BY TEENA MYERS
We had just finished lunch and were sipping tea when Becky shared her frustrations about prayer. Her children were in their forties, unmarried and had no interest in their mother’s faith. She wanted her children to be with her in Heaven. Praying passionately God would give them a Christian spouse so they would become Christians proved vain. Her children remain unbelievers and single to this day. She feels like the woman of Canaan pleading with Jesus for her demon possessed daughter only to be ignored.
Jesus is compassionate. He hears our prayers. If he has not responded there is a good reason. The problem with prayer is not knowing how to pray. We have not because we ask not. We ask and receive not because we ask amiss (James 4:2-3). How could God yoke her unbelieving children to a believer when the Bible tells us “do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers?” The union of unbeliever with believer carries a high potential for the destruction of the believer’s faith and a relationship ending in divorce.
Unlike my friend’s experience, Jesus answered the prayer of the persistent Canaanite woman for her daughter. But there is evidence the woman lived to regret it. Jesus heard the woman’s prayer yet remained silent. Refusing to be deterred the woman pleaded with Jesus disciples to help her. They could not help her and could not get rid of her, so they asked Jesus to send her away. Instead of doing what his disciples requested, he told them why he did not respond to her. God had given him a specific job to do on earth. Restore the lost sheep of Israel. She was not an Israelite and the Gentiles time had not yet come.
In the middle of Jesus discussion with his disciples, the troublesome woman stopped pleading for help and tried worship. When she worshiped him Jesus told her why he did not want to help her. It is “not right” to give the children’s bread to dogs. Some translations say “not good”. Instead of respecting God’s wisdom she relied on human wisdom. “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their master’s table” (Matthew 15:27 New Living Translation).
Smart woman. She acknowledged Jesus spoke the truth. Everything went downhill from there. Acknowledging Jesus told her the truth also acknowledged if he gave her what she wanted it would not be good. Her wisdom put Jesus in a no-win position. If he refused to give her what she wanted he becomes the heartless savior who can’t spare a scrap. She would have returned home angry and bitter. If he gives her what she wants, it will not be good. She will still hate him when her solution fails to solve her problem. If you are going to hate him, it will be your fault, not his.
Matthew has three stories of people bringing a demon possessed person to Jesus. Where was the woman’s daughter? The fact is some people invite devils into their life and do not want to be free. I was invited to a pagan ceremony in downtown New Orleans as an observer. Before they started, the leader gave instructions on how to bribe devils to leave you alone if you did not want them to enter your mind during the ceremony. The pagans marched around the image of a snake painted on a pole summoning devils knowing the devils would enter them. The daughter’s absence strongly suggest she was not ready to be free of her devils.
Jesus gave the woman what she wanted, “Oh, woman your faith is something else. What you want is what you get” (Matthew 15:28, The Message Bible). The woman had faith to move mountains, but she did not have love. Without love you gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2-3).
Love is not self-seeking. I surveyed twenty different translations of the Bible. In all of them the woman said, “Have mercy on me.” ME! Shouldn’t she have said, “Have mercy on my daughter.” Mother was seeking what is best for mother, not what is best for her daughter. The demon possessed daughter made mother’s life miserable. Mother believed if the demons were gone life would be wonderful again. The real problem was not the devils, but the daughter who allowed devils to enter her life.
The Bible tells us what happens when devils are cast out.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26, NIV)
Jesus swept the daughter’s house clean, but the daughter was not seeking him. Jesus knew the devils would return and the daughter would become seven times worse. That is what happens to people content to be dogs eating scraps off the floor. If you were a dog before you ate the scraps, you will be a dog after you eat the scraps.
Jesus knew the door allowing Gentiles to enter his kingdom would open soon. If the woman had respected his wisdom and waited for God’s time, both the mother and the daughter could have become children. Jesus wanted them to eat bread at his table, not scraps off the floor. Then he could have healed her daughter without her condition becoming worse. His Spirit would have displaced the devils and prevented them from returning with friends.