Humble, Persistent, Faithful Prayer for Others

MP3 Audio: WS330339_Dn-Joseph_Humble-Persistent-Faithful-Prayer.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, March 16, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.


Gospel Reading: Matthew 15:21-28

And she said, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus answered and said unto her, “O woman, great is thy faith. Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, our God is One.  Amen.

It’s a very fitting Gospel to read during the season of Lent. Lent is known as a time in which we increase our fasting. But as Fr. Michael has told us, it is useless to increase your fasting unless, at the same time, you also increase your praying. And so we come to this passage where we learn what it means to pray rightly. We learn how to pray well. Jesus praises her. Jesus gives her what she requests. So we need to look at how she prays so that we may imitate her example. This Canaanite woman prays humbly. She’s humble.

Many times, when we say that we’re praying, what we’re actually doing is whining with an “amen” at the end. “Lord, please make me not hurt so bad, please heal me. Please fix my finances. Please make my kids like me. Please do this. Please do that.” We whine, we complain, we moan, we groan, and once we have laid out all of our grievances before the Lord, once we’ve given him this long list of all the things we think we deserve, then we say, “In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Her prayers are not like that. When she first prays to him, beseeching him to heal her daughter, he doesn’t even answer her. It’s as if he ignores that she is even there. She doesn’t get upset. She doesn’t demand her rights. Her response is to worship him. She doesn’t get upset that he said he was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel. And when he calls her a dog, she doesn’t get her feelings hurt, she doesn’t stomp off mad, she doesn’t even disagree with him. She’s so humble that, when Jesus calls her a dog, she says, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” And even here, in her statement about the crumbs under the table, she shows humility. She realizes that, to cast a demon out of her daughter, to heal her daughter who is vexed with the devil, Jesus doesn’t need the whole loaf of bread or even a slice. The power of God is so incredible that just a few crumbs will do. She realizes that what she is asking of him is not hard for him. She recognizes that she’s not asking him to do the greatest thing that he can imagine doing. She realizes that he is so powerful, that he is so glorious, that he is so wonderful, that even just a few crumbs from his table will be enough to heal her daughter.  From beginning to end in this passage, at every step of the way, this woman is humble.

This woman is also persistent. Have you ever really poured your heart out to the Lord, beseeching him in prayer for something, asking him to do something for you or for your family? Did you really mean it? Was it really poured out from the depths of your heart?  Now, in some of those cases, did you really pray hard…once…and then you failed to do it again, and again, and again, and again? You see, the first time this woman asked, Jesus didn’t even answer. You ever feel like God responds the same way sometimes when you pray, when I pray? We shouldn’t stop there. If she had stopped there, her daughter would not have been healed. She asked again and his answer is not very promising. So her response is to worship. She asks again, and his response is almost insulting. Have you ever asked and asked and asked and the answers don’t get any better; they get worse? That’s what she was getting. I mean, would you rather Jesus ignore you or call you a dog? The silence almost seems better. But she just keeps it up, humbly and persistently, again and again and again and again asking the Lord for what’s on her heart. Our prayers not only need to be humble, they need to be persistent. That’s why Lent is not a weekend. It’s forty days. We need to be persistent, we need to stick with it.

This Canaanite woman prayed humbly. She prayed persistently. And she prayed faithfully – with faith. Sometimes we fear that if we ask again and again and again, if we pray the same thing over and over and over, “Well, isn’t that ‘vain repetitions’?”  It is if you pray without faith. If you just come to go through the motions, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done…mumble, mumble, mumble…” “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed…mumble, mumble, mumble…”  Those are ‘vain repetitions’. And it’s not just pre-written prayers, but the prayers that we pray over and over, “Lord, please help my finances. Lord, please help my leg get better. Lord, please help my COPD get better. Lord, please help this. Lord, please help that, blah, blah, blah, mumble, mumble, mumble…” We pray those kind of prayers over and over and over and sometimes there’s not a lot of faith there. They just become ‘vain repetitions’. But she prays the same thing over and over and over and Jesus does not accuse her of praying with vain repetitions. He says, “O woman, great is thy faith.  Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” Repetitions are good! VAIN repetitions are bad. Make sure that you are persistent. Make sure that there are repetitions. But do not pray without faith, or else they will be vain ones.

This woman prayed humbly. This woman prayed persistently. This woman prayed with faith. And another thing I think is very powerful here is that she was praying for someone else.  True, she says, “Have mercy on me.” But after saying, “Have mercy on me,” the request that she actually makes is not for her health, not for her finances. Her request is for her daughter. Do you realize how many times throughout the New Testament Jesus heals children? And as far as I can remember, in every case it was because of the prayer of a parent. The parents in Scripture do not say, “Well, I’m going to wait until you reach the age of eighteen and then you can decide whether you want to be demon possessed or not. I’m going to wait until you’re an adult and then I’ll let you decide for yourself whether you want to meet Jesus or not.” No, parents brought their little children unto him. And Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, for of such is the Kingdom of God.”

Jarius – Jesus comes and heals his daughter. This woman, this Canaanite woman says, “Have mercy on me.” And she asks Jesus to cast the devil out of her daughter. Through the prayers of parents, children are healed, children are saved, children are brought to Jesus.  If you look at your children, if you look at your grandchildren, and it grates on you because there is some sin in their life, they are being vexed by a devil in one way or another, they are sick in one way or another – whether physically or emotionally or spiritually – are you just waiting for them to come to Jesus on their own, or are you bringing them to Jesus?

Are you humbly, and persistently, and faithfully pounding on the door of heaven, asking Him to have mercy on your son, on your daughter, on your grandchild, on your spouse? Or do you never get to those prayers because you’re spending too much time just praying for your own problems? It’s good to pray for your own problems. It’s good to take your own requests to the Lord. But look at what great things happen when this woman prays for somebody else.

She prayed humbly. She prayed persistently. She prayed faithfully, believing that he could and would answer her request positively. And, in this case, she was praying for someone else, someone other than herself. As we go through this season of Lent, let our prayers be like hers.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Our God is One. Amen.


This homily was preached on Sunday morning, March 16, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.


About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in Fr. Joseph Gleason, Matthew 15:21-28. Bookmark the permalink.

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