Persisting in Prayer

“And I tell 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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:10)

There may be many times in our lives when a situation we find ourselves in causes us to turn to our God and fall on our knees in prayer. I'm not talking about every-day prayer request we may have, inasmuch as those deep personal prayers that have laid a prayer emergency on our souls.  A deep heart burden for prayer. When these come they are often personal in nature, but they can also be prayer for others, or a particular church need that God has pressed down upon us. This is often accompanied by a great weight or burden that will not go away.

The obvious thing to do is to take it to the LORD in prayer. However, do I pray just the once? Do I leave my prayer at his feet and get on with my life? Well, some prayers can be like that. Some may say that repeatedly asking God for the same thing is a lack of faith or a sign that we do not trust that God heard our prayers or in his goodness. 

However burdensome, prayers are never like that. We may feel so emotionally caught up we cannot help but plead our case before the throne of grace time after time.

In fact there are several examples in scripture that exhort us to be persistent in our prayers. Such passages are a great comfort to turn to in our times of deep need.

In Luke 11:1, We are told that when Jesus had finished praying, one of his disciples, asked him to teach them how to pray. It is then Jesus taught them what we later call the Lord's prayer. It’s a prayer we can use as a model, a template when we come to prayer.   But Jesus doesn't end it there. He continues to give them a practical illustration.

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell 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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:5-13)

Have you pictured the scene? Why did the man keep knocking? The answer is given to us in verse 6. “I have nothing.” Persistence in prayer comes when we realise that we feel empty in our souls, we have nothing.

The situation Jesus paints is of a man who has a late visitor. This is in the Middle Eastern culture, where hospitality is huge, and he has nothing to offer his guest. So he says to himself, I know what I’ll do, I’ll ask my neighbour for some bread! So he rushes next door to his neighbour’s house and knocks. But his neighbour is tucked up comfortably in bed! They were all asleep! But the man is insistent! He keeps banging on the door, he will not give up and go away until his request is granted. He was persistent in his knocking. He didn't cave in and give up when he received a seemingly negative response. He didn't have any other plan, no alternative.

The widow and an unjust judge.

“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-7

Please notice the opening verse, Jesus gave this illustration so we do not lose heart! What an encouragement this is! We should mimic the widow's persistence! However, we must learn that sometimes that our hearts do not understand His will or His timing. And at times we must be willing to wait for God's yes to be revealed at a later time. But that should not stop us praying!  

So take your requests and petitions to the throne of grace! Do so often, be persistent! From my own personal experience of such burdensome prayer laid on hearts, God may kindly give you proofs that not only that He has heard your prayer (1 Kings 9:3, 2 Chron 7:12, Isaiah 38:12, Luke 1:13, Acts 10:31), but that He will also provide an answer.

In our praying, when we are empty, destitute, our hearts are burdened. It is only then and only then are we persistent in prayer. Yet so often we pray and our attitude deep down within our heart is, well, if God doesn’t answer this prayer, somehow we’ll get through.  And we give in.

Some see repeatedly asking God for the same thing as a lack of faith or a sign that we do not trust that God heard our prayers. They assume that persistent prayer is presumptuous and rude. Others see not repeatedly asking for something as a lack of faith or a sign that we do not trust in God's goodness. Not persisting in prayer means we have given up too easily.

The apostle Paul tells us (2 Cor 12:8-9) that he prayed to the Lord for something three times. In this particular case, we are told God refused Paul's request. So Paul stopped praying, not because he gave up or thought it inappropriate to ask God more than three times, but because he had received an answer. It just happened that the answer was no.

David made consistent requests of God in the Psalms. Jesus even prayed three times regarding the cross (Matt 26:36-46). When we bring our requests to God, we honour Him. We tell Abba father the desires of our hearts, and we admit that only He can meet them. Nevertheless, in our persistence we must be willing to submit to God's will.

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