Persistence in Prayer!
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” Ephesians 6:18
In a devotion that I had written early last year on, Elements of an effective, Fervent prayer – (Click here to read), we realized that for you to have an effective prayer life, you have to PURPOSE in your heart to be persistent, pray purposefully and pray properly. Nevertheless, you can do the above and still you may feel that you are not reaching where you want to. Prayer needs to be a lifestyle. A lifestyle that is engraved deep inside of you that no matter what, I will pray. It doesn’t matter what comes your way but because prayer is your lifestyle, you will find yourself having time to pray no matter where you are and what you are doing.
Prayer should be your priority. This is the lifeline of a Christian. It is both an attitude and an activity. We are meant to pray at all times. This is what Paul exhorts us to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 saying “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” You can do this at any moment i.e. you can pray as you are driving, working, as you walk, read the bible name them. It doesn’t have to be in a specific place that is only where you can pray from; NO! You can pray at any place at any time and God will hear you. To develop a lifestyle of prayer, it all starts as a habit and at the end of the day you find yourself that you are used to what you have been doing oftenly. Daniel in Daniel 6:10 made it a habit to pray three times a day till even the king’s decree could not stop him to pray. Discipline is also required of you. You have to discipline and purpose with your heart that no matter what or where I am, I will pray. In doing this, you will find yourself consistent and committed to this.
In order to have an effective prayer life Scripture teaches that there are certain prerequisites.
a) Relationship - We must have a relationship with God the Father, which comes only through a relationship with Jesus. John 14:6. Jesus said that no one comes to the father unless through him. The preface to the Lord’s Prayer makes a distinction between those who have a right to call God Father and hypocrites. In Matthew 6:5-9, Jesus gave a clear distinction of how we should and shouldn’t pray. He said and made it clear that only those who are Children of God are promised that their prayers will be heard. The question is; do you have a relationship with our heavenly father? And if you do, how is it?
b) Reflection - It is required that we come with some understanding of who God is, and who we are; that God is Holy and Almighty, and we sinners and needy. Nevertheless, we need to understand that God is our father and we are his children. We have the right to ask of whatever that we need of him. We can approach our father at any time due to the fact based on the above pint that we have a relationship with him.
c) Righteousness - James 5:16 tells us that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. There must be the element of righteousness in our lives. Righteousness defined is: right actions motivated by genuine faith. Both components are necessary. Faith comes first, as a gracious gift from God. It is not something we muster, but receive. But our faith, if it is genuine, will express itself through outward behaviors. These behaviors themselves merit us nothing, but are evidences of Faith; they are evidences of a relationship with the Father.
There are requirements in prayer, such as asking, and asking for right things in accordance with God’s Will, and asking with right motives. But I am not addressing those here. I address some prerequisites, conditions of our lives enabling us to pray effectively. The first of these three prerequisites is enduring; it does not change back and forth. However, if one does not have a relationship with God through Jesus, that status can be changed. But once changed, God does not forget those whom he knows. The last two can change somewhat. While we are not likely to “un-know” what we know; and once declared righteous by God through faith in Christ, we do not lose that status, there are actual or functional aspects to both Faith and Righteousness. Reflection is the exercise of Faith, which like a muscle needs to be used to be strengthened. Righteousness is the active living out our faith. If our prayer lives are dull or ineffective, we would do well to examine if we are negligent in either of these areas.
When we look at Elijah’s prayer in 1 Kings 18:41-46, we can learn several things that we can also apply to our prayer lives as well.
a) First we see that Elijah separated himself. Verse 42 says he “climbed to the top of Carmel.” Elijah needed to get away from everyone – from all the noise and all the confusion. He wanted to have his undivided attention focused on God. He wanted to be alone with Jehovah. In Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus spoke of the closet. Sometimes Jesus would pray in front of others, but often He would go into the mountains and pray by Himself. Jesus wasn’t forbidding or condemning public prayer; He is dealing with the/our attitude. Whenever you pray, you have to get your attention away from yourself and others and what they think and instead to focus on God and God alone. This is easier to do in a quiet place – a room, a closet, somewhere out of the way; someplace where just you and God can talk.
