Why it Makes Sense to Persevere in Prayer3
You may be wondering why God would orchestrate life in such a way that we have to remain steadfast in prayer (Col. 4:2). After all, it strikes you and me as much easier and far more pleasant if God would simply say Yes right now. Here are a few reasons why he doesn’t.
First, we are a presumptuous people! We just assume that God ought always to do what we ask, when we ask, precisely in the way we ask. By delaying his response, God awakens us to the gracious character of all answered prayer. In other words, that God says or does anything at all in response to our petitions is sheer, undiluted grace. Resolute continuation in prayer, watchful perseverance, is often the best way for us to learn this invaluable lesson.
Second, steadfast endurance in coming again and again to the throne of grace is God’s way of cultivating in us a sense of absolute and utter dependence upon him. We are by nature self-reliant, self-sufficient folk. If God were instantly and at all times to answer our every prayer, we would gradually lose our sense of urgency. Truth be told, most of us would soon lose sight of the fact that it is God alone who is the source of all good. By suspending his response, God is saying to each of us: “Just how desperate are you? How conscious are you that I am your only source, your sole and all-sufficient supply?”
Third, persistent praying puts us in that frame of mind and spirit in which we may properly receive what it is that God desires to give. In other words, it isn’t so much that God is reluctant to give, but that we lack preparation to receive. Try to envision what a mess your life would have been had your parents granted you everything you asked for as a child! God often delays his answers because, quite simply, we are in no shape to receive them. Few of us are willing to admit that, but deep down we know it’s true.
Fourth, steadfast, watchful continuation in prayer helps us differentiate between impetuous, ill-conceived, selfish desires, and sincere, deep-seated, Christ-exalting ones. Persistence in prayer thus enables us to weed out improper petitions.
Fifth, endurance at the throne of grace purifies the content of our petitions. By repeating our prayers, we are forced to think and re-think what we are saying. We are compelled to evaluate our motivation and aim for asking God for something in particular. I just finished a book manuscript and the tedious task of going back and forth and back and forth with my editor, proof-reading over and over again. As much as I hate doing that, it helps me identify mistakes, locate typographical errors, and re-phrase something that otherwise might be false or misleading. I can almost envision God saying, in response to my first articulation of a prayer: “Sam, are you sure you want me to answer that one? Think about it. Contemplate the long-term consequences of a Yes. Then come back and ask me again in different terms, with a purified purpose.”
Sixth, perseverance cultivates patience. By withholding an immediate response, we learn how to “wait” on God. Waiting on the Lord is far from a passive posture. It’s an active, expectant, persistent pressing in to the heart and purposes of a loving God. How might we ever learn to do this were it not for steadfastness in prayer?
Seventh, oftentimes God wants to give, but not now. The answer will come in better circumstances, at a more opportune moment. By delaying his response, a greater and better and more God-glorifying end is secured than by an immediate answer.
Finally, even if none of the reasons given above makes sense to you, persevere anyway! God isn’t asking you to understand: he’s asking you to be faithful.