The Faith of a Praying Mother

The Faith of a Praying Mother

Matthew 15:21-28

What we’re about to see in the story before us is our Lord’s celebration and compassion when people come to Him in faith, and bring their children to Him. Many of the miracles that took place in the life of Christ were with children. Jesus loves children. And if we are near to the heart of our Lord we will love children also, and welcome them. Jesus said, [Matthew 19:14] “Let the little children come to Me. Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” He also said, [Matthew 18:3] “Unless you become like a little child and are converted, you’ll never see the kingdom of heaven.

We have it upside down many times. We think a person needs to become like an adult to be convert, or be an adult to be converted. Not true. Children are humble, children are honest, children are helpless and teachable and dependable. And God has given every child the capacity to know Him, to believe and to belong to His eternal family. It’s an incredible opportunity we have to present our children to the Lord because so often children come to Christ at the earliest of ages.

If we surveyed this congregation, I dare say that most of you would raise a hand to say: I came to faith in Jesus Christ at a very young age. Many of you were children, or perhaps teenagers. We celebrate those who come to Christ later on in life. That is a beautiful testimony, but we need to remember the very best time to give your life to Christ is early… early when a child is young and pliable and teachable and amendable to the ways and the work of God, to the Word of God in their lives.

D.L. Moody was a famous evangelist and he came from a meeting and reported that there were two and half conversions at this meeting. And the adult talking to him said, “Well, I guess that means you had two adults and a child saved… come to Christ.” He said, no. He said, “There were two children who had a full life to live for Christ, and then an adult who only had a half a life left.” So children, you see, need to come to our Lord at the soonest possible moment.

And we as parents have a big part in that in preparing the way of the Lord in their lives. We are to provide spiritual influence and impact and instruction in their lives, training them up in the nurture and the nourishment… the admonition of the Lord. Jesus warned, [Matthew 19:14, Luke 18:16] “Do not hinder the little ones.” Do not keep them from coming to Me. It is a sobering thought to think that any of us would have anything to do with keeping a child from coming to Jesus.

So both dad’s and, of course, moms have this great role and responsibility. The dad, being a spiritual leader, the spiritual leader, the head of the home, but the mom, one hundred percent is the heart of the home. And your heart, moms, makes all the difference. Your love and your leadership in the family is invaluable, essential! Mothers, God build you… made you to have a unique and distinct love for God. And therefore, to share that love with your children. You are shaping this generation and the generations to come. I know the responsibilities are heavy and sometimes it must seem overwhelming to be a mom in this generation, or any generation, as far as that goes. And with that reminder we all know we need help. You, mom, need help.

And this is the reason you need to pray, because prayer puts you in partnership with God. When you pray you are connected to the power of Jesus, His Spirit in your life. And a praying mom has so much influence to give. You can’t do this on your own. You need God’s strength for the journey. But when you do it God’s way and you pray, a hundred years from now and beyond your heart for God will still be beating in the lives of your children and your children’s children. The echoes of your faith will still be heard in the generations which are to come. And many of us are testimonies of that truth today. We recognize that it is the heritage of our own family and our own mothers and mothers before them, our grandmothers that have brought us to faith in Jesus Christ. This is your life! And this is your legacy!

This is why as a church we are so committed to the family, to helping moms and dads be the parents that you want to be, to assist you in every way possible, whether it is our children’s ministry, along with that preschool and our preschool ministry. We don’t just babysit kids. We are singing over them, we are praying over them, we are loving them to Jesus, and welcoming them into the family of faith. And, of course, our children… This summer is a great opportunity for children with all of the camps and with Vacation Bible School and the ministry. Just the ongoing, daily and weekly ministry that we have with kids. It’s truly remarkable.

Our student ministry, as they’re growing up and as they are developing physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, socially. How important it is that you have this partnership with your church. We are committed and devoted to our teenagers. I’m asking you to really help us make sure that your teenagers are engaged and involved in its ministries. Again, whether it’s student camp or choir tours or daily ministries and operations that we have with our students. And weekly worship… weekly worship! We want to see our students in worship every week!

And mom and dad, you are a very big part of that! We’re dependent upon you to lead your children well. We’re seeing less and less time given to church unfortunately in our generation. And I’m asking you as a parent to commit more time for you and your family, that you would all be in Bible fellowship together, that you would be in worship as well. And so we… we celebrate today especially on this Together Weekend with our students and having our students with us.

Our pregnancy center ministry… We’re saving babies because we love children and believe children should have the opportunity to live! And mothers are coming to Christ, along with their families, and little babies are living and growing in this world because of Prestonwood’s Pregnancy Center. And please, pray for this ministry. These are on the firing line, making a difference every single day, often in difficult, even hostile environments. But our counselors and encouragers are there to make a difference and to share the message of hope and life with family.

