Praying Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer

Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer

One of the reasons that prayer is such a difficult part of the Christian life is that prayer often requires persistence. God may be pleased to answer a prayer very soon after the believer sends his request heavenward. But God may be just as pleased to withhold an answer for an extended time and require that the believer continue praying. Giving up on prayer is easy; persisting in prayer is hard.


  1. Texts calling for persistent prayer
    1. 1 Sam 12:23Far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.
    2. Ps 55:17Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
    3. Matthew 26:41Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
    4. Luke 18:1  Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.
    5. Acts 12:5Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.
    6. Rom 1:9For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,
    7. Eph 6:18  [Pray] always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints
    8. Col 1:9  On account of this we also, since the day we heard, do not cease praying for you, and asking that you may be filled with the full knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
    9. Col 4:2Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;
    10. 1 Thes 3:10night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and to perfect what is lacking in your faith?
    11. 1 Thes 5:17Pray without ceasing.
  2. Principles of persistent prayer
    1. Both direct biblical commands and examples require believers to persist in prayer. We see biblical characters praying persistently and direct commands tell us to do the same. Virtually every aspect of our lives ought to be “covered” by prayer. Prayer should be our constant, recurring experience, part of our daily lives. Lack of persistent prayer ought to be the exception among believers.
    2. The spiritual battle we are in (Eph 6:10f) requires constant prayer. Our adversary the devil does not let up in his attempts to devour us, so neither should our spiritual warfare against him let up. One of Satan’s most potent devices is to lure us into believing that prayer is ineffective or unneeded.
    3. We must not heed the temptation to quit praying during times of prosperity. Lack of adversity does not call for the cessation of prayer. If our own lives are temporarily lacking tragedy, plenty of other people and situations call for our attention in prayer.
    4. It is natural to grow weary and tired in prayer (e.g., Mt 26:37-41). Persistent prayer for the same request may become tiresome and even discouraging. We may wonder if God is hearing us. But we must remind ourselves to “not faint” (Lk 18:1) when we are tired and ready to quit.
    5. Prayer need not be lengthy. Persistent prayer may be swift and silent. The length of the prayer is not significant; the intensity and devotion of the prayer are what matter. “Short, pungent prayers thrust heavenward … are just as effective as extended periods of vocal prayer.”[1] Quality, not quantity, matters most in prayer. The attitude of the heart is far more important than the number of words. Cf. Rom 8:26.
    6. Why can’t we simply pray once about something and not mention it again? Direct biblical commands and examples seem to require that we repeat our prayers (e.g., Luke 18:1-8; 2 Cor 12:8-9). There is no harm or sin in repeating a request.
    7. Why does God wait in answering prayers? Why does he require us to persist? Several possible reasons:
      1. Persistent prayer reminds us that we are totally dependent on God (2 Cor 1:9). “It is only when we come to the painful realization that our own resources are insufficient that the all-sufficiency of God strikes home.”[2]
      2. Persistent prayer helps us differentiate between temporary, surface desires and deep-seated, sincere needs. Perseverance helps us weed out those petitions that may be improper or untimely. Continuing in prayer purifies the contents of our requests.
      3. Persistence develops patience. Through persistence in prayer, we learn how to wait on God. What we desire now may not be within God’s providential will at this time. We must learn to desire God’s will, not our own, and wait for his timing (cf. Mt 26:42).
      4. Persistence is our duty whether we perceive the reasons God requires it or not. God calls on us to “watch and pray,” even when we are tempted to lose heart. We should ask God to give us the faith and commitment to “pray without ceasing” no matter what obstacles or situations hinder us.

 

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