There are a lot of mysteries about prayer that we do not understand. We may not understand how the sovereignty of God and the free will of man work together when you’re praying for other people with free will. But, what we do know is that God said to do it.
Now, we know that our heavenly Father loves us, we know that He wants to answer prayer, He has commanded us to ask in prayer, and He is eager to meet our needs. Then the question is – why do we have to pray more than one time? Why do we have to make the same request over and over to God? The Bible says…
“Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, always giving thanks to God.” Colossians 4:2 TEV
Why does God want me to keep on praying, seeking, asking, knocking? Why does God want us to pray the same request over and over and over until He answers it?
Why Must I Keep Praying Persistently?
- IT KEEPS MY ATTENTION FOCUSED ON GOD.
When you pray about something over and over, your attention is focused on God. Attention is the greatest gift you can give someone. When you give your attention to somebody you let them know they matter to you. Just like people crave attention, God craves your attention. The Bible says God is constantly thinking about you. What if you thought about somebody all the time but they never thought about you?
One of the reasons God loved King David in the Old Testament so much is because David gave God his attention all the time. In Psalm 25:15 NLT, David says,
“My eyes are always on the Lord, for He rescues me from the traps of my enemies.”
You’re going to face a lot of traps in your life this next week. God’s the only one who knows them in advance. Focus on Him and He’ll rescue you from all of the traps.
“Search for the LORD and for His strength; continually seek Him.” Psalm 105:4 NLT
- HAVING TO WAIT TEACHES ME ABOUT MYSELF.
You’ll learn things while you’re praying for an answer that you won’t learn any other way. You learn not just about God but also about yourself. Some prayers are answered immediately, but some take time because while we are working on the prayer God is working on us.
“I will test and purify them as silver is purified by fire. I will test them as gold is tested. Then they will pray to me and I will answer them.” Zechariah 13:9 TEV
Gold is tested and purified by placing it in a big vat and heating it up until all the impurities burn off. When you can see your reflection in the gold, it’s pure. God can see His reflection in you when all the impurities are burnt out of you. Notice that the answer to prayer comes after the test.
God tests you with stress before He trusts you with success.
Having to wait on God tests four things:
- It tests my DESIRES
When you pray persistently over time your prayer changes, grows, and develops because you realize what you really want. Persistent praying reveals the difference between a whim and a deep desire. God is not in the business of fulfilling every whim you get. Persistent prayer sifts out what’s really not that important to me. God wants to give you your deepest desires, but He wants to make sure that He’s in the first place.
“Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 NLT
- It tests my PRIORITIES
When you have to pray for something more than once it tends to clarify what’s important to you. You can you know what’s really important to you by figuring out what you worry about the most. The problem is, every time you worry you’re acting like an atheist. Worry is acting like you don’t have a heavenly Father who has promised to take care of you. But, when you pray you’re acting like a child of God.
“Why be like an unbeliever who worries about everything? Your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need if your first concern is to live for His Kingdom.” Matthew 6:32-33 NIV
When your priorities are right, God’s answer is yes. If your first concern is God’s Kingdom, God says He’ll give you all you need. You may be waiting on God to answer a prayer. But, are you waiting on God or is God waiting on you to get your priorities right?
“No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who do what is right.” Psalm 84:11 NLT
- It tests my MATURITY
When God doesn’t give something to you immediately, He is testing your maturity. He’s testing whether you’ve grown up or not. God is not a vending machine or a genie, He wants to reveal your character. He wants to show you the areas where you need to grow.
If you tell a toddler, “You can have it in a little while,” do they get that? No. If you tell a toddler, “You can have it later,” they throw a temper tantrum and say, “I want it now.” That’s called immaturity. Toddlers don’t know how to wait. Immature adults don’t know how to wait.
God wants to meet your deepest physical, spiritual, emotional, financial, and relational needs. He’s even promised to meet those needs, but He’s far more interested in your character development. God’s more interested in your character than your comfort.
One of the characteristics of Christ is patience. Patience is a fruit of the spirit. How do you learn patience? Through persistent prayer. When God thinks you’re mature enough He’s going to let you go through a period where you feel alone and you don’t feel His presence. The question during that time is, will you depend on your feelings or on God?
God doesn’t want you living by your moods. He wants you living by your commitments and by your trust in His Word. It’s part of your development and spiritual growth. You’re building spiritual muscle. When God thinks you’re mature enough, He’s going to leave you alone for a while to test your character.
“God left Hezekiah on his own for a while to see what he would do; God wanted to test his heart.” 2 Chronicles 32:31 MSG
Hezekiah was a very good king, but God still left him alone for a while. Before God answers your prayer for a breakthrough, he’s going to test your heart. He wants to know if you are ready to handle the blessing.
Before every blessing there is a testing.
God did this for the entire nation of Israel. He had a blessing for them called the Promised Land. But before He let them go into the Promised Land, He wanted to test them so see if they were mature enough to handle the blessing of the Promised Land. They could have gone from Egypt to Israel in a matter of weeks, but God kept them out in the desert for 40 years because God was testing, developing, and growing them.