Prestonwood Christian Academy… we understand that not every child in our church or related to our student ministry can attend Prestonwood Christian Academy, but we have it as an arm, as an extension of our church to provide it for people whom God wants there, and we try to make a way for everyone who truly wants to be in Prestonwood Christian Academy. But that school, the opportunity we have as a school to make a difference in the lives of families that we should all celebrate.

We pray for our children! Moms, dads, what should we be praying for our children? Number one, we should be praying for their conversion… conversion. That they would give their hearts and lives to follow Jesus early with a full life to follow Him as well. So make sure that you are praying. And then inviting your children to faith in Christ. I’m so grateful that my parents gave me an atmosphere in which I could hear about Jesus, know that He loved me, died on the cross for me, rose again, so that as a small boy I was able to say, “Yes, I want to follow Jesus!” And pray for the conversion of your children.

Perhaps, your children are adults and they don’t know the Lord. It’s possible that some of you came to faith later on in life, after you were adults and the children are gone, and you’re concerned about your children right now, because they don’t know the Lord. They’re not following Jesus. The most powerful impact you can make … they’re not in your house, they’re not under your orders anymore, yet the most powerful impact you can have is to pray for them! Prayer is like a heat-seeking missile. Prayer hits the target because it begs the heart of God in behalf of our children. So when you pray, pray for the conversion of your children.

Pray for the character of your children. That the fruit of the Spirit… love and joy and peace and all the beautiful fruitfulness and fragrance of life in Christ would be displayed in their lives. That’s what we would call character. Those basic character traits of honesty and integrity and hard work and devotion and commitment, and love itself! That your children would have strong character because they’re going to need it in a world that’s going in a different direction! Pray for your children’s character!

Pray for the choices your children make. Pray for their choices. Before long before you know it, your children will be making choices on their own. And while you have developed them and they have developed their own character, they are still challenged by tests and temptation, perhaps like no generation before them. And the choices they make will set the course of their lives and their future even with God for the choices they make. Once they leave your household they’re no longer under your authority, but they’re always under the authority of God! And therefore, make sure that you’re praying that your children will make wise decisions that will enable them to be the kinds of persons that they want, and you want them to be.

And then pray for your children’s companions. This is a big one. This is… this is very significant because the Bible says, [Proverbs 13:20] “A companion of fools will be destroyed.” If you don’t want your child to be a fool, make sure you manage and monitor when they’re small, and when they’re teenagers who they’re hanging out with, who their friends are. You should know their names, you should know what they’re like. You should help them make good decisions regarding the friends that they choose, the companions they run with.

Because, let me just say to you, students, and young people… boys and girls, if you choose to hang out with fools it won’t be long before you’re acting like a fool, and becoming one yourself. And especially pray for the companions that your children will marry. I know Deb and I prayed for our children since they were babies for their spouses, and we are grateful for answered prayer. God gave our children wonderful spouses and they are now raising their own families.

You are not a perfect parent in case somebody needed to remind you of that. No one is. I know you’re trying really hard to be that kind of mom, the best mom you can be, and we commend you for that, but you are not a perfect parent. But you can be… you must be a praying parent, a praying mom. You can believe God for your kids. Call their names to Him and know that He hears. You can ask and receive from the God of heaven, the character and the conversion that they desperately need. Prayer is your first responsibility, and it is your greatest privilege as a parent. Mom, be on your knees often for your children. Get on your face, parents, in behalf of your kids. So very important! Pray hard, pray bold, pray on, pray through until the answer comes.

Now with that setup, this is our story today. It is about a mom who came desperately in need of the Lord and of a miracle in behalf of her child. Begins in verse 21 of Matthew 15. It says:

21) And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.

Jesus actually crosses the border out of Israel, which He rarely did. And this one time He goes over into Gentile territory.

22) And behold, a Canaanite woman…

Mark calls her a Syro-Phoenician woman. She was Syrian, Lebanese… that region of the world. She was a Canaanite, and that was a very vicious and cruel idolatress people, the Canaanites. So she was an outsider. She was an outlier. She was some… someone outside of the privileges of the family of God in Israel. So as a Gentile she comes seeking the Lord, crying out… crying out, the Scripture says:

22) … “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

We talked about demon spirits in a previous message a couple of weeks ago. Demons are real. And demons are still present today. And this girl is oppressed severely. Matthew notes it’s severe, to the degree that it is violent, it is ravaging, it is ravishing this woman’s young girl’s soul. This woman… the mother is broken hearted and burdened because her precious daughter is demonized! Verse 23:

23) But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24) He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25) But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26) And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27) She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28) Then Jesus answered her, “O Woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Jesus said to this Gentile woman who was considered by the religious system of the time, a dog, and a female dog at that! A woman who did not deserve in many peoples’ minds to be in the presence of God. And yet, because she came to Jesus with such a boisterous and even belligerent faith, a faith that would not let go, Jesus saw that faith, and said, “O great is your faith!”

