Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1 (NIV)
How many times should we pray before God will answer our prayers? Does God have a magical number of requests He likes to receive before we have His attention? Are there certain words we can pray to convince God to open heaven and pour blessings upon us? Is it better to cry, plead, or beg? If I could find a magical formula that would persuade God to perform on my behalf, I would tattoo it on my forehead. But my life experiences tell me I can’t manipulate God to see things my way or to do what I say. Maybe you have heard someone say if you want God to answer your prayers, you must be persistent and continue asking until you get what you want. As if I could beat God down as I was able to wear my dear parents down! I would ask my parents for what I wanted every five minutes until they finally said, “Ok, but don’t ask me again!”
What is the truth in the parable Jesus taught His disciples concerning prayer? Luke records Jesus’ saying, “Always pray and never give up!” How do we allow the words of Jesus to impact our life experience? The NIV Life Application Bible explains this far better than I able to explain it:
“To persist in prayer and not give up does not mean endless repetition or painfully long prayer sessions. Always praying means keeping our request constantly before God as we live for Him day by day, believing He will answer. When we live by faith, we are not to give up. God may delay answering (or His answer maybe no), but His answers always have good reasons. As we persist in prayer we grow in character, faith, and hope.”
The apostle Paul begged God to remove what he called “a thorn in the flesh,” but God’s answer was, “No.” The Son of God pleaded with God to remove the cup of death from Him, but God’s response was, “No.”. Even though we may not get our desired response to our prayer from God, “no” is still an answer. Perhaps the issue is we don’t like the answer He gives us more than we actually believe God is not answering our prayers. Why does God appear to answer with a yes sometimes and a no other times? If I knew the answer to this question, I would be God (and you can go ahead and thank Jesus that I am not God)! However, I do know God is good, and He cannot give us anything but good.
David declares in Psalms, “God will not withhold anything that is good to those who walk with Him.” As much as I love my children and grandchildren, I will not give them a bomb to play with no matter how often they ask or how passionate they are about wanting a bomb. Jesus said it this way, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11) The bottom line is not that we must be persistent in prayer to manipulate God to give us what we want. The bottom line is that we must believe God is good and will give us only what’s best. I believe God always gives the best to those that leave the choice up to Him. In the meantime, we should pray until we get His answer even if that means talking to God about it every minute of the day! You never know until you ask. He may just say, “Yes!”
Further Reading Matthew 7:11; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Psalm 84:11