Persistence in Prayer
The scriptures are filled with examples of people who persisted in prayer. It was once called “praying through.” Persistence in prayer is praying until you have the answer or request you are seeking from God. It is continuing to pray until you sense a release in your spirit that God is intervening on your behalf and granting your request, coming back to Him day after day until you have the petition you have desired of Him.
Luke 18:1 – “And He (Jesus) spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”
Isaiah 64:7 – “And there is none that calls upon Thy name, that stirs up himself to take hold of Thee.”
This verse seems to indicate that those who lay hold of God in prayer are far and few between. God is searching for those from among His people who will do just that. This type of persistent praying doesn’t come easy. It’s the one who “stirs up himself to take hold of thee.” Will you be one of those who stirs up himself to lay hold of God in stubborn and persistent praying, refusing to let go of Him until you see the results you’re seeking of Him?
Biblical examples of persistent praying:
Personal Needs (Hebrews 5:7)
Time and again we see those who laid hold of God for personal needs. Jacob was on his way back home to face his brother Esau whom he had deceived some twenty years prior. His fear and anxiety of seeing Esau again caused him to wrestle with God in prayer until God blessed him (Genesis 32:22-31).
There was the bind man who just wanted to be able see (Luke 18:35-43). He cried out to Jesus to have mercy on him, the crowds tried to silence him but he wouldn’t be silenced but “Cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me” (Luke 18:39). There was also the widow lady and the unjust judge who kept returning to him until he avenged her (Luke 18:1-8).
Many are timid about seeking God for their personal needs but It’s okay to seek God for you for what you are in personal need of, Jesus did, “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared” (Hebrews 5:7). God cares about the most insignificant need you have. We’re exhorted, “Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Spiritual Sight (Luke 18:35-43)
The blind man cried out to Jesus for mercy that he might see. When “The crowds tried to silence him, he “Cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me” (Luke 18:39). He would not quit crying out to Jesus until he knew his cries were heard by the Master and he was able to see.
We can pray for spiritual sight for ourselves. The Psalmist cried, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalms 119:18). We can pray for others to receive spiritual sight, even those who are in direct opposition to the gospel. Ananias prayed for Paul and he received his sight, both his physical and spiritual sight (Acts 9:1-18). Also read 2 Kings 6:15-19.
Deliverance (Mark 7:24-30)
A Syrophenician women, whose daughter was tormented by an evil spirit, “came and fell at His feet” and “kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter” (Mark 7:25-26). This women was both desperate and persistent. Jesus seemed to actually discourage her. He said, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27).
He was basically saying, “you’re a dog leave me alone.” If that doesn’t discourage you nothing will. But she persisted and said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28). Because of her persistence Jesus said, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter” (Mark 7:29). This was also true in the parable of the widow and unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). Let’s lay hold of Him until we, our loved ones and all who are in need of deliverance are set free. Read also Luke 4:18-19, Matthew 6:13, Romans 11:26, and Acts 12:5-12.
Intercessory Prayer (Luke 11:5-10)
In this story, a friend comes at midnight requesting bread. The man responds, “Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything” (Luke 11:7). Jesus said, “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened” (Luke 11:8-10).
The tense here is, ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking and knock and keep on knocking. Remain persistent and don’t quit until you get what you are in need of. Persistence can also be translated importunity. Importunity is when you beg someone to do something. The adjective importunate describes a plea that is so persistent or demanding that it becomes annoying.
Below are three applications to this passage on persistent, importunate, intercessory prayer:
- Praying for the needs of others. We need intercessory prayer warriors who will lay hold of God in persistent prayer until their needs are met. Paul said, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
- Bread for sinners and saints. John R. Rice said in his book, “Prayer: Asking and Receiving”, that this was asking for spiritual bread for sinners. It also applies to requesting bread (spiritual sustenance or manna) for God’s people as well. Jesus exhorted us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). This applies to our daily needs being met as well as spiritual food. The Israelites received a daily portion of manna out of heaven from God. They had to gather fresh manna daily because what they gathered the previous day spoiled. Even so, we need fresh manna (His Word) every day. What we have one day doesn’t suffice for or carry to the next.
- Filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit. The context deals with us asking for the Holy Spirit. Jesus went on to say, “Suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish, he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:11-13)? When seeking the infilling or baptism of the Spirit, we must keep asking, seeking and knocking until we have all that we have come to Him for. We must also understand that when asking our heavenly Father for one thing, He will not allow us to get a counterfeit in its place.
The Blessing of God (Genesis 32:22-31)
As we read this passage we notice, “Jacob was left alone” (Genesis 32:24). It’s when we are alone that we become desperate and lay hold of God with all we have. We see Jacob “wrestled with him until daybreak. He said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’, and he blessed him there” (Genesis 32:24, 26, 29). He was persistent, he refused to let go of him until he had blessed him.
It was not uncommon for God’s people to request His blessing. Jabez asked this same thing (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). Because of extremes in the church when I was young in ministry, I thought I shouldn’t ask for blessings. I’ve come to find out that without God’s blessing I am no use to Him and I can’t be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:1-2). Let’s wrestle with (lay hold of) God until His blessing falls upon our lives and ministries.
The Purposes of God (1 Kings 17-18)
There had been a drought in Israel for three and a half years because of their idolatry. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest to decide who was the true God. After he won a great victory, the prophets of Baal were slain then he prayed for rain.
“Elijah went up to the top of Carmel and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. So he went up and looked and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go back seven times. It came about at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea. And he said, Go up, say to Ahab, Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you. In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower” (1 Kings 18:42-45).
After Israel repented, Elijah knew God would send rain. He was divinely directed in his prayers (1 John 5:14-15). He kept praying and sending his servant to look for any sign of rain. He did this seven times until his servant returned saying, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea” (1 Kings 18:44). That was all he needed, he knew God had answered his prayer. He was persistent until he saw the answer was on its way. When we know something is God’s will, we must pray persistently until His purposes are fulfilled.
Life to the Dead (1 Kings 17:17-24)
During the drought, Elijah was staying with and being provided for by a widow lady. After he had been there a while, her son became sick and died. She was distraught and brought the child to Elijah. Elijah took the child to the upper room where he was staying and began to pray. “He stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him. The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived” (1 Kings 17:21-22).
He stretched himself upon the child and prayed not just once, but three times. I’m convinced he would have done this many more times if necessary. He was persistent! There are a few applications we can glean from this account.
- Life to the lost. Paul said, “You hath he quickened (brought to life), who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). We must persistently ask God to breathe spiritual life into the dead.
- Dead saints. There are those who have accepted Christ and we know they are saved, but they haven’t grown and they seem spiritually dead. They are in need of a fresh touch from God. I was at a conference once and the speaker defined revival as the “impartation of life to a would be corpse.” This is so true of many Christians. We must pray for a revival among God’s people where fresh life is breathed into them.
- Dead churches. It seems in each generation God breathes upon the church through revival. The revival of the previous generation dries up and the church again needs an outpouring of God’s Spirit, an impartation of life. Ezekiel had a vision of dry bones representing Israel. He was commanded to prophecy to the dry bones until they eventually began to rattle, muscle and skin began to appear on them, breath entered them and they stood as a mighty army (Ezekiel 37). What a picture of the church today! We must persistently pray and prophesy to the dead saints and churches of our generation until God breathes life into them and they stand as a mighty army full of life and ready to do battle for the kingdom.
Persistence in prayer is a demonstration of true faith. When we lay hold of God and refuse to let go until we see the results of our toil, we are expressing and exercising faith.
Jesus ended His parable about the widow and the unjust judge by saying, “Hear what the unjust judge says. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:6-8)?
The big question Jesus asks is, “When the Son of man returns, shall he find faith on the earth?” At His return, will He find the kind of faith that persists in prayer, refusing to quit or give up?