The Word that Conquers God
The word that conquers God! What mighty word is that?”
- What word is so mighty that it can conquer God?
- What is the word that turns captivity captive?
- What is the word that unites far separated souls around one mercy seat?
- What is the word that brings man’s storm tossed ship into the haven of safety and peace?
- What is the word that gives us strength to bear our daily burdens?
- What is the word that is the simplest form of speech that infant lips can cry?
How can we, mere mortals, conquer God? That mighty, all prevailing, God-conquering word is PRAYER. … “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)
The word that conquers God! That is a bold thing to say, and yet we say it by the authority of none other than the greatest example in prayer, our Savior Jesus Christ, who said, “Knock and it will be opened unto you”, and who told two parables, the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge, to encourage us in prayer and to show how prayer conquers God.
Let’s talk about the parable of the Widow.
On the shores of Syria where Tyre once stood, you can still see the waves of the Mediterranean breaking over the prostrate pillars that once were the glory of Tyre, strongholds of Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great. It is also the place where a heart-broken, gentile mother persuaded Jesus Christ to heal her daughter.
This woman, a widow, had only one child, a daughter who was grievously stricken with an unclean spirit. When she heard that the great healer of Israel had come to her village, her heart beat high with hope.
But before we go any further, let’s contemplate on why this woman had the faith to think that Jesus would heal her daughter. Perhaps she had heard about Jesus and the miracles He had done. Perhaps it was the love she had for her daughter, we do not know.
When she spoke to her neighbors, they no doubt discouraged her and said not to go. They probably said, “Remember we are pagans and He is a Jew. Even if you get to where He is, His friends will not let you approach.” But undeterred by their discouraging remarks, the woman made her way to appeal to Jesus, first of all it would seem, on the street, and then at the house where He was staying. We do not know how far she had to travel, but we do know there was no public transportation.
“Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, 0 Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil”. (Matthew 15:21-22)
How did Jesus answer her? One would think He would ask Her what she wanted Him to do for her. However, in this case He answered her not a word.
In Mathew 15:23a, the first part, it says, “But He answered her not a word.”
What Would She Do Now?
Silence! Nothing hurts, humiliates, and discourages and sometimes angers like silence. Why Jesus did not answer this widow, we do not know. Perhaps not only to test the faith and earnestness of this woman, but to encourage you and me in our prayers in those times when we pray and it seems that God is silent.
This silence would have frozen the hope in the minds of most mothers, but not so for this mother. She followed Jesus to the house where He was being entertained. But when she got there another test was waiting.
“…And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.” ( Matthew 15:23b, the last part)
Perhaps they meant, “Lord you might as well grant her request, for if you do not, she will keep on bothering us this way.” Or it may have been just a suggestion that Jesus get rid of this nuisance.
Then Jesus spoke for the first time, not to the woman, but to his disciples, saying,
“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.(” Matthew 15:24)
In other words Jesus was saying to them that although His mission was to the Jews, but that it was also possible now for Him to deal with those outside of Israel.
The woman approached Jesus again.
“Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.” (Matthew 15:25)
This time Jesus spoke to the woman,
“But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26)
What a statement! “It is not meet to take the children’s’ bread and cast it unto the dogs.” That evidently was a proverb, something like our, “Charity begins at home.” Furthermore, had she been likened to one of the dogs that prowl about the tables in that eastern land? But instead of being repulsed, this woman cries the more earnestly and with a quickness and charm of speech.
“And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:27)
Then Jesus, conquered by so wonderful a love and so invincible a faith, answered the woman.
“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.” (Matthew 15:28)
Now, what have we learned about this woman who had so great a faith to stand up to Jesus Christ, even when it seemed that she had been rebuffed by Him? How do we apply her story to our lives today?
Now there is something interesting about this story; nowhere does it say that she prayed to God, or Jesus Christ. It only states that she was a determined woman.
There were two remarkable things about the great faith of this woman and her conquering prayer:
- The handicap of her pagan race
- The discouragement from her neighbors
- The rude discouragement of the disciples
- The strange silence of Jesus
- Her seemingly humiliation at His hands when he compared her to the outcast dogs
Every conceivable obstacle was there, but she overcame them all and today is immortal for her faith.
Her faith was exercised, not for herself but for another. Prayer reaches its grandest heights when we pray for others.
The author of this sermon continues to use faith and prayer interchangeably. The story of the Widow is more a story of faith than prayer, or is it?
The Bible dictionary says this about prayer:
“Prayer is communion with God.” Because God is personal; all people can offer prayers. Christians recognize their dependence upon their creator. They have every reason to express gratitude for God’s blessings. But they have far more reason to respond to God than this. They respond to the love of God for them.
“Prayer involves several important aspects:
- Faith. The most meaningful prayer comes form a heart that places its trust in the God who has acted and spoken in the Jesus of history and the teachings of the Bible.
- Worship. In worship we recognize what is of highest worth—not ourselves, others, or our work, but God.
- Request. Prayer is not only a response to God’s grace as brought to us in the life and work of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Scripture, it is also a request for our needs and the needs of others.”
We all have difficulties in the way of our prayers and our faith. These are the discouragement of the world about us, the discouragement which comes from unworthy disciples of Christ, the silence of God when we long to hear His voice. In these moments of discouragement and in the seemingly silence of God, remember that mother who conquered Jesus by her prayers. For your own sake, and still more for the sake of others, keep on praying and hold on to your faith. Remember that you wield in your prayer the mightiest power, the power that moves the hand that moves the world.
God is a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God. He always answers. Let us be satisfied with His answers, whether or not they are the answers that we expected. Prayer is the key to the problems of our day; it locks the door that keeps out the doubts and dangers of the night.
There are two prayers which we are encouraged to make: one is “Thy will be done”; and the other “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Christ heard that last prayer in His last hour on the cross and was conquered by it, for He said to (the penitent thief, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43)
Now, I want to share with you the thoughts of Fredrick W. Robertson; a young minister who lived from 1816-1853. Here is what he says about prayer.
“NO ONE will refuse to identify holiness with prayer. To say that a man is religious is the same thing as to say he prays. For what is prayer? It is to connect every thought with the thought of God, to look on everything as His appointment, to submit every thought, wish, and resolve to Him to feel His presence so that it shall restrain us even in our wildest joy. That is prayer. And what we are now, surely we are by prayer.
“If we have attained any measure of goodness, if we have resisted temptations, if we have any self-command (self-control), or if we live with aspirations and desires beyond the common, we shall not hesitate to ascribe all to prayer.”
In Part 2, we will take a different look at prayer.
God bless you until then!
—Taken mostly from a sermon by Clarence Edward McCartney
in the book “Classic Sermons on Prayer”