By Erin Bird
This week, I had a chance to gather with some other pastors from around Iowa for 24 hours of encouragement and sharpening. Our speaker was the pastor of a church in Minnesota. His community is only 6000 in population, and yet his church has roughly 700 in attendance and growing. Almost every week his small-town church sees someone find Jesus and begin following him.
Of course, the pastors in the room wanted to know "the secret." How had he seen so many people place their faith in Jesus? How had his church gone from 250 to 700 in the seven years he had been there?
To explain his "secret," this pastor took us to 2 Kings 13. There is a strange little story about the prophet Elisha, who is on his death bed, and his final conversation with the king of Israel. The king shows up at Elisha's house sad that this prophet of God is ill and probably going to die. So to comfort the king, Elisha gives one last prophecy, and he does it through an illustration.
He asks the king to take a bow and some arrows and shoot them out the window toward the east. This was to illustrate that Israel would have victory over one of their fiercest enemies. But then Elisha asks the king to take an arrow and tap the ground.
So the king grabs an arrow and taps the ground three times.
Suddenly, Elisha is angry! Not because the king tapped three times when told to just tap the ground. No, Elisha is upset because he only tapped thrice! Listen to what Elisha said:
"You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times." (2 Kings 13:19b)
The pastor admitted this passage has nothing to do with prayer. However, he says he has been teaching his church that God invites us to pray, much like Elisha invited the king to tap the ground. But so often, we pray once or twice, maybe three times, for something... then we give up.
However, Jesus holds up a persistent widow in Luke 18 as an example for prayer because she kept going before a judge seeking justice, even though the judge had a reputation for not being fair. Like the widow, Jesus invites us to keep going to God in prayer. Don't stop at once or twice. Keep at it. Five. Six. Seven. Eleven. Twenty. Fifty. Whatever it takes. Just keep tapping your arrow.
Because as we pray, God is molding our hearts. And we'll either see Him answer our prayers by changing us and changing our prayers to be in line with His heart. Or we'll have the joy of seeing our prayers answered just as we had been asking.
So what is it you need to persistently pray for? A child? Your marriage? A co-worker? A neighbor to find and follow Jesus? Wisdom about a big decision?
Then pray persistently. Keep tapping your arrow.
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