This week I will be in Washington DC to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech. Fifty years ago this month, Dr. King not only powerfully articulated a Kingdom dream of reconciliation for our nation but was willing to sacrifice his life for this dream.
Even though we haven’t yet seen this dream realized, we press forward, working and praying in under-resourced neighborhoods as agents of God’s love and reconciliation with shameless persistence!
Take a look at Jesus’ amazing teaching in Luke 11 about this kind of prayer:
“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.”
– Luke 11:5-8 NLT
Another version translates this phrase, audacious persistence.
Most of us have experienced a time in our lives when we cried out to God with “shameless persistence.” A time when we learned firsthand that what God had called us to is so beyond our personal capacity, that all we can do is turn to him in desperation.
In my lifetime, I have experienced periods like this with very painful struggles in my nuclear family. I have experienced it with life threatening health concerns for those I love. And I have been there on various occasions related to serious ministry challenges around relationships and finances. While these times have been so hard to go through, it has been these difficult times that have taught me the most about prayer and what Jesus calls shameless persistence.
“Fifty years ago this month, Dr. King not only powerfully articulated a Kingdom dream of reconciliation for our nation but was willing to sacrifice his life for this dream.”
In the last 15 years, Marianne and I have gotten to know a guy in our barrio named Greg. I don’t remember the first time Greg came knocking on our front door asking us if he could earn a few bucks by picking up the trash in our yard, mowing the lawn, washing our cars, or doing whatever!
Before I got to know him, I was reluctant to bother with him and actually tried to discourage him from coming back. But he was persistent.
Day after day. Week after week. Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. I knew he was going to come knocking at my door. I knew he was going to come back asking me to give him an opportunity to work and earn a few bucks. I would constantly come up with excuses to dismiss him and to get rid of him because he was becoming a bother. Before long, he would show up at all hours of the day and night, knocking on our back door.
He was annoyingly persistent. In fact, I remember thinking, “This guy has no shame! He is going to keep on knocking at our back door until we put him to work!”
I don’t know how it happened. I’m not sure what year it was. I’m not certain what changed my posture towards Greg, but it happened. His shameless persistence moved me and convinced me to offer Greg work whenever I could.
Now it’s not “if” Greg comes, but “when” Greg comes knocking at our door. And, although on occasion we say no, most often he shows up at the exact time we need his help. His shameless persistence has won us over.
In the passage we just read, this (shameless persistence) is a characteristic of prayer that Jesus tells us he wants us to practice and pursue!
But before Jesus offers this story to his followers, he provides a powerful framework for how he approached prayer and, in turn, how we can approach prayer in a way that can unlock the power of shameless persistence in our lives:
Let’s look at the Lord’s Prayer:
“Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’
Jesus said, ‘This is how you should pray:
(Daddy, I want to turn to you)
May your name be kept holy.
(I want to submit to you and please you)
May your Kingdom come soon.
(I want to live for you and your purposes)
Give us each day the food we need,
(I want to trust you for what I need not what I want)
And forgive us our sins,
(I want to seek and receive your grace)
As we forgive those who sin against us.
(I want to extend that same grace to others)
And don’t let us yield to temptation. ‘ ”
(I want to resist anything that keeps me from seeking you and your purposes)
Jesus goes on to say:
“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 11:1-4 NLT
Jesus teaches us to come to him, not with polite, safe, or selfish prayers but with the shameless persistence of someone who is desperately seeking him and his purposes, someone who is utterly dependent on his intervention, and as someone who is sold out to a Kingdom dream.
I feel so strongly that our CCDA movement is filled with men and women who understand the need for this kind of prayer. Our challenges are so great and the suffering of our neighborhoods is often so deep that we cannot possibly offer any significant solutions to people’s problems without God’s intervention! This desperation causes us to lean in to God like never before.
My prayer for our CCDA family is that we would boldly and shamelessly approach the Lord in prayer, to see his Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven in a way that would even make my friend Greg proud!
With Much Love,