In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, we read a story about a woman whose child was troubled by a mental illness. From this story, we can see what a third spiritual exercise looks like in action -- the exercise of pressing against opposition until healing breaks through.
The woman was a foreigner -- not a member of Jesus' religion or his nation of origin. Jesus was worn out and was trying to take a break in a friend's home. Somehow the woman got in and begged Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus went silent.
The disciples wanted Jesus to send the woman away; her cries were annoying to them. When Jesus finally spoke, it was to remind the woman of his mission on earth -- to find the lost sheep among his own people. But the woman would not give up. Jesus again sought to discourage her by saying, I have only so much bread (time and energy); I cannot help you. The woman persisted, cleverly turning Jesus' metaphor back on him. She asked for the opportunity to sit under the table and collect any crumbs that might fall.
That kind of faith Jesus could not resist. He praised the woman and released divine power from his body. The woman's daughter was instantly healed.
What This Means for Us
Sometimes when our prayers seem to go unheeded, we give up too easily. To practice the spiritual exercise of persistent pushiness is to be so sure of God's love and goodness that we allow no obstacle to get in the way of healing. Our request may be met with silence, outright opposition or a patient reminder to wait in line. In order for God to do the work of love on earth, we must take the chance to cut through all the spiritual paperwork and claim a share of God's goodness for our own child, our own neighborhood or our own nation.
This Lenten season, let's practice a newfound boldness in our prayers. Don't take "no" for an answer.
Think about a time when you prayed patiently for divine assistance but your prayers seemed to fall on deaf ears. What would it look like to start praying for that assistance again, taking your prayers to a new level of faith?
Who are the people in your life who discourage you from claiming all the love and grace available to you as God's child? How can you push through that opposition, listening more fully to the voice of God within you than to the discouraging words around you?
What is some gift of grace on behalf of someone you love that you want so badly, you are unwilling to take no for an answer? Can you hear God's affirmation of your faith? What is an additional step you can take to be a conduit of God's blessing on behalf of your loved one?