Summary: It is good and important that we not give up. God is greatly glorified when we do not give up.
When You Pray, Never Give Up
My goal in this sermon is very simple. I hope to convince you of the importance of persistence in prayer. I want you to see that God is greatly glorified when we continue in prayer over a long period of time. Or to say it another way, I want us to understand that we ought not to give up when we pray. We can say the same thing two different ways:
It is good and important that we not give up.
God is greatly glorified when we do not give up.
Not long ago I received an email that raised this question in a very particular way:
I teach a Bible Study course at my local church. The question that was asked, “Should I pray for something (believing the prayer will be answered) and then the next time I pray thank God for answering my prayer (although it has not come to fruition) or should I pray the same prayer request over and over again?”
Does it mean that if I ask over and over again I lack faith in God answering? If I thank him and wait, does that mean I am not praying unceasingly?
Or is it a combination of the two. Sometimes we know in our heart the prayer request has been answered so we thank him and sometimes we are led by the Holy Spirit to ask over and over again.
We’ve all wondered how long we should we pray for something. Here is the general rule I follow. You should pray for something until . . .
The answer comes, or
The circumstances change, or
God changes the burden on your heart.
We shouldn’t discount the importance of that third one. It’s hard to define a “burden,” but we all know what it is like to have deep concern for others. God may give us a burden to pray for our church or for revival or for the spread of the gospel in Thailand or for a certain city or for the people where we work. Burdens come in all shapes and sizes. We should be sensitive to those burdens and use them as incentives to prayer. But we need not feel guilty when our prayers begin to change. God may be calling us to focus our prayers in a new direction. Obviously we will always be burdened to pray for our children and for our spouse and for our immediate concerns. But beyond that inner circle, our prayers will change over time.
But what about praying for the same thing over and over again? Is that a good thing or a sign of a lack of faith? Let’s begin by noting that many times when we pray, we simply don’t know how God intends to answer our prayers. That often happens when we pray for a loved one who is desperately sick. We generally don’t know in advance if God intends to heal them quickly or slowly or if he does not intend to heal them. And when we pray for certain things to happen, we don’t fully know the mind of the Lord. I often think of prayer as if we are peering through a keyhole and focusing on one tiny portion of a vast and ever-changing scene. Because we focus only on the part that interests us, we can’t and don’t see the bigger picture of how the parts of life fit together. Only God sees the whole landscape of life–past, present and future, with all its interlocking pieces.