Persistence in Prayer?
November 8, 2021
And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith (Matthew 21:22).
As a boy growing up in church, I was told that if I wanted the Lord to do something for me or for someone else, I had to pray in faith, believing He would answer my prayer. I was told that praying in faith meant to pray repeatedly, that repeating the same prayer was a sign of faith.
As a young man in college, I was told that if I wanted the Lord to do something for me or for someone else, I had to pray in faith, believing He would answer my prayer. I was told that praying in faith meant to pray once and leave it at the altar of faith; that praying once was a sign of faith, but praying repeatedly was a sign of doubt. Who was right? What is right?
When a Christian asks the Lord for something that is consistent with His Word, His will, and His purpose, and in asking, the person trusts God to provide for what is asked, it will be done (John 14:12-14). If the request honors God, then God will honor the request. We need to be clear; the prayer of faith cannot be reduced to a formula to be strictly followed - step 1, 2, 3, a, b, c. Faith is trusting in God to do what God desires and wills to do, then aligning yourself with Him in the doing of it. It’s like Henry Blackaby said about ministry, “Find out where God is working, and join Him there.”
So, do we pray once in faith, or do we pray persistently in faith? Yes. In Luke 11:5-8 and 18:1-8 Jesus told two parables about being persistent in prayer. In both parables the ones in need continued to ask those who had the resources to fill the need. The result of their persistence was that their requests were heard and answered. On the other hand, we see in Scripture those who made a single request of God in faith, and God answered. “The believer who wants what God wants can ask from God and receive it” (John MacArthur). My experience has been to pray for a person, issue, burden, need, etc. as often as the Holy Spirit brings it to mind - one time or a hundred plus times.
There is a caveat to all of this. God’s will is God’s will, and sometimes that includes answering prayer in ways that are unpleasant, i.e. sacrifice, suffering, even death or martyrdom. It may be that God’s will is not to answer our request in the manner, means, or time frame we request. It may even be that God will say ‘no’ to our request (2 Corinthians 12:3-10) in order to achieve a higher purpose in and through us than we were able to understand.
Jesus said, 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 (Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10). So, pray in faith as your faith dictates under the leading of the Holy Spirit, and do it to the praise and glory of Jesus Christ your Lord, Amen.