The most challenging part of prayer is when we think our prayers are not being answered, or that it is taking too long, and we are tempted to stop praying about something. Jesus addressed this human tendency using examples and a parable that encourage us to never stop praying about something.
Ask, Seek, Knock
In Luke 11:5-10, Jesus told the story of a man who had an unexpected visitor and, because he had no food, he asked another friend to give him some. The friend’s initial response was, “Don’t bother me”, but then he got up and gave the man some bread. Jesus said that he gave the bread, not because the man was his friend, but because the man was bold and persistent in asking. In fact, Jesus said that the friend “will get up and give him as much as he needs”. In Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus clarifies that, if we expect good things like this from our friends, “how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
We struggle to persist in prayer because there is often a delay between the prayers and the answer to the prayer, or at least that is our perspective, even though God is not slow (2 Peter 3:9a). In faith, we must persist in prayer, claiming Jesus’ promise that the Father hears and He will answer those who “ask…seek…knock.”
Pray with Persistence and Faith, Expecting an Answer!
Persistent prayer is an act of faith. Like the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8, we are to “cry out to him day and night”. Note that at the end of this parable, Jesus said, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Clearly, Jesus is equating persistent prayer with faith. By praying persistently, we show God that we truly believe in Him and we believe that He hears us. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Second, when tempted to become discouraged, we must keep praying and change our focus. When a prayer does not seem to be answered for long time, doubt creeps in and we are tempted to stop praying, or pray less about something. George Muller, a Christian evangelist in the 1800’s, was a great advocate of persistent prayer, and said that when prayers are not answered right away, God is using that time to grow our patience and/or faith. When we pray persistently, but it appears those prayers are not being answered, it makes all the difference to focus on what God is doing inside of us (i.e., growing our patience and faith), rather than focus on what is going on (or not going on) externally in answer to our prayers.
The last key point in persistent prayer is to expect God to answer. Jesus said that if we “ask…seek…knock”, we will “be given”, we will ”find”, and the door will …be opened”. Pray persistently, in faith, believing that God hears AND expect that He will answer, as mentioned in Hebrews 11:6. We must expect great things from our great God.
We must not be double-minded in prayer, going back and forth between believing God will answer and doubting that He will (James 4:8). We must go by faith, not feelings. It negates our prayers when we focus on feelings, one day thinking God is hearing and answering our prayer, and then the next day letting some event push us off track, back to doubting if God will ever answer our prayer. Like the disciples in Luke 17:5, if we need more faith, we should ask God for it, but also make certain we are exercising the amount of faith we already have. In Luke 17:6, Jesus said the level of faith is not always the problem. Rather, we just need to verbalize and act on the measure of faith God has already given us.
Call to Action
I highly recommend the book Answers to Prayer from George Muller’s Narratives, compiled by A.E.C. Brooks. The majority of Mr. Muller’s writing are about prayer. His goal was to encourage other believers to persistently pray to our prayer-hearing, prayer-answering Living God. I learned a lot about persistent prayer by reading Mr. Muller’s writings, and highly encourage you to do the same. It will give your prayer life the kick-start and direction it needs!