:2–5.
3 Luke 18:6–7.
4 Luke 11:5–9.
5 Luke 11:9.
6 Luke 11:10.
7 Psalm 112:8.
8 Psalm 66:19.
9 Psalm 6:8.
10 Psalm 66:19.
11 Psalm 66:20.
12 Psalm 6:9.
13 James 5:16.
14 Galatians 6:9.
15 Hebrews 10:35.