The Perseverance of Prayer
We’ve all prayed those prayers that feel as if they’re hitting the ceiling. Prayers we’ve prayed for days, weeks, months, years, and with no answer. Thankfully, we have a greater hope than immediately answered prayer. Jesus has not only promised to hear every prayer, but to be constantly doing what’s best on our behalf.
So, what are we to do in times of “silence?"
And pray some more.
We see in God’s Word that He sometimes answers prayers with ‘yes’, other times with ‘no’, but still other times with ‘maybe/not yet’. We see plenty of ‘yes’ answers, and even a few ‘no’ answers, where we either find that something we’re praying for is against God’s Word or sometimes we just know that God has told us to stop (as He did to Paul as described in 2nd Corinthians 12:8).
Beyond the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers is the troubling answer of ‘maybe/not yet’. Most often, this answer just feels like God is silent. It’s when we have this answer that we need to persevere in our praying.
Jesus gave us a parable in Luke 18:1-8 where He tells us of a widow who went before an unrighteous judge. This judge wasn’t going to give her justice, but she continued to come before him. Day after day she would come, and it says that he feared she would exhaust him by her persistence. So he gave her justice.
Jesus ended the parable reminding us that if an unrighteous judge could be swayed, how much more would our Father in heaven desire to give justice to those who persist in prayer. He then left us with this question: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
Jesus’ question should be sobering to us. He is telling us to persevere and not give up, then turns the question on us: will we?
I pray that we will, but let us be encouraged by Jesus’ parable, as it speaks volumes as to the wonderful situation we find ourselves in.
Rather than comparing us to the widow, and God to the unjust judge, Jesus is using their story to show how much better our situation is.
The widow’s situation compared to ours
The story is of a widow who has no public standing, and therefore, no hope before an unrighteous judge. She has no bribe to give, or power to sway the judge. Yet she realizes that she can wear Him down.
We, on the other hand, have as our judge One Who is fully righteous and yet fully loving. By His grace, He pays our debt Himself so that we will not be condemned before Him (since He is perfectly just). Our current standing before Him, by His grace, is one of a child to a Father. What a great position to be in when asking for justice to be done!
Jesus told us to persevere in the verses leading into the parable. But why should we? If we have a perfectly just and godly Father as our judge, shouldn’t we only have to ask once? Even if, in God’s timing, it was to be fulfilled later, why should we keep asking?
I have 4 reasons for you.
The fact is that if we prayed once and left it alone, we’d forget by the time it was answered and we would not be blessed knowing that He heard us, nor would He get the glory for answering our prayer.
We’ll appreciate it more
We tend to appreciate things we anticipate. I love how Donald Whitney puts it:
"Persistent prayer tends to develop deeper gratitude as well. As the joy of a baby’s birth is greater because of the months of anticipation, so is the joy of an answer to prayer after persistent praying.” -Donald Whitney
God wants participants
God does have a plan, but He also wants us to be involved along the way. This is seen perfectly in the fact that Jesus prayed often. By Jesus praying, He was revealing God’s desire to answer prayers (as we’re told that Jesus reveals the Father’s nature), and Jesus was also demonstrating our role to go before God the Father in prayer.
It builds our faith
The last and most important of the reasons is that God has ordained not-yet-answered prayer to be a way to build our faith. Again, Donald Whitney says it really well:
"Sometimes a failure to persist in prayer proves that we were not serious about our request in the first place. At other times God wants us to persist in prayer in order to strengthen our faith in Him. Faith would never grow if all prayers were answered immediately.” -Donald Whitney
Another way to think about it is:
"As we ask, and while we wait, we learn to depend on God.” -Bruce Zachary
We gain nothing but the answered prayer when the answer is immediate. But when we have to wait and labor in prayer, we gain newfound trust, and faith, in God’s working, more than we could have in any other way.
So let us seek God in our not-yet-answered prayers. Let us persevere that we may not only gain our prayer answered, but that we may also draw even nearer to the God we’re praying to, and into deeper relationship with Him and faith in Him.