He reminded me of that wonderful parable Jesus offers on persistence in prayer. It's from Luke 18:1-8:
"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Interesting, isn't it? Jesus selected a just judge--you would expect the judge to do the right thing. He's sworn to uphold the law and does so willingly. But Jesus picks a judge who, while sworn to uphold the law, has a bad attitude. He doesn't fear God and is unconcerned how people react to him. He probably is not the most popular guy in town. But he is the judge and this widow, who has been wronged, comes to him, seeking justice. She persists because justice must be meted out to her adversary and she won't rest until that's done. It's only fair: if someone wrongs you, then that person needs to feel the heavy hand of the law and needs then to make amends. We don't know what this "adversary" of hers did, but it was grievous enough to warrant her coming multiple times, seeking a hearing from the judge and demanding a ruling.
In fact, whatever this adversary did is so grievous that the judge worries that if he delays too much longer, she will assault him--a sure sign of the desperation of this woman. She's not just being difficult; she has been wounded by a wrong and in her pain, she may take it out on the judge. He's not giving in because he wants her to have justice--he's giving in because she is desperate and unpredictable in her current state. A just judge would take pity on her and try to right the wrong as quickly as he could; this unjust judge is seeking to save his skin. So, he does the right thing for the wrong reason. But he still acts, even if we scorn his rather selfish motive.
Contrast this judge to our Heavenly Judge: He hears the cries of His chosen. He hears our pain, our wounded and wronged hearts, and seeks to mete out justice quickly and fairly. Why? Delaying justice empowers the sinner, who scoffs at the laws of God anyway, and without a quick resolution, the sinner may commit even more grievous sins. As for the wronged, a strike upon our cheek is a blow to our Father's face, and He does not want us to suffer any more than we do.
So, back to our wee junco. A grievous act of neglect had been committed. We are not at the heights of summer, where, if the feeders are empty, a bird can just flit off and nibble elsewhere. We are in the depths of winter--the ground is covered in snow, the winds blow cold and hard and food is scarce. The junco was not too dissimilar to the widow: his plea was not at all unreasonable, as he faced the adversary called Winter. He wanted a kind of "justice"--a full feeder to keep him warm in these harsh days. His resolve to patiently and persistently wait made me, still in jammies, go out in the snow and grab the feeders to fill them. When I grabbed them, he didn't fly away. He stayed in the tree until I returned with them filled. Interestingly enough, the feeder was soon filled with finches, and our junco didn't dine alone.
Then it struck me: our Heavenly Father answers our pleas not only to show His utter kindness, but to show others He is faithful to those who call on His name. Our persistence--showing our confidence in His mercy--leads to our answered prayers becoming full feeders of His grace in our lives.