Then Jesus said to them, ‘Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.” And suppose the one inside answers, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. (Luke 11:5-8)
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1)
I was sitting in a prayer meeting last week reflecting on how long we had been praying for something. Suddenly the image of a pickaxe and a coalface jumped into my head. As I smashed the coalface, something suddenly glinted in the light. I put the pickaxe down and fumbled with a gloved hand to scratch away at the soil that surrounded my find. A diamond popped out.
This sums up how I often feel about prayer. We can feel like we are smashing away at a rock face seeking something of value but rarely finding anything at all. Yet two things struck me about this image and Jesus’ words in Luke on perseverance.
First is the reward. I can whole-heartedly testify to finding diamonds and precious gems of answered prayer. Situations turned around, physical and mental healings, friends being saved. In fact, it can frequently appear that just when we think the earth has given up all it had, we find another gem that gives us the encouragement we need to keep searching for more.
The second issue is our reaction to answered prayer. Sometimes when we find something, we don’t realise its full beauty. It looks like a rock covered in soil so we toss it aside without much thought, oblivious that we just threw away a ruby. Or at other times we get complacent and merely shrug our shoulders because it’s just another emerald or forget entirely about the sapphire we picked up a few months ago.
Answered prayer is ridiculously amazing. When the God of the universe intervenes in our lives in any way whatsoever, we should be simply stunned. It should be like finding a totally flawless diamond and struggling to emotionally or intellectually comprehend what has just happened. It should be something we marvel at day in day out and tell the world about.
I love telling stories about what God has done. Some stories are staggering – I catch sight of the Holy Spirit speaking to or healing someone, or engineering a totally random meeting where passionate followers of Christ form new fruitful relationships that bring the kingdom on earth. Other stories are simple, almost mundane – praying that a lonely friend might find company and then seeing a congregation member invite them to a party.
We need to remember to marvel at the gems we have found on the rock face of prayer. Then when we next find ourselves tiring in the challenge of persevering we can take a shiny bit of platinum from our pockets, show it to a fellow miner and together marvel at the faithful God we have who gives amazing gifts to his kids. Then, encouraged, we will take up our pickaxes in prayer and with “shameless audacity” continue to mine for the kingdom of Heaven.