Persistent in Prayer


Matthew 15:21-28
21 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” 23 But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” 24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” 25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” 26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” 28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.


In this passage, we encounter a powerful exchange between Jesus and a Gentile  woman; it is a story that challenges our understanding of faith and demonstrates the power of persistence in moving the heart of God. Jesus has traveled to the region of Tyre and Sidon, where He meets a woman begging him to deliver her daughter from the bondage of demon-possession.

This Gentile woman seems to understand who Jesus is (O Lord, Son of David!), which is significant, as many of his own Jewish people, including the religious leaders of his day, did not know or acknowledge Jesus’ true identity as the Messiah and the Son of God  She also has been driven to approach Jesus for help because of her great need; she asks Jesus to “have mercy on me”, taking on the deep spiritual need of her daughter as her own. What a challenging example of a faith-filled intercessor! May we be driven to Jesus by our great needs and so compassionate toward others that we present their needs to him as our own!

At first, Jesus seems to ignore the woman’s cries, offering no response at all. Then, Jesus’ disciples, perhaps irritated at the interruption of her incessant pleading, ask him to send her away; the language used here seems to point to their suggestion that Jesus just give her what she wants so that she would stop bothering them. However, Jesus knew what all great teachers know: the process of pursuing the desired result is often just as important, if not more so, than the end result itself! The woman, seemingly undeterred by Jesus' initial response of silence, woman persists in her pleading, kneeling before Jesus and crying out, "Lord, help me!"

Jesus’ silence and later response that his ministry is to Israel alone, seems uncaring, but it also elicits greater persistence and faith from the woman; she worships him–before she even knows if he would answer her and grant her request of healing for her daughter! Almost doggedly, the woman continues to persevere in presenting her need to the Lord. I can imagine how desperately she desires his answer and his help, as she has endured the pain of watching the enemy torture her child; so, Jesus’ response to her next cry for help seems harsh in light of her desperation.

Jesus responds with another rebuff, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs;” but, the woman's humble faith is revealed in her reply: “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”She doesn’t argue Jesus’ point or claim to have greater standing; David Guzik writes that it’s as if she simply says: “Yes, I understand that the focus of your ministry is to the Jewish people and that they have a special part in God’s redemptive plan. But I also know that your ministry extends beyond them, and I want to be part of that extended blessing.”

 This Gentile woman, an outsider to the Jewish faith, demonstrates remarkable persistence and humility in her approach to Jesus. She refuses to be discouraged by obstacles or apparent rejection, clinging instead to the hope of deliverance for her daughter.  Her unwavering faith moves Jesus to act, highlighting the power of faith and persistence in prayer, even in the face of silence, to move the heart of God. May the story of this Gentile woman challenge us to cultivate a faith that moves mountains—a faith that persists in prayer and trusts in God's goodness. May we be bold in our approach to God, knowing that He delights in the faith of those who seek Him wholeheartedly.

Action Step

The story of the Gentile woman challenges us to examine our own faith: Do we approach God with the same desperation, persistence and trust, even when it seems He is silent or distant? Do we worship him, in the process, even before we know his answer? Spend some time today presenting your needs to the Lord; maybe focus on the greatest needs, perhaps those that you have been praying over for a long time. Maybe make a list of those great needs that you need to persist in prayer about, and put it somewhere prominent in your home where you will see it often and be prompted to take them to Jesus.


Lord, thank you for the example of the Gentile woman, whose faith and persistence moved your heart. Teach us to approach you with the same trust and persistence, believing in your power to bring healing and deliverance. Help us to worship you, because of Who you are rather than what you can give us, as we seek your face. We love you so much.
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