Friday, November 3, 2023

Permission Slips, Trust, and Racist Comments

Suggested Reading: Matthew 15:21-28

Once, when she was in grade school my daughter wanted me to sign a permission slip for something at school. The way she went about it just about drove me crazy. She asked if I would, and I told her that I would have it for her before we left for school. Three minutes later she was back in front of me, asking if I had signed it yet. I assured her I would have it for her before we left for school. Three minutes later she was back again. In spite of the fact that I had assured her several times it would happen, and in spite of the fact that my wife and I have a pretty good track record at following through on things like that, my daughter was so focused on it, and so insecure about it, that she just kept coming back.

Matthew 15 shares the story of a woman at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to trust. A Canaanite woman had come to Jesus asking that he cast a demon out of her daughter. Jesus ignored her. He ignored her to the point that the disciples finally came to Jesus and begged that he, at least, send her away because she was driving them crazy, too. Jesus announced that he couldn't help her because she wasn't a Jew. The woman barged her way in, falling before Jesus, and begging him again. Jesus again told her he couldn't help her because she wasn't a Jew, this time basically calling her a dog. When she responded that even dogs got scraps, Jesus finally relented and told her that she would get what she asked for. Mark's version of the story adds one more detail. When she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone (Mark 7:30, NLT).

Why is that detail important? Well, if I was that woman, desperate to help my little girl, and this man had ignored me, put me off, made what I might consider racist comments, called me a dog, and then finally agreed, but wasn't going to go with me, I don't know that I would have left without him. I probably would have been convinced that he was only agreeing so I would leave him alone. But this woman left. She believed in him enough to take him at his word and go home in faith.

Sometimes, we are persistent in prayer simply out of devotion and discipline. But sometimes we are persistent in prayer because, deep down, we don't really believe that God will do what is best for us. We keep praying, not because we trust God, but because we don't. Like my daughter, who had every reason to believe I would keep my word, we sometimes pester God because we are nervous and insecure, because we don't really believe God will provide for us like God promised.

Persistence in prayer is a wonderful thing when we pray out of our faith. But sometimes we must intentionally put our insecurities aside and demonstrate our faith by letting go, moving on, and allowing God to follow through without pestering him in our insecurity. James tells us that we should pray, asking God in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-7, HCSB).

What have you been pestering God about? Have you been persistent in prayer because you trust God or because you don't? Maybe it's time to let some things go. Ask God, one last time, and then trust God to do what is best, both, for you and for God's glory. Don't allow your prayers to demonstrate your lack of belief.

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