b) Elijah humbled himself. He “bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.” Elijah had just had the greatest public victory ever. He had had fire come down and burnt up the sacrifice. He had 450 false prophets killed. This had been an emotionally high day brought about by his prayer. But Elijah recognized where the power came from; it came from God. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Continuing in verse 10 we read, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” When we come to God, we must keep in mind who He is. He isn’t our equal; He isn’t our next door boy or “the big Guy up there”; He is the Almighty Creator God. Isaiah 40:25-26 says “To whom will you compare me? or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing”. Just as John the Baptist said of Jesus Christ in Matthew 3:11, “I am not fit to carry His sandals,” we need to see ourselves correctly and humble ourselves before God, just as Elijah did.
c) Elijah was specific. “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. Elijah told his servant to look for 1 thing – a sign of rain. God had promised rain and Elijah was praying for rain. We need to be specific in our prayers, too. If you need a job, pray for a job. If you have some fear in your life, name that fear and ask specifically to be released from it. Listen to these familiar words from Matthew 7:7-8, “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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus said if we want answers, we need ask and seek and knock. James 4:2b says, “You do not have, because you do not ask of God.”
d) We, also, see that Elijah was persistent. He told his servant to “Go back” seven times. When testing comes, it often comes when we have to wait. In our “fast food” mentality, we want the answer fast – right now or even yesterday. It’s difficult to wait. But waiting teaches us to be patient. God’s timing is not based on our clock. He is never late or early, His timing is perfect. Elijah knew that the answer to his prayer would come in God’s own time, and it would come only because God had promised that it would. God had promised, so it would be done, all Elijah had to do was pray. Remember the words from Matthew 7:7? In essence, it really says “keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking.” This means we often must pray persistently until the answers come. In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable that, as Luke puts it is “to show us that we should always pray and not give up.” Sometimes a failure to persist in prayer proves that we were not serious about our request in the first place. At other times God wants us to persist in prayer in order to strengthen our faith in Him. Faith would never grow, if all our prayers were answered immediately. Persistence in prayer tends to develop a deeper gratitude as well. In the very impatient society in which we live, God grows in us a Christ-like patience when He requires persistence in prayer.
e) Finally, we see that Elijah was expectant. All that Elijah and his servant saw was a tiny cloud, smaller than a man’s hand. But that was enough for Elijah’s faith in God’s promise. He told King Ahab that he needed to get going before the storm bogged down his chariot. Elijah’s God – our God – was – and still is the God of the impossible. The Lord not only proved that He was the true and living God, but He also put His approval on the ministry of His servant Elijah. Elijah didn’t have a chariot, but he did have the power and strength of the Lord. He was able to run ahead of the king and reach the capital ahead of the king. This was quite a feat for any man, and it was a sign to the people that God’s powerful hand was upon His servant Elijah. Do you pray expectantly? Do you think of the improbable and expect the impossible? Referring to James 1:6-8, some Christians simply doubt that God will give them what they need, and rationalize their doubt in many ways. Some doubt whether or not He is able to grant their request. Others believe they are undeserving; still others believe that their needs are not worthy of God’s attention. But God has an infinite love for each one of His children and is concerned about each and every need regardless of how small or insignificant or difficult it may seem. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
When you come to God in prayer, you must ask expectantly, praying in faith – He can and will answer. If you truly believe in God and His promises, you can be like Elijah. Even to the point of being given extra strength to do more than what is humanly possible. Remember, James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a man just like us” and look at what his prayers accomplished. So what does this mean? If you want to see your prayers answered, you need to discipline your life – especially your prayer life. You need to get alone with God; you need to humble yourself and submit to God’s will, putting all your faith in Him. You need to be specific in your prayers. You need to be persistent, not giving up until you get an answer: “yes, no, or not yet.” Finally, you have to be expectant. God can and will answer your prayers – just ask in faith. How is your prayer life? Are your prayers answered?