May 18, 2021
THE GEORGIA CAPITOL DEVOTIONAL - 18 May 2021
The Puritans encouraged each other to “Pray until you pray,” which means to pray with persistence. There are startling examples of brief, immediate prayers in the Bible. Scripture, however, also teaches to pray with tenaciousness. Although our prayers may not receive instant answers, God knows what we need and what we can manage.
Both the Old Testament and New Testament provide illustrations of praying with persistence. One example is the prophet Elijah, who prayed for God to send rain in response to 3½ years of drought (I Kgs 18). Elijah climbed to the summit of Mt. Carmel, kneeled on the ground, and with his face between his knees, he prayed. He sent his servant to look and report if the rain was coming. The report was, “there is nothing.” Elijah did not respond, “Well, I guess that is enough praying!” The prophet continued to pray and sent his servant again. The answer was still no rain. Elijah replied, “Go, look again.” He kept praying, and sent his servant 7 times. Elijah’s prayer is a great example for us. When he received the answer, “nothing is occurring,” Elijah did not cease praying because he knew the will of God (Jas 5:17-18). One popular Christian author wrote, “In the western world we urgently need this advice, for many of us in our praying are like nasty little boys who ring the front doorbell and run away before anyone answers.” We are to persist, persevere, and that can be challenging.
Jesus taught 2 parables that emphasized praying with persistence. One was concerning an unjust judge (Luke 18). A woman came to him and said, “Please give me legal protection; answer my appeal.” He refused her repeatedly, yet eventually said, “I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.” As a result of her persistence, she received the answer to her request.
The other parable, in Luke 11, concerns someone who has a friend, and goes to him at midnight to request 3 loaves of bread to feed another friend who was hungry. The answer from inside was that he was in bed, as was his family, so just leave. The man kept knocking, and inside the house the response was still, “leave, I cannot give you anything!” The man kept knocking and asking for the 3 loaves. Eventually, the man inside said, “Okay, I will give you 3 loaves.” The reason was not because he was a friend that he gave him the bread; it was because he would not stop asking. Jesus told these 2 stories to illustrate the importance of persistent prayer.
Many of us have the attitude that we try to pray, and if nothing occurs immediately, we then cease our efforts. Our culture is one in which we want things immediately. We like formulas that guarantee results. Scripture teaches we must learn to pray, and that oftentimes the answer does not come immediately. Persevering prayer is sometimes puzzling. We know that God longs and purposes to give grace and mercy in times of need, but sometimes the Lord restrains to train us to persevere in prayer. We must be intentional to persevere. Isaiah 30:18 reads, “the LORD longs to be gracious to you . . . blessed are all those who long for Him.”
God waits to be gracious and we do not always understand why. Sometimes the Lord God will answer immediately. The same Elijah who prayed 7 times, prayed once (in the same chapter), “Let the fire fall,” and it did. Sometimes answer to prayer is immediate, and sometimes there is delay. We are to persevere and persist by laying hold of the promises of God. Similar to Elijah, we can say, “Lord, You promised. I am not going to cease praying until you answer in accordance with your revealed Word.” Jacob would not let go until the Lord blessed him (Gen 32:24-30). Scripture demonstrates to us that the Christian in prayer will find the grandest power in the entire universe (Mark 11:24). Knowing the will of the Father, the Lord Jesus devoted himself regularly to praying to accomplish that work. The neglect of prayer is an immense reason for the lack of the divine strength. Let us pray with true pleasure believing that God will grant his power. The biblical accounts teach us to pray, and to exceed in prayer for the Lord's liberality in giving.