We read in Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
While I have many living heroines and mentors, many of my heroines died long ago. Each one of these women were sinners, saved by grace. And yet, the outcome of their way of life makes them worthy of imitation.
Let me tell you about one of these heroines. Monica of Hippo challenges me in my prayer life. She was born in 332 A.D. in what is now Algeria. Monica grew up as a Christian with a strong faith in the Lord. That faith must surely have been tested when it was arranged that she would marry Patricius, who was a pagan. Patricius proved to be a difficult husband, an adulterer and a violent man.
Yet, Monica was so devoted to the Lord that she willingly submitted herself to this intemperate, unfaithful man, choosing to serve him as her lord and to bite her tongue even when he provoked her. She prayed for her husband and showed him daily the love of Christ until he finally converted, 16 years after their marriage.
Her son Augustine was just as wayward as his father, living an immoral life and denying the faith his mother had taught him. He is famous for his insolent prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” Monica was terribly grieved over her son’s eternal destiny and prayed earnestly on his behalf. Augustine later wrote that Monica “wept to [God] for me, shedding more tears for my spiritual death than other mothers shed for the bodily death of a son.” When Monica spoke of her concern for Augustine to her bishop, he comforted her, saying, “It cannot be that the son of these tears should be lost.”
Monica had pleaded with the Lord for Patricius’ salvation for 16 years. It took another 14 years of crying out to God before Monica’s prayers for her son were answered, and Augustine finally became a Christian. He was an incredibly intelligent, learned man who went on to become a key figure both in the church as well as in the history of Western thought. Augustine was about 30 years old when he became a Christian. Monica had been faithful to pray for him, crying out to the Lord with tears again and again on his behalf.
Her perseverance and discipline are a challenge to me. I don’t pray enough. I don’t pray enough for my husband or for my children! And I give up too easily when the Lord doesn’t seem to answer right away. Monica challenges me to persevere in prayer and to cry out to the Lord continually like the importunate widow.
The Lord has put me in a unique position to pray for my family. If I am not praying for my husband and my children, who will do it? I spend more time with them than anyone else does. I am more aware of their needs, the burdens on their hearts, their character flaws, and their strengths than anyone. I love them with a passion. Surely this burden to pray for them has been laid at my doorstep, and I must be faithful to take it up!
Reading about women like Monica encourages me to do just that.