Anyone who has ever played sports knows the value of persistence.
- The runner who runs mile after mile.
- The Lebron James wannabe who spends hours shooting hoops.
- The gymnast who repeats her routine again and again on the parallel bars.
Musicians know the value of persistence too. [I’ve got to insert a joke at this point, a one-liner from comedian Robert Orben on persistence. “If you’re ever tempted to give up, think of Brahms who took seven long years to compose his famous Lullaby. He kept falling asleep at the piano.”]
Thomas Edison and his team were dogged in their persistence. They tried 6,000+ different items to serve as the filament in a light bulb. He said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to always try just one more time.”
I get persistence. I am a woodworker. Ask any woodworker what he hates about woodworking and he will tell you, “Sanding.” This is one task, though, I’ve learned to embrace with persistence. Working through the different grits takes time, especially on a large project, but in the end you get a very clean and smooth surface. Recently a neighbor admired a cabinet in my living room. “How did you get the top so smooth?” Persistence in sanding.
Persistence in prayer baffles me, though. I know Jesus taught us to persevere in prayer. In Luke 11, He gave us an illustration about the need to persevere. Verse 9 tells us to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” The Greek grammar means to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking.”
- God invites me to pray and desires to answer my prayers (Jer. 33:3).
- No prayer is beyond God’s ability to answer (Isa. 59:1).
- God promises to answer if we trust and believe (Mark 11:24).
I believe those truths. So why does God answer some prayers immediately and others require me to pray continually and persistently? It seems a single prayer to the One I have full faith in would do.
When God doesn’t answer right away, my faith in Him is not shaken. I do persist in praying. I have been praying for several things for years—and I will continue to do so because (1) God calls me to, and (2) I believe He will answer in His time. In the Bible Studies for Life session on persistent prayer, Jonathan Falwell said it well:
God supplies the answer when we need it, not just when we want it. We can trust the omniscient God to know what is best for us, so we can also trust His timing. Let’s not look on prayer as trying to convince God or change His mind; instead, let’s look at persistent prayer as a vehicle to move us into a position of humble submission and trust before God.
Persistent prayer doesn’t change God. It changes me.
This post is based on the study “God’s Promise of Answered Prayer” in Bible Studies for Life.