WHAT ABOUT PRAYER?
Prayer and Persistence
Jerry A Collins
®What does it mean to persist in our praying?
When should we stop praying about something?
How do we know when we are persisting in prayer?
The dictionary defines persist as to go on resolutely or stubbornly in spite of opposition; to remain unchanged of fixed; to be insistent in the repetition or pressing and persistent as continuing in a course; existing for a long or longer than usual time. An athletic illustration of this is Jerry Rice, receiver for the Oakland raiders who is leading all receivers in his 18th year in football in spite of the number of excellent receivers younger than he. A monetary example is the person who keeps setting money aside over a long period of time or the writer who persisted for years researching before writing his/her book. Persistence is valuable for praying too. Persistence in prayer is one of the most frequently repeated conditions for answered prayer in Scripture. Jesus, Paul and John taught that persistence in prayer is essential (Matt 7:7; Eph 6:18; 1 Jn 3:22). The child who wants a certain favor from his father will give him no rest until he gets it or learns that it is not his fatherís will for him to have it. This is the natural approach to our heavenly Father as well. A picture of persistent prayer is the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:39-46. Here we will learn what persistent prayer is and how we can learn to persist in praying.
1. PERSISTENT PRAYING IS USUALLY MOTIVATED BY AN INTENSE NEED 38-39
Jesus soul is deeply grieved to the point of death and He prays about it. In vs 37 we learn that Jesus is troubled, distressed. It implies a restless, distracted, shrinking from some trouble or thought of trouble which nevertheless cannot be escaped. In vs 38 we learn that this sorrow has overwhelmed him with distress even to the point of death. Here then is trouble such as He had never known in His earthly life. Jesus intense need that troubled him deeply motivated Him to weep, pray, and grieve. My guess is so will you and I. As we mature, God will conform us to the image of His Son and that includes His suffering and His grief. We too will often have the same opportunity to persist in prayer because of an intense need in our lives. Just this past week I heard a man who was fired a week ago tell me that he and his wife have been praying about what the next step will be for them. A wife told me she has been praying for her husband to get back into their marriage. Greta needs, intense needs will prompt us to persist in praying.
2. WE PERSIST UNTIL WE GET WHAT WE ASK FOR OR WE LEARN ITíS NOT GODíS WILL FOR US TO HAVE IT 39, 42, 44
When Elijah persisted is praying for rain God said yes. When Jesus persisted about the possibility of another way to deliver man from sin, God said no. Three different times Jesus addressed His Father in prayer about his intense need. (1) He says my Father vs 39. Altho Jesus consistently call God His father, only on this occasion did He call Him My Father intensifying the intimacy. Mark adds that Jesus said Abba Father (14:36) meaning Daddy in Arabic. Here he asked If possible let this cup pass from me. Jesus was not wondering if escaping the cross was within the realm of possibility, since He already had said I lay down my life, no one has taken it from me but I lay it down on My own initiative (Jn 10:17-18). The Father sent the Son to the cross, but He did not force Him to go. Jesus is asking if avoiding the cross were possible within the Fatherís redemptive plan; could there be another way to deliver man from sin? The cup here symbolizes Godís wrath and judgment as often pictured in OT (Psa 75:8; Isa 51:17; Jer 49:12) upon Jesus who would drink the cup of Godís fury vented against all the sins of mankind. Yet not my will but as you will reveals a real conflict showing that Jesus was really being tempted here. Though sinless and unable to sin He could be brot into the real conflict of temptation. Yet He resisted it and submitted to His Fatherís will for Him. (2) A second time Jesus prayed vs 42 and here He recognized that the cup could not pass away unless He drank of it. He affirmed a second time thatHis Fatherís will must be accomplished whatever the cost. So intense was Jesusí praying that Luke 22:43-44 tell us He was praying to the point of exhaustion and perspiration. (3) He prayed for a third time the same things vs 44 then He stopped his praying. Biblical prayer which is unanswered may stop after a certain time. After praying three times about not going to the cross, Jesus knowing He would have to die, stopped praying. The Apostle Paul stopped praying after persisting three different times about an intense need in his life too. If it is clear that God is not going to answer a certain prayer then that prayer should end but it should be persistent up to that time. Whenever I pray for a certain event there comes a time when more prayer is not appropriate, namely when that event is over or inevitable. If a sick friend dies, I should stop praying for his healing, but until then I should pray for it regularly, daily, persistently. If I want a certain job, to meet a certain person, to have a certain opportunity, I should pray about that regularly, daily, persistently until either God gives it to me or it is clear that it is not His will for me to have it. 3. WE MUST BEWARE OF OUR STRUGGLE TO PERSIST
IN PRAYER VS 40-41, 43, 45
When jesus returned from praying he found the disciples sleeping. The need for sleep seems natural since after midnite and after an eventful day. The disciples predicted desertion began here as they left Jesus alone in His great time of need. Jesus disciples could not even stay awake and Peter would soon betray Him. So keep watching and praying (Imp & present) is the only way to resist temptation. Peter learned this lesson and writes about this in 1 PT 5:8 be of sober spirit, be on the alert & 2 Pt 2:9 assurance that the Lord knows how to rescue godly from temptation. Jesus acknowledges that doing this will be difficult for us since our physical weakness often conflcits with our will to do whatís rite. The sefcond time Jesus returns because their eyes were heavy and overcome by sleep. The third time Jesus returns he finds them totally subject to the flesh and its needs. The point is spiritual victory goes to those who are alert in prayer in dependence upon God. We must beware of the same struggle in our lives to persist in prayer. There was nothing more Jesus needed to do. Strengthened by His praying Jesus was now stronger and more resolved and He goes out to meet His enemies.
(1) Confront temptation with prayer.
(2) Persistent prayer is not a means of bending Godís will to mine but submitting my will to His.