|Theme: Persistence in Prayer
|Focus on: Elisha and the Shunammite Woman
|Reading Portion(s): 2 Kings 4:8 to 37
|– Important Background Information
|– Helps you find strength in God
|What this article teaches you
|Some prayers fail for lack of persistence. Persistence in prayer is that quality which does not stop praying until it receives an answer. Difficulties, discouragements, obstacles or doubts that come along the way does not stop this kind of prayer. A persistent prayer is never satisfied until it gets an answer.
This is a quality which has to be cultivated in our prayer life. For most of us quit praying after a few days. But persistence is one thing that God keenly looks for in our prayer life. It is persistence in prayer that makes known to God that we are very much keen in getting an answer. It is this quality that makes sure that we keep our eyes focussed on receiving the answer to our prayers in spite of all distractions. Persistence wins the heart of God. It surely brings answer to prayers.
God puts a great value or premium on persistence in prayer. It is that quality that does not stop at hindrances but keeps on praying till it receives an answer from God. It is a lack of this quality that has kept many of our prayers unanswered.
Persistence in prayer can easily be said to be a kind of law of prayer that has been revealed in the Bible. Persistence in prayer is the touchstone of the intensity of our prayers. If we are persistent in prayer it is clear indication before God that we are praying to God in real earnest with regard to our need. Such a kind of prayer, God always loves to honor!
In the story of the Bible passage under study, we read of a well-to-do Shunammite woman. She once invited Elisha for a meal. And having understood that he was a holy man of God, she asked her husband to put up a room on the roof on their house for him. So Elisha stayed at this room whenever he used to pass by that way.
The hospitality of this woman made a deep impression on Elisha. He wanted to do something for her. So he inquired through Gehazi, his servant, as to what could be possibly done for this lady. During the inquiry we find that this lady was one who had great contentment in her heart and was contented with what all she had!
But Elisha kept on asking Gehazi as to what could be done for the lady. It was then that Gehazi pointed out to Elisha the fact that she had no son and her husband was old. Elisha now asked Gehazi to call her again. She came and stood in the doorway. Even without asking her, Elisha told her that she will hold a son in her arms about that time the next year.
We may not be able to best describe her reaction. It was immediate and spontaneous. She was surprised by the promise; yet at the same time fearful that it may not come to pass. Maybe she had long before given up hope that she would ever hold a son of her own in her arms. Now the prophet was rekindling a dream that she thought was long since dead. She found it hard to believe; yet she badly wanted to believe it. So she remonstrated with the prophet saying to him not to mislead her.
But in due course of time, she became pregnant and at the specified time she gave birth to a son. It all happened exactly as Elisha had told her. We are then suddenly introduced to the grown boy who one day out in the fields with his father develops some kind of pain or ache in his head. The father immediately told a servant to carry him home to his mother.
The boy sat on his mother’s lap until noon and then died. It is at this point of time we find some actions of a different kind on the part of the Shunammite. She is not crying out in despair or wailing. She appears calm and collected. She takes the boy and lays him on the bed of the man of God. She then shuts the door and goes out.
She calls her husband and asks him to send one of the servants and a donkey so that she could go to the man of God quickly and return. The husband found it a strange request. He told her that there was no reason to go to him that day since it was neither the New Moon nor the Sabbath. She simply said that it was all right.
As we look back at the beginning of these incidents we find this Shunammite taking her husband into confidence when she wanted to give Elisha a place to stay in their home. But this time we find her not disclosing the purpose of her visit to her husband. We do not know the reason. Yet we can guess that it was due to the fact that her husband might become a hindrance than a help at that point of time in her pursuit to go to the man of God.
She might have known that her husband might be full of grief and hopelessness if he heard about his son’s death. Then she too may become weakened in faith that she was possessing then. She suspected that any despairing word or action from her husband would discourage her from seeking a remedy to the situation.
Sometimes it is wise to seek God alone. This is because others, however close they may be to you, may not share the same faith and enthusiasm you have in getting a thing done. Not only that, if they come to know of your plans they might make thoughtless and discouraging remarks that can cause your faith to grow dull and also destroy the pursuit of the plans you have in mind. Here we find the Shunammite not disclosing her plans to avoid discouragement.
As she saddled the donkey she gave specific instructions to her servant. She wanted him to lead on without slowing down unless she told him. This action further underlines her focus on the job at hand. It also tells us that she clearly knew what she wanted to get done.
As she was traveling towards Mount Carmel, the prophet saw her in the distance. He was also surprised that she was making a trip to him though it was no special day. So he sent his servant Gehazi to inquire as to the well-being of herself, her husband and her child. The prophet might have guessed that only some grave problem with one of these three would have brought her to him that day.
To all these inquiries we find the Shunammite saying that everything was all right. She was not willing, even for a moment, to say that something was wrong.
When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi on seeing this came to push her away. Elisha asked Gehazi to leave her alone. He told him that she was in bitter distress, but the Lord had hidden it from him and had not told him the reason for her heart’s anguish.
She immediately remonstrated with the prophet. She said to him that she had not asked him for a son. She reminded him that even at first she had asked him not to raise her hopes.
The bitter disappointment she had felt now comes out through her words. By pointing out the fact that she had not asked for a son, she was telling the prophet that he had a responsibility to see her joy restored. She was one who was content with her lot in life. But by the prophet’s word she had a son. Now that he was taken away so suddenly was unbearable.
The prophet immediately understood by her grief that the boy was dead. So he asked Gehazi to tuck his cloak into his belt, take the prophet’s staff in his hand, and run. He also asked his servant not to greet anyone on the way and also not to return a greeting if someone greeted him. He wanted the servant to go and lay his staff on the boy’s face.
If someone else might have been in the place of the Shunammite she would have tried to run along with the servant to see what will happen when the staff was laid on the boy’s face. Another person in her place would have been satisfied that the prophet had made a move to do something for her dead child. But she was different. She knew that her child was dead and she wanted the prophet himself to accompany her to the body of the dead child. She would stop at nothing to bring the prophet home.
So she kept pleading with him to come home with her. She said that she would not leave him. Her need was so great that she was not satisfied with the delegated work of the prophet who had sent his servant in his place. She persisted in her request and her persistence paid off. The prophet got up to go with her.
Meanwhile Gehazi had gone ahead, laid the staff on the boy’s face and returned to the prophet saying that the boy had not awakened. Then the three of them journeyed together and reached the Shunammite’s home. When they reached there Elisha found the boy lying dead on his couch. So he went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to God. Twice he got on the bed and laid himself on the boy. The boy sneezed seven times and came back to life.
Then Elisha called Gehazi and asked him to call the Shunammite. When she came in, the prophet asked her to take her son. She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. She not only was willing to bow down when her need was great, but also was willing to bow down in a gesture of gratitude when her request was met. She then took her son and went out.
As we look at this incident we find that it was the prophet who prayed. But that is expected of a prophet of God. He should be someone who has an audience with the Almighty; or else he would be no prophet. So it is wise to focus our attention on the factor that made this miracle possible. The son was raised to life because of the persistence of the Shunammite.
She was not willing to stop till she got to the prophet. She did not listen to her husband’s questioning words. She did not stop to tell Gehazi her problems. She was not to be thrown off track by Gehazi coming to push her away. She was not satisfied with the prophet sending Gehazi with his staff to be laid on the boy’s face. She was not willing to go back home without the prophet. Thus she persisted till her son was raised to life.
Though it was the Shunammite who persisted, it was the prophet who prayed. In your lives, you alone will have to persist and also pray till God responds to your requests. Only such a kind of persistence will move God to take action on your behalf. Therefore persist and pray!