Today’s Reading: Matthew 15
Abraham Lincoln famously stated, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.” In today’s reading, we find a woman who had absolutely no other place to go but on her knees in front of the Son of God. This has to be the craziest story on prayer in the entire New Testament. Sometimes it’s a fight to get an answer to prayer and prayer can seem like a wrestling match. In fact, Paul used one of the Greek words for prayer when he wrote in Colossians 4:12 (CSB): “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. He is always wrestling for you in his prayers.”
Wrestling in prayer for you. The Greek word is agonizomai. What does that sound like? Agonizing. That is what we see in today’s story.
They call her “The Syrophoenician Woman.”
Jesus . . . withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once. (Matthew 15:21-28)
This woman participated in a wrestling match to get her demon-possessed daughter healed. The end of the story was that she received what she asked for. The journey there, though, is worth discussing.
This Gentile woman came to Jesus and faced three big hurdles to get her answer—three hurdles we too must wrestle through if we want to experience a breakthrough in our prayers, especially when we’re involved in a wrestling match for someone else’s deliverance.
An old preacher friend used to say that we must “pray the price.”
And this woman did.
The first hurdle she had to overcome is receiving silence. When she begged God for an answer, “He did not answer her a word” (verse 23).
Can we pray when we feel like nothing is being heard or responded to? This woman was crying and getting nothing. This is one of the battles we face in prayer. We’re doing all the talking but not hearing anything back.
Do we stop?
Do we give up?
I think it’s a test. As Rick Warren says, “The teacher is always silent when the test is given.” God wants to know how serious we are.
The second hurdle is being overlooked for others.
Jesus told his disciples, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (verse 24). He spoke but not to her. She had to overhear what Jesus said. She did not even get a direct word. She was listening to Jesus explain and speak to others.
Others are getting God but not you. Can you get over the hurdle when God does for others before He does for you?
Still she did not stop.
The third hurdle is getting a standard answer but not the answer.
Jesus told her, “It’s not good to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs” (verse 26). These seem like harsh words but they were simply standard lines. The children’s bread is what God gave to Israel. Dogs is what Israel called all non-Jews. She was listening to standard lines.
Instead of being offended, she fought through the standard answers everyone hears. Still she didn’t give up. She told Him, essentially, “All this is good but I need my daughter healed.”
And Jesus’ response? “‘O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed at once” (verse 28).
Prayer is wrestling. And to get your answer, you have to fight on when you receive silence.
You have to fight on when everyone else is getting an answer and you are being overlooked.
You have to fight on when you receive only standard answers.
You fight on. Just as the woman did, you don’t give up, you don’t stop praying. Keep wrestling!