The Parable Of Prayer
Illustrating the Need of Importunity
“And He 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 with me in bed; 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.” (Verses 5-8).
1. Importunity. Greek anaideia, means barefacedness. It suggests the thought of holy boldness, persistency, it is true, as we shall see presently; but it also suggests open-heartedness, honesty and sincerity as to one’s need. It is to say, ” I have not a crumb for my friend. I must have help, for I must help him.” Make the spiritual application.
2. Importunity in prayer made possible the answer, not friendship — “Not because he is his friend but because of his importunity.” It is thus clear that while friendship was important it was more important that there should be importunity.
3. Importunity in prayer involves the apparent silence and apparent indifference of God — “Who cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them.” God may be silent but He hears. He will answer in His own time, provided we are importunate.
Is He indifferent? “Let me alone.” No, God is not indifferent. He looked upon the importunity of His servant, Moses, and answered. He is not indifferent to our plea. He will answer. “Shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.”
4. Importunity in prayer involves the countenance in intercession — “Smote thrice and stayed.” (2 Kings 13:18). The necessity of continuance in intercession gave rise to the parable recorded in Luke, chapter eighteen. “And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint; saying, 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 unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for awhile; 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. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge sayeth. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He hear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” Shall He find people pressing their claims in this manner? Shall He find His people continuing in intercession, and not fainting?
The biographer of Payson says, “His continuing instant in prayer, be his circumstances what they might, is the most noticeable fact in his history, and points out the duty of all who would rival his eminency. To his ardent and persevering prayers must no doubt be ascribed in a great measure his distinguished and most uninterrupted success.” It is recorded that the Marquis DeRenty, to whom Christ was most precious, ordered his servant to call him from his devotions at the end of half an hour. The servant at the time saw his face through an aperture. It was marked with such holiness that he hated to arouse him. His lips were moving, but he was perfectly silent. He waited until three half hours had passed; then he called to him, when he arose from his knees, saying that the half hour was so short when he was communing with Christ. (“Preacher and Prayer,” Page 50).
5. Importunity in prayer involves soul agony — “Labouring (agonizing) for you in prayer,” said Paul. (Col. 4:12). St. James in speaking about Elijah’s prayer said, “He prayed earnestly,” literally, “with prayer he prayed,” that is, in his prayer he really prayed; and something happened.
A good illustration of one pressing his petition in soul agony is recorded in Brainerd’s life, “Feeling somewhat of the sweetness of communion with God and the constraining force of His love, and how admirably it captivates the soul and makes all the desires and affections to center in God, I set apart this day for secret fasting and prayer, to entreat God to direct and bless me with regard to the great work which I have in view of preaching the gospel, and that the Lord would return to me and show me the light of His countenance. I had little life and power in the forenoon. Near the middle of the afternoon God enabled me to wrestle ardently in intercession for my absent friends, but just at night the Lord visited me marvelously in prayer. I think my soul was never in such agony before. I felt no restraint, for the treasures of divine grace were opened to me. I wrestled for absent friends, for the ingathering of souls, for multitudes of poor souls, and for many that I thought were the children of God, personally, in many distant places. I was in such agony from sun half hour high till near dark, that I was all over wet with sweat, but yet it seemed to me I had done nothing. O, my dear Saviour did sweat blood for poor souls! I long for more compassion toward them. I felt still in a sweet frame, under a sense of divine love and grace, and went to bed in such a frame, with my heart set on God.”
6. Importunity in prayer makes possible the preaching of the gospel with power — “And when they had prayed the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and they spake the word of God with boldness . . . . and with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:31, 33). “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit . . . And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.” (Eph. 6:18, 19).
7. Importunity in prayer makes possible a victorious Church — This is the history of the Acts of the Apostles. The Church had power with God in prayer. They prayed it through, and victory was sure. Take the case of Peter’s miraculous release from prison. “Peter therefore was kept in prison; but prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him.” (Acts 12:5). And out he came. “And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter, on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And he did so. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garments about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord; and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.” What are imprisonment and iron gates to God when the Church really prays.