The Bible talks about various kinds of faith, steadfast faith and obedient faith and small faith and mountain-moving faith, but only two occasions, and both of Gentiles did Jesus comment great faith! We know that’s it’s not so much great faith that we need, but faith in a great God, that our God is great, and even the smallest amount of faith can access the power of God in our lives. And yet, this woman is commended for her mega-faith, her great faith.

And this woman is a great example to us today. This brokenhearted burdened woman is a lesson for us today as how we are to bring our own children and our own lives before the Lord. Jesus celebrated her faith. Why?

Well, it was a daring faith. It was a bold faith. I’ve already told you that she was not a person of faith, at least the faith of Israel. She was an idolater, no doubt, being a Canaanite, meaning that she worshiped many false gods. And so outside the religious system, outside faith in the one true God, somehow she had heard about Jesus. Maybe a traveling merchant, back and forth between the countries, had been talking about Jesus. Someone was speaking. Miracles had occurred around the life of Jesus, especially miracles around children’s lives. And so she thought, “This is my only hope. If Jesus is who He claims to be, the Son of David, the Messiah… if He is Lord, than He and He only can help my daughter, heal my daughter.

This demonstrates once again how Jesus came for people all around the world, both Jews and Gentiles. The Scripture says, [Romans 1:16] “I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” To the Gentile, which is most of us today. We have been included in the family of God because Jesus came for the whole world. And all… anyone who comes to Him, receiving and believing and trusting in Him, can be saved.

It’s remarkable that she would come to Jesus, but she was desperate because her daughter had this demon and in some ways she must have felt responsible. Moms are like that. You know? Hopefully dads as well. Responsible because she was raising this child in a pagan home! She had introduced idolatry to her own daughter, and it is clear when you travel the world to this day that idolatry is often connected to demons and the powers and the infestation of demons into people’s lives.

I saw it when I was in India several years ago, preaching at a house church. And two women, back to back, fell in writhing pain and agony and sheiks because of demons! I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It was not mental illness, it was not social or psychological turbulence. It was demon spirits working in these lives! And both of these women we later found out had introduced idol worship into their home which is commonly practiced in that region of the world. And you often see it in India and places like India. Africa as well, the continent. You see this kind of thing where idolatry of all kinds is brought into the home and thus this woman is feeling guilty and responsible because now a demon is in her daughter.

Now you may be thinking well, that’s a powerful story already, and this whole idea of demons is frankly frightening. It sounds like something out of a horror movie. My kids are basically okay. But let me remind you that it’s still your responsibility, mom, and dad, to protect your children against the influences of evil in this world. You cannot ignore the fact that Satan is on the prowl in our generation. And that your protection and your provision for your children is essential. And you need to make sure, moms and dads, that you don’t introduce… Please, hear me… that you don’t introduce into your home, into your household the influences of Satan and the powers of demon forces that could end up controlling your children.

Now you can make your own application. I don’t think I need to spell this out for you. The fact is that some of you are allowing Satan… hell into your house by your own example, by the things that you’re doing, the things that you’re allowing, and I’m telling you, you have to take responsibility as a mom, as a dad to protect your children from evil in this generation! We refuse to let the devil have our kids!  And so we are going to fight like crazy! We’re going to fight like crazy in order … with spiritual weapons and warfare… to overcome the works of the enemy! That’s what we do as parents! I’m not talking about being a helicopter parent and hovering over them, but to pray them on! And prayer is the greatest weapon of spiritual warfare. Prayer! And prayer is the battle for your children.

So she comes to Jesus in humility and brokenness and with the hope that He could save her child. And, yes, she came in faith. And, yes, she came not only with a daring faith, but with a desperate faith. She’s begging Him. Verse 25 says she fell at His feet. Verse 26 says she’s begging and crying out, and she wouldn’t stop. It’s loud, it’s boisterous, it’s bodacious! She is annoying the disciples. These guys still don’t get it. They’d already been chasing children off when they tried to come to Jesus. Because the children are loud. Jesus said, “No, no, let the children come to Me.” And now here they are again… this woman in desperate need… they are saying, “She’s bothering us. She’s annoying us. She’s a Gentile. Get her out of here!”

We always must be very careful as believers and followers of Jesus that we don’t have this same kind of attitude towards people who need God’s grace and mercy. Grace is messy and mercy is messy. And the acceptance that God’s people, the church should have should be the same acceptance that God has for us.

