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Many believers have given up on prayer, but we must persevere through challenges and disappointments and maintain a vibrant prayer life. Below is an excerpt from Living From the Secret Place that teaches on the importance of persistence in prayer.
Throughout my walk with the Lord, I have seen the power of God working through prayer firsthand. Shortly after I surrendered my life to Christ, the leader of our campus ministry asked me who I thought would be the least likely person to attend the group’s weekly Bible study. Without hesitation, I named a guy who was an atheist and known for his sinful lifestyle. The campus ministry leader suggested that we make him the object of prayer. Within a matter of a few months, I was leading this once-resistant atheist in a prayer to receive the Lord. He became one of my best friends throughout my college years and went into the mission field for a time after graduating.
In another instance, my wife and I were desiring to buy a house, but it soon became apparent that there was no way to make it work financially. I went to the altar of a church one Sunday morning in response to a call during worship to lift up specific prayer requests to the Lord. (I was a guest speaker that morning.) I released the desire for a house to God and trusted Him with the outcome. Soon after this time of prayer, we received multiple unexpected financial provisions that enabled us to purchase a house.
Yes, God is a God who hears and answers prayer. These are but a few examples of how I have seen the Lord work in response to petitions and requests. He cares about the big items and the small ones, eternal matters and earthly needs. But I must add that there have also been times when prayers seem to go unanswered. And there are things I have been praying about for many years that I have not yet seen the answer to. At times it can feel like my prayers are not making a difference and discouragement can set in. This brings up the fact that in order to have a fruitful prayer life, we must develop the trait of persistence.
The Need for Persistence
In Luke 11: 5-13, Jesus continued His teaching on prayer, highlighting specifically the need for persistence when we pray. He shared a parable about a man asking for bread from a friend at midnight, so that he might have food to give another friend who came to him on a journey. It was his persistence that eventually got the answer. Then Jesus taught on the need to keep asking, seeking, and knocking in prayer and that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask in this way.
Later in Luke the need for persistence in prayer is highlighted again. It says this in Luke 18:1 (ESV): “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” The opposite of praying is losing heart, and Jesus knew that we could easily lose hope and give up in our prayers. So, He told a parable about a persistent widow. This woman would not stop appealing to an unjust judge to grant her justice from an adversary. The judge initially declined but finally answered her request because of her perseverance in asking (see Luke 18:1-8).
I think it is important to explain that neither of these parables is describing God’s reluctance to answer prayer. When you dig into the parables and corresponding teaching, you will find two realities to be equally true: God delights to answer the prayers of His children, and persistence is critical for answered prayer. This seems like a paradox—if God loves to answer prayer, why must we persist in asking? There are various reasons why perseverance is important to prayer, but we are not overcoming God’s unwillingness to respond to our cries. There are other factors at work that can hinder the breakthrough from coming.
Many believers have given up on prayer. Past disappointments and unanswered prayers have caused them to lose heart. They no longer pray with expectation or as a living and vital reality. But we can’t afford to stop praying. A lasting and fruitful prayer life will require us to persevere. In order to continue in prayer without losing heart, I believe that two key components are critical. First, we must keep our relationship with God as the central focus. Remember that prayer is first about knowing God. Keep that as the main goal, and it will help you persist when prayers don’t seem to be getting answered.
Second, we must learn to embrace mystery. There are various conditions that come into play for prayers to be answered, and sometimes it is not clear why certain prayers are answered and others not. There are examples in Scripture of prayers being answered instantly, but there are also examples of prayers taking many years before the fulfilment came. We can rest in the character and nature of God in all of this and not have to have it all figured out. He is good, holy, loving, just, and all-knowing. Learning to embrace mystery means that we don’t have to know why a prayer took years to be answered or went seemingly unheard. We can continue to pray because we know that God is good, and His Word is true. We will not know the full scope of answered prayer on this earth until we step into eternity. Until then, we can continue to pray without ceasing (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
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Time alone with God was never intended to be a boring duty or empty ritual. It was meant to be a passionate pursuit of God that leads to encountering His presence and knowing Him more.
Living from the Secret Place is a call to personal devotion. With rich scriptural truths, personal examples, and practical teaching, this book will equip you to grow in the most important thing you can do—spend time alone with God!