When you are in dialogue with God by the means of prayer, do you hear just silence? In a thoughtful blog post (June, 2015), by C. Michael Patton: Why is God Silent? A New Look at an Old Problem/, Pastor Patton attempts to answer an email from a believer who doesn’t feel that God is listening:
But with all that said, I have been having a bit of trouble with my faith. I’m kinda having a hard time believing in God or praying to him because I just don’t see the point in it anymore because I feel like he doesn’t answer. In fact I feel as if it pointless because he isn’t here – right here, spatially – to speak with me. I dunno I just feel like with all that I have happening in my life a face to face relationship – a person to person conversation – is what I need from him. And I can’t have that. I mean it is as if God is a distant uncle to whom I send letters (prayers), and he sends a postcard. Is it enough to just say that God has spoken through his word so he doesn’t need to speak now? I don’t feel like it. Why couldn’t Jesus have just stayed here, albeit in a ubiquitous form? That way I could talk to him. I know he is the Father’s representative to man and for man so why not stay here where he can be physically accessible?
I feel the anguish in this email. I’ve been there myself. It was only through reading scripture and bible study that I have come to realize that silence is golden. Many of us fall into this trap of not feeling Gods presence in our lives. We all know that it is by prayer that we dialogue with God on a personal level. And depending on your Church, denomination and traditions, you can also enter into communion with God through sacraments and community prayer. Pastor Patton attempts to answer this believer and it is well worth reading his article.
Matthew 15:21-28 – Jesus and the Canaanite Woman.
It is in these verses that the answer to the believers question is answered.
Jesus and the disciples withraw to the district of Tyre and Sidon. This is gentile territory; out of the reach the Scribes and Pharisees. Here we encounter the Canaanite Women who is beseeching Jesus to heal her daughter of a demon. We should not miss the fact that a gentile is calling Him Lord and Son of David, in contrast to Matthew 15:1-20, where the Scribes and the Pharisees do not call Him that.
Much can be said of Matthew 15:21-28 as a whole. But I want to concentrate on just a few aspects of this scene to highlight what is important to this discussion. Without getting into all the particulars that can be unpacked, the point is the Canaanite Women is unrelentingly pursuing our Lord for help. She must have followed Him for some time, because the disciples ask Jesus to grant her request so she will stop making a scene.
What is Jesus’ response to this tenacious women who is following Him with such urgency? His response is silence at first. You do have to say to yourself, “she sure is persistant.” She is so persistant in fact, that the disciple now beseech the Lord to grant her request. Yet the Lord remained silent. And this silence means something profound and should speak volumes to us.
How can the Son of God not be aware or oblivious to this womens anquish and her request? Is He being rude by not acknowledging even her presence? Does He not care about her? He wants something from her, much more than to just grant her request. He wants her.
So when the disciples plead to Jesus to grant her request, he turns to them and addesses their prayer request first, and says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” Much can be said even about this.
Now she comes, kneeling before Him and says the perfect prayer: “Lord, help me.” She assumes the posture of a servant; a posture of humility and submission. Her posture is saying more that even her words do. What a simple and perfect prayer………. “LORD, HELP ME.”
It’s easy to think Jesus is referring to this women as a gentile dog, as if he is insulting her. If that is the case, you are reading these verses out of context. It’s important to point out that in the Greek (the original language of the Gospels), the word for dog that Jesus uses in Matthew 15:26 is kunarion, which is referring to a small household pet and which is completely different from the term kuon, used to refer to unspirtual people or unclean animals, which the Jews would refer to the gentiles as; “gentile dogs.”
It’s in the actions of the Canaanite Women that we see exactly what Jesus wants from us. She displays the two things that makes God marvel when we do them. They are both Faith and Humility. I believe that it was the silence of our Lord, that strengthened her resolve. He draws out of her a craving for Him. It’s no longer just about her daughter, who the Early Church Fathers saw as a prefigurement of the gentile church, but about Him and her. Thus He says: “O women, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”
Jesus has searched this womens heart and knows exactly what she desires. And that is to be a member of his household; to be one of his beloved. He wants her and she wants Him. A perfect union. It’s as if Jesus and the women are loving on one another. The interaction between Jesus and the women keeps going back and forth. His silence at the beginning should indicates that we must have a longing in our hearts for Him and Him alone.
He will make us labor until finally the desires of the heart change according to that which we fundamentally desire, and that is to be His own. Notice that Jesus wittles her down with silence, where she displays both humility and faith. Persistence and a pure heart is exactly what Jesus wants in us. We can achieve this by cultivating both Faith and Humility within ourselves.
Matthew 6:33 tells us to first seek His Kingdom……….. And this should be the desire of every soul and of every prayer. For how else can we love our neighbor, except to their salvation. If your goal in prayer is to ask God the Father for “things” don’t expect much. Unless the things you want conform to the will of God, you will be answered with a silent “NO.”
Luke 11: 5-7 and Luke 18:1-8 both say much about persistence in prayer.