Persistence in Prayer: Pray Without Ceasing

Have you ever prayed with persistence and had to wait for God’s response? Of course you have. We all have!

In Matthew 7: 7-8 Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” The Greek tense of the verse renders the meaning: “Keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking.” This viewpoint focuses on God’s true meaning of this passage.

Scholars refer to these times as employing the prayer of importunity, or perseverance. Sometimes we are called upon to prayer with persistence, not because of God’s indifference to our needs, but because timing is always a factor with God, and He more often than not pursues a deeper purpose beyond our requests.

Importunity does not constitute begging but rather when we persevere in prayer, God has time to pull things out of our lives that He deems more important than even answering our prayer. God is not a slot machine, that responds to our every request for help; He is a loving Father who values character, fruit and holiness above answered prayer.

I remember watching a movie that I think aptly illustrates God’s intention during our times of perseverance. I don’t remember the name of the movie, but I remember being impacted by it very deeply. A millionaire paid a train conductor and two other men to take a load of coal up a mountain grade deemed almost impassable in order to win a bet. Three boxcars piled high with coal slowly grinded their way up a steep slope in western Pennsylvania. The three men were determined to move the train forward because the millionaire had promised them a sizeable reward.

However, what these three men encountered along the way challenged their greed. Hundreds of people began lining the tracks with their hands held out, hoping to receive lumps of coal to burn in their potbelly stoves, as winter temperatures were severe. Desperate faces and the children’s raggedy clothing caught the attention of the men and they said to themselves, “One or two pieces of coal won’t matter, as these people are freezing.”

Sad hearts were gladdened as pieces of coal were tossed into waiting hands. Eventually, when the now empty train reached the crest of the mountain, all three men were fearful for their jobs because the millionaire’s bet had been lost.

However, the unthinkable happened. The wealthy man’s heart was overwhelmed by their heart-rending generosity. The wealthy man, now turned humanitarian, was reduced to tears upon hearing the fear-filled men explain their story, and subsequently rewarded the three men with more than originally promised. You see, the men were challenged to unload what was more important than an impending reward in order to receive a better prize! And that’s what God requires from us during times of perseverance!

During our “asking…seeking…knocking” times, we too are often required to rid our lives of issues, attitudes, and even sins that may be holding us back. As we allow the Lord to “empty our “boxcar” while asking in faith – continuing even when answers allude us – He brings answers in His time and in His way.

Are you waiting for a prayer to be answered? Keep praying, keep trusting, keep obeying the Lord’s directives in your life when He shows you things and know that in His time, you will be rewarded for your persistence in prayer. Remember, the people needed the coal and the two men needed to walk in obedience! When we persevere in trust and obedience to the Lord, even those around us benefit!

Finally, the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 illustrates the principle of perseverance when a proud Syrian general is asked to dip, not one time, but seven times in the River Jordan in order to receive healing from leprosy. Why seven times? 

For one thing, the number 7 in the Bible is according to biblical numerology God’s number of perfection or completion. But I think the reason goes even deeper. I believe it took seven dips for the Syrian general to wash his pride away! Do you remember? His first response when the prophet Elisha told him to go under the water seven times was that of anger: “But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he (Elisha) would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy” (verse 11).

And you probably know how the story ended. In obedience to God’s prophet, General Naaman went under the water seven times, “and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy” (verse 14). He may or may not have swallowed dirty water but we know for sure he swallowed his pride! And the answer to his prayer came! In a very real sense, Naaman asked the Lord seven times before his leprosy was totally gone. What a beautiful story. Naaman obeyed the prophet’s command and God answered his desperate prayer.

Have you reached a point of desperation regarding that thing for which you have asked the Lord? Have you obeyed what the Lord has asked you to do? Are you still asking, seeking and knocking? Remember, you are not operating in a lack of faith; you are allowing the Lord to remove what may be in your “boxcar!”

Hold steady. Your answer is on the way! Have persistence in prayer. 

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