When God answers your prayers, sometimes it’s right away. But often not, right? What do you do in those circumstances? Do you keep praying the same thing over and again, or do you drop it, not wanting to “nag” God?
When you were a child, did your parents allow you to ask them over and over for something? Do you allow your kids to do that?
For most of us, we were discouraged from nagging away at our parents. It’s not a bad thing, teaching children to be patient or instructing them that sometimes you just get a “no.”
But how does that work when you approach God? Do you carry that learning into your relationship with your heavenly father?
What if I told you that God delights in your persistence in prayer?
God is not a Genie
Before we take another step, let’s get this out there. God is the almighty creator of the universe. He doesn’t live in a bottle, he doesn’t grant 3 wishes when he’s called upon.
For the rest of this article, you’re going to see a lot of talk about persistent prayer. I’m not teaching you that God is in the habit of writing blank checks for his children just because they ask for it.
The last thing I want you to think is that if you consistently pray the same thing that you’ll somehow wear God down and he’ll bend to your wishes.
Or, if you’re like me you can identify with what Jeffery Curtis Poor from Rethink wrote in his article Dear God…A Lesson in Prayer:
My prayer life looked more like a series of sales pitches rather than an authentic relationship.Jeffery Curtis Poor, Rethink
Please keep that in mind here. We’re not talking about prosperity or comfort.
Teach us to Pray
In Luke chapter 11, just after Jesus teaches the Lord’s prayer to his disciples, he provides an illustration. That’s in Luke 11:5-13.
He tells the story of someone who receives an unexpected visitor and needs some bread to feed his guest. So he goes to another friend and asks for some food to share.
Except it’s midnight, and the man says, “Hey. My kids are finally asleep and I’m already in bed. Seriously, go away before you wake them. Don’t you know what time it is? It’s midnight!”
But then Jesus says,
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.Luke 11:8 (ESV)
Impudence. Now there’s a word you don’t use every day. And in this context, it carries significant implications concerning prayer.
The Greek word there is anaideia and guess what? It means shameless persistence. So because of shameless persistence, the sleeping guy will get out of bed and hand over whatever he needs. So Jesus is saying,
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.Luke 11:9 (ESV)
Ask, seek, knock. See the persistence? You wouldn’t stop praying for your unsaved child just because she wasn’t saved after 2 prayers, would you?
Faith Pleases God
God actually delights in your asking over and again for what you need, even though he already knows before you ask. That’s because your shameless persistent prayers show your reliance on him, and your faith is pleasing to God.
It’s beyond valuable to point out here that Jesus isn’t talking about receiving food or a new car or something. Here’s how Jesus ends that illustration:
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 11:13 (ESV)
It’s all about God. Believe me, there is nothing in the world that you could pray to receive that could even come close to the Holy Spirit.
But what happens when your shameless, persistent prayer goes unanswered? How do you press on without losing hope?
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable that would encourage his followers to “always pray and not lose heart.”
You can find that in Luke 18:1-8. And when you read that, you’re going to find even more instruction to carry on in your prayer.
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.’ ”Luke 18:3-5 (ESV)
So here’s a local ruler who arrogantly proclaims that he doesn’t care about God or other people, but this woman keeps asking him for a ruling in her favor.
And check out the language that’s used in this parable. Kept coming. Keeps bothering. Continual coming.
Why Persistent Prayer
Some people believe that to ask God more than once shows a lack of faith. Maybe you were taught that. It’s wrong teaching, but allow me to show you why.
Before I do, let’s first acknowledge that sometimes the Holy Spirit does lead us to let a thing go. But to teach that praying more than once for something lacks faith may have severe negative results.
You could become lazy in your prayers, kinda checking them off one by one and on to the next one. That could rob you of an opportunity to have a testimony about God’s faithfulness.
Praying for a thing once and letting it go could bring self reliance into play, too. If you get your heart and mind set on something but don’t keep it before the Lord, waiting for God’s reply could enable you to start finding other avenues to bring about what you’ve asked for.
That’s how it would work for me at least, and I know it.
Follow Christ in Persistent Prayer
Do we agree that the Bible is teaching shameless, persistent prayer? If we’re following Jesus, then he is our teacher, the example that we must follow.
So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.Matthew 26:44 (ESV)
Jesus modeled a prayerful life. How many times did he get away to pray? He taught prayer, providing his disciples and us with an example in what we call The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15).
Hopefully this will encourage you to press on in prayer and press in closer to God. Don’t be ashamed to rely on him for all things, overwhelming or insignificant. He cares for you so much that he want’s to hear from you on everything.
So if nothing else, remember this phrase: shameless, persistent prayer.