But you say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute! What in the world is this talking about when it says, Jesus ignored her. You know I saw you looking up when I’m reading about Jesus actually responding to this woman’s cries and desperate faith and appeal for mercy with stone cold silence. He didn’t answer her a word. He didn’t say anything. The disciples said, “Get her out.” Think about all that’s going against this woman right now. You know, her own religion, the powers of Satan, the fact that she’s a Gentile and outside… an outsider, the fact that the disciples, I mean even the good guys are chasing her off it appears, and now Jesus is holding her off! What is happening here? Jesus in His silence… is drawing out her faith.

Now listen, because it’s very important to remember that your faith needs to withstand the silence of God. Some of you have felt God has not heard you or answered your prayers. You pray and it doesn’t work. It’s just not true. You’ve tried, you’ve tried to pray and it’s not happening in your life. You wonder if this is even real because of the apparent apathy and silence of God. I need to ask you, can your faith withstand the apparent silence of God? When He doesn’t come through in the way you expect Him to come through in your time and in your way. Can your faith withstand apathy apparently from God?

Now we know Jesus was never apathetic. All you have to do is read the rest of the New Testament. This is not the character of Jesus. This is out of His character, the fact that He is treating this woman apparently in this way, and so we know you don’t need to ever question whether or not God… Jesus loves you. All you need to do is stand at the foot of the cross! Go to the cross and see Jesus loving and dying on the cross for you, and you will know that His mercy is abundant and available to every one and any one who comes to Him! So what’s happening here?

Jesus is drawing this woman’s faith out, because the healing is about to come and He is teaching His disciples, and therefore all of us who would follow Him this important lesson regarding faith, a determined faith that refuses to relent, that will not take no for an answer. I know this: in my practice and study of prayer God does business with those mean business with Him. Not half-hearted, lukewarm, lazy prayer. What did Jesus say? [Matthew 7:7] “Ask and it will be given unto you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you.” That’s an acrostic if you’ve never noticed. A-S-K… asking, seeking, knocking. That’s prayer. At the very heart of prayer it’s simple, it’s asking.

Now there are some profound things to learn about prayer as you… as you become a prayer… a person of prayer. But at the very heart, at the very core it’s this: Ask and you will received. And the words that Jesus gave us here—asking, seeking, knocking—are in an active verb in that you are to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking until the answer comes. As a mom, don’t ever give up on your children, don’t ever stop praying because the answer will come in God’s time and God’s way. It may be sooner than you think.

Jesus questioned her in order to get an answer. He said, “It’s not right to take the children’s bread (speaking of the children of Israel), and give it to dogs (Gentiles).” Did Jesus call this woman a dog? Well, the word that He uses here means household pet or dog like that. There’s several words that He could have used but, you know, dogs that ran, howling through the streets, wild animals that were common in this day… not that kind of scroungy, mangy dog. He’s talking about Scooby-Doo here. [applause] He’s talking about your dog and mine.

Ours are Deuce and Yogi and these dogs live like kings, I’ve got to tell you. [laughter] These dogs aren’t… they don’t need anything. They got most everything. And we feed them, we keep them, we give them a place… a soft place to sleep. We exercise them. I mean, what more could… I mean these dogs are having a great life. And yours probably as well. Household pets. I feed my dogs from the table. We’re not supposed to but you know, I do it as well. And… and our little dogs. You know we love them and they seem like family to us. That’s the word Jesus used. The little dogs that sit at the feet of a master at the table just waiting for a crumb from the table. Just a little bit. And could I say to you that a crumb from the table of Jesus is better than a feast, a banquet at the table of the wicked!

And this woman… she didn’t debate, she didn’t get angry and walk away. “How dare you call me a dog!” She said, “Okay, I’m a dog, but just a crumb from Your table can heal my daughter.” What humility, what brokenness. And when Jesus saw that… that kind of repentance, that kind of faith, He said, “Great is your faith, dear woman, and your daughter is healed this very moment.”

Is Jesus drawing your faith out right now? Is He putting you on hold a little bit so that you would seek Him? Do you feel like that God is silent? Don’t… don’t stop praying or crying out to God! She believed, she was bold, she was bodacious! Because the Bible says that God [Hebrews 11:6] “is the rewarder to those who diligently seek Him.” God will reward your faith. Keep praying, keep persisting, keep pleading, and never doubt that God loves you and that His mercy is on the way.

She takes a brand new girl home. Her own life is saved; her own soul is saved by the power of Jesus and her daughter is healed. What a difference Jesus makes in our lives. It’s the faith of a praying mother. It’s the faith of a praying man who will keep trusting in Jesus no matter what and believing God for our kids. If you think your kids are too far gone, think again. If you think your children are never going to come home or to come to faith in the first place, believe again. Keep praying because prayer moves the heart of God. It is faith that connects you to the power of God in your life and in the lives of those that you love.

And as I said at the outset of this message, it will be your prayers that will echo and beat in the heart of your children for generations to come. So important that we do this! We are just one generation away from paganism. But we know that when we pray that God will save a generation including our own children.