Persistence in Prayer

Most people want to believe that there is someone greater than themselves who will help them in their time of need.  Jesus taught us to pray to our Father in heaven.  Perhaps you have prayed to God for things and He has answered your prayers and given you what you desired.  But it may seem that much of the time, when you pray, you don’t see a positive answer to your prayers.  You wonder why God does not answer your prayer.

God may not answer your prayer if He knows that it isn’t best for you to receive what you ask.  The apostle Paul had a situation in his life where God did not give him what he asked.  Paul had previously received great revelations from God, but then he was given a “thorn in the flesh”.  2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  It is supposed that the “thorn in the flesh” was some physical disability that Paul had.  God did not take it away because He wanted Paul to learn to depend upon Him.  It was not best for Paul to receive what he requested.  God may want you to go through trials to make you into a more mature Christian or to test your faith.  You should not doubt God’s wisdom whether He gives you what you ask for or He does not. 

You should also make sure that your prayer is a proper request to God.  Here is what James taught in James 4:3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  I suppose that many prayers are selfish requests that God is not interested in fulfilling.  In general, I doubt that God is interested in having your sports team win or blessing you with some possession beyond your need.  I believe that God is interested in the furtherance of His kingdom and receiving glory.  But that still leaves many things in your life that you do not know if God would be willing to answer or not.  And so you ask for those things.  You pray and you may not receive what you request.  The problem still exists.  The need is still there.  So what do you do?  Do you quit asking God for what you desire, and assume that God will not answer your prayer?

Jesus taught us to be persistent in prayer with a couple of stories.  The first is in  Luke 11:5-11 “And He said to them, ‘Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’?  I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.  So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”  The next story is in Luke 18:1-8 “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.  Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’  And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’  Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said.  And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?  I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’”  Jesus taught us to pray and not lose heart.  Don’t give up asking God.  Continue to pray.

Consider the following examples in the Bible of persistent prayer.  The first is when King Herod put Peter in prison with the possible intent of putting him to death.  Acts 12:5 “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.”  As a result of the constant prayer by the church, God miraculously freed Peter from the prison.  The second example is when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion.   Luke 22:44 “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”  As a result of His earnest prayer, He was strengthened but He still suffered the death on the cross.  The third example is the request for prayer by the apostle Paul.  Romans 15:30-32 “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.”  He wanted the church in Rome to strive together with him in prayer that he would be delivered from the unbelieving Jews.  That part of the prayer was not answered because the unbelieving Jews caused him to be imprisoned and sent to Rome.  But part of his prayer was answered in that he came to the brethren in Rome.  From these examples we learn that sometimes God answers persistent prayers and sometimes He does not.

Whenever you see a great need in your life, I encourage you to fervently and persistently pray to God to grant your request.