Lessons on Prayer
Dr. Stephen Johnson
Mark 7:24-30
February 23, 2020

Have you ever just wanted to get away?

Not in the way those old airline commercials talked about - where you’ve done something really stupid and just want to escape.
But the kind of get away common to our human existence where you want to step aside from the hectic pace of life.
To relax on the beach or take hikes in the mountains.
Or just sit on the balcony of a hotel and watch the sunset.

To recharge.

You are not alone. As a matter of fact, you are in good company!

In the first few chapters of Mark we see Jesus attempting to get away:

• Mark 1:35 – He went to a solitary place to pray

• Mark 1:45 – He had to stay in secluded places

• Mark 4:35 – He had his disciples cross the Sea to get to the other side of the lake

• Mark 6:32 – He left for a quiet place where they could be alone

• Mark 7:17 – He went into a house to get away

• Mark 7:24 – He went to the region of Tyre and he did not want anyone to know where he was staying

Mark 7:24-30
“And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.

But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet.

Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”
But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.”

And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.”
And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.”

Jesus just wanted to get away and as often happened when Jesus wanted to get away, his season of solitude was interrupted by someone in need.

Although technically not a prayer, this woman was talking to Jesus, which is what we do in prayer, so her conversation with Jesus gives us some powerful lessons on how we can talk with Jesus.

Prayer should be Bold

She really had no right to approach Jesus!
Wrong gender
Wrong nationality
She probably had the wrong religion
Not being part of the accepted Judaism of the day.

Never the less, she boldly broke into the quietness Jesus sought to make her bold request.

Matthew 15 has a parallel passage of this incident which sheds further light on what happened that afternoon in Tyre.

We begin with verse 22

Matthew 15:22-23 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

Mark says she fell down at Jesus’ feet.
She begged him.
Matthew says she cried out for mercy.

Her daughter needs help and she will do whatever she needs to do to convince Jesus to heal her.

As a woman she wasn’t supposed to approach this rabbi.
As a Syrophoenician she wasn’t supposed to approach the Jewish teacher.
But she did anyway.
She wasn’t qualified to approach Jesus with such boldness, but she did anyway.

She even referred to Jesus as the Son of David - a recognition that he was the Messiah.

A bold statement that the disciples had not yet made.

It is at the end of Mark 8 and in Matthew 16 that Peter makes his confession of Jesus as the Christ.

How does this apply to us?
Our prayers ought to be bold.
And unlike this gentile woman we are actually encouraged to approach the throne of grace with boldness.

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Many translations use the word boldness instead of confidence

Yet so often we approach God in prayer timidly, not wanting to interrupt him in case he is attending to people far more important than us.

Our prayers should be bold.
Our concerns brought before him with passion.

Fall on your knees before him if you have to.
Beg him.
Talk with him
boldly make your requests known to him, because it is in doing so that we receive mercy and grace in our hours of need.

The second lesson:

Prayer should be Persistent

Matthew again gives greater insight into this event when he tells us that initially Jesus seemed to not even listen to the woman.

Matthew 15:23 says this:
“He gave no reply, not even a word.”

Initially Jesus ignored her.
I’m sure there are times when you feel as though God is ignoring you.
When you feel as though you are talking to a wall.
That nobody is there.

The reality is that it can take some time for our prayers to be answered. Pray anyway. Persist in prayer. Don’t give up.

You remember the history of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter one doesn’t begin (from a human perspective) to be answered for four months.

When it seems that perhaps God isn’t listening, pray anyway.

We don’t know when God is going to move.

We don’t know why He waits.
We don’t know all that is going on when there is a delay.
It is not as though God is not hearing our prayer.
He hears our prayers as surely as Jesus standing in front of this woman heard her!

Not only did she persist when it seemed that Jesus wasn’t listening, she continued in the face of those who opposed her for praying.

Matthew 15:23 goes on to says this:
He gave no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away, she is bothering us with all her begging.”

She is bothering us. Tell her to stop praying.
Tell her to stop asking for prayer.
She is using the prayer chain too much.

Pray even when people tell you it is useless and that your prayers are bothering them.

Persistent prayer is answered prayer.

Of course the answer this woman received from Jesus was not what she wanted to hear.

It seems that he was ready to say no.
What you are asking for is not my job.

Can you imagine that?
Jesus reminded her that his mission was to the Jewish people and not people like her.

She didn’t qualify for assistance.

But she kept at it. She appealed the decision.

Since we’ve read the end of the story, we know that in the end Jesus indeed does bring relief to her daughter, but at this moment, when Jesus said no, she could have been devastated and walked away.

But she wouldn’t let it go.
I don’t know why Jesus said no to her initially, perhaps it was to build up to what happens later in Matthew where he comments on her faith - we’ll get to that later - I don’t know why he said no, but he did.

It had to have shocked her. But she persisted.

Our prayers ought to be persistent.
We may ultimately have to take no for an answer, but it doesn’t mean we have to stop asking.

We don’t know why God says no to us at a particular time, but we know from this text that there are times when God will seem to say no and soon reveal his answer in the affirmative.

And by the way, technically Jesus didn’t say no, so he didn’t really change his mind.

Jesus didn’t actually say no, but it most certainly felt like a no. But she continued to ask.

Which is exactly what we should do -
we should persist in prayer.

Third lesson:

Prayer should be Humble

In the course of Jesus telling her that his mission was to the Jews he makes an interesting statement.

“Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Doesn’t it seem that Jesus just called this lady a dog?

This was not then, nor is it now a term of endearment.
Unless you are talking about pet dogs, which is almost certainly what Jesus is referencing here.

You feed the children before you feed the pets.

The woman gets it. And in humility responds “Don’t the puppies get to eat from what falls from the master’s table?

Refusing to be humiliated she responds with humility.

You owe me nothing.
But I’ll be satisfied with what ever crumbs may fall my way.

She knew she had no right to expect anything from Jesus.

She was willing to made a nuisance of herself.

She accepted being compared to a puppy dog.

She didn’t care what other people thought.
She just wanted help.

We can learn something about humility from dogs.
Much is said about the difference between cats and dogs. But this difference is telling.
You don’t own a cat, a cat owns you. Dogs have owners but cats have servants.

Dogs will beg, cats demand.

Humility is significant element of prayer. It’s a lot easier for us to make demands before God than to beg Him for mercy like a dog begging for a crumb.

Final lesson:
Prayer should be Content

One commentator writes: (William Lane)
“Her irresistible confidence delights Jesus.”

In Matthew we see Jesus respond with these words:

Matthew 15:28 “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

What a description! Great is your faith!

Your prayer is answered.
She doesn’t know it yet, Matthew tells us that her daughter was healed instantly.

But her daughter isn’t standing there, her daughter is back at home.
In Mark Jesus tells her to go her way.

The disciples get their wish, Jesus has told her to leave, but she leaves with the promise of answered prayer.

And she went home.
She took Jesus at his word and left content.

I often wish that I would hear the voice of God telling me that my prayer has been answered so that I can go home content. So I can stop asking even before I see the results of my prayers.

Usually the opportunity to respond after our prayers have been answered is when there is some finality to our request.

Someone dies. Or someone is healed.
Or someone gets through a situation safely.

Our text shows a woman of uncommon faith.
A woman who boldly approached Jesus.
Who continued to lay her request before Him no matter what.
A woman who humbly accepted whatever Jesus would give her.
And who in the end, was content to go home and live life in the light of God having blessed her greatly.

Pray boldly.
Pray persistently.
Pray humbly.
Pray Contented that God will take care of you.


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