“The Lord led you through the wilderness for forty years, humbling and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would really obey His commands.” Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT
When we are in pain – emotional, physical or spiritual pain – we cry out to God to remove the painful symptom but God wants to remove the cause of the pain. That takes a little more time. When things are not going good in your life, you just want God to make you happy and put a band aid on it, soothe it, take away the pain. We aren’t looking to clear up the relationship or deepen our character, we just want God to change the circumstance not change our character.
God wants to get to the root of that marital problem. He doesn’t just want to get us out of debt, He wants to deal with what caused us to go in debt. It’s a whole deeper level. Here’s the big question. When praying to God for a breakthrough…
Am I willing to let God change me instead of changing the circumstance?
That’s a whole different issue. This is what’s called the point of surrender. The point of surrender happens in every breakthrough prayer before the breakthrough happens. If you don’t get to the point of surrender, you’re not going to get through the breakthrough.
“Give yourself completely to God, to be used in the hands of God for His good purposes.” Romans 6:13
- It tests my FAITH
We know God has said He will meet our needs, but we may not see the answer coming. In that instance, do we trust our feelings or our Father? It is a mistake to trust your feelings. God will never give you anything unhelpful or harmful. He’ll never give you anything detrimental or deadly. He’ll only give you what is good and He knows what will make you happy more than you do.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They’re plans for good and not for evil, plans to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11 LB
God has plans for your life that aren’t going to just happen overnight. You have to wait on God’s timing. In fact, the bigger the thing God wants to do in your life, the longer the runway it takes to get it off the ground. When God wants to do something really big, it doesn’t happen quickly. It happens when you’re praying and trusting and growing in desires, priorities, maturity and faith.
“Let us not get tired of doing what is right for at the right time at the right time, we will we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV
Your faith is more desirable, important and precious than anything God could possibly give you. God wants you to keep praying because in that persistence God is changing you.
Four Ways God Answers Prayer
God always answers prayer. There is no such thing as unanswered prayer. He doesn’t always answer the way you like, but He always answers in one of four ways.
- When my request is not right, God says NO.
God’s not going to give you something that’s harmful for you. God won’t give you something destructive. He’ll only give you what’s good for you.
- When I’m not right, God says GROW.
God may want to give us something but He knows when we may not be ready yet. We may not be ready for the responsibility. We might need a little growing to do in character, maturity, faith, or surrender.
- When the timing’s not right, God says SLOW.
In Habakkuk 2:3, he says, “Do not be discouraged if the vision isn’t fulfilled overnight. Surely it will happen. It will not be overdue a single day.” God says it’s coming, but it’s slow. It’s all working together in God’s time.
- When my request and the timing and my character all line up right, God says GO!
Those are the four ways God answers prayer. No… Grow… Slow… and Go. This is the reason why we do what Ephesians says:
“Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Always stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV
Pray at all times. On every occasion. Always stay alert. Pray for all Christians. You need to be praying for other people. Everywhere. Now, what is not included in that verse? Nothing. God wants us to pray persistently.
Check back on your discussion from last week. In “The Light Is Green” sermon, Pastor Ryland encouraged you to Get Closer to God; Get Honest with a Godly Friend; Get in Tune with God’s Purposes and your SHAPE; and Get to Doing Something Greater Than Myself. What progress did you make on these goals last week? Be specific.
Hear the Word
“Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, always giving thanks to God.” Colossians 4:2 TEV
God wants us to pray persistently. Let’s look at how asking God for something repeatedly over time helps us learn more about ourselves and tests our desires, priorities, maturity, and faith.
- It keeps my attention FOCUSED ON GOD.
“My eyes are always on the LORD, for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.” Psalm 25:15 NLT
Thinking about your experiences, can you describe a trap that God helped you escape?
- Having to wait teaches me ABOUT MYSELF.
“I will TEST and PURIFY them as silver is purified by fire. I will test them as gold is tested. Then they will pray to me, and I will answer them.” Zechariah 13:9a TEV
What has God taught you about yourself by having you wait for an answer to a prayer? What evidence of God’s testing and purifying have you seen in your life?
- God tests my DESIRES, my PRIORITIES, my MATURITY and my FAITH through persistent prayer.
Have you ever prayed for something and then found that your desires changed over time?
How has God reordered your priorities in life? Did persistent prayer play a part in that life change?
What evidence of spiritual growth and maturity can you point to in your life?
How has your faith grown as you have seen God answer your prayers?
Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father … will give you all you need if your first concern is to live for his Kingdom.” Matthew 6:32-33
What do you think “live for his Kingdom” means? How can we know whether we are doing this? What part do you think “surrender” plays in living for his Kingdom?
Tell Someone Else
Who could you offer to pray for and with this week that you have never prayed for or with before?
“Pray at ALL times, and on EVERY occasion, in the power of the Holy Spirit, ALWAYS stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for ALL Christians EVERYWHERE.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV