Isaiah 62:6–7: “You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest.”
When should we stop praying and accept God’s answer as “No”? Thrasher contends that “our sovereign God has purposed to sometimes require persevering prayer as the means to accomplish His will” (189–90). This chapter helps us know how to navigate this sort of prayer.
Whether the circumstances are George Meuller praying fifty years for the salvation of two men or a Canaanite lady begging Jesus for mercy on her demon-possessed daughter, sometimes God seems to ignore our prayers. But rather than assuming that God’s seemingly “uncharitable” responses—or lack of response—mean “no,” God’s people need to recognize when God calls us to persevere in our asking, seeking, and knocking (see Matthew 7:7–11).
According to Thrasher, God might delay his response to a request
- To purify our desires.
- To prepare us for His answer.
- To develop our life and character.
- To be used of God in spiritual warfare.
- To bless us with a more intimate relationship with God (190–191).
But how can we know when to persist?
We can have confidence to persist in prayer when we discern the Spirit’s prompting us to pray, when we set our hearts on God and His will more than ours, when we are praying the promises of Scripture, and when we are willing to submit to God’s timing.
One of my children consistently struggles with patience. (Don’t we all!) Like his father, this child likes to work out and develop a strong body. So we have explained to him that patience takes the same effort as building muscles: work, weariness, and waiting. And like our physical muscles, the more we use our patience muscle, the easier such activity becomes.
I have to admit that while I have grown accustomed to engaging my patience muscle, the fibers of my perseverance-through-prayer flexors have grown slack. I look back to many a prayer begun in earnest and with a passion for God’s will and realize that it has been years since I repeated my requests—not because God has said “no” but because of weariness and jadedness and distraction.
If I were hungry, I imagine I would keep seeking food until I found it or died trying. By comparison, my lack of perseverance in prayer indicates a lack of hunger for God’s will being done on earth. Ouch! I would not have described myself as being indifferent to the divine will, but my prayer life reveals my true self-centeredness and faithlessness.
How I wish to be more like the psalmist or the Canaanite woman. Both looked beyond their circumstances and rejection and clung to the grace and mercy they knew they would find in God. They both had a vision for God’s greater mission.
History has shown that humans have a longing to belong in a story greater than themselves and their own meager existences. Persistent prayer is the porthole to the greatest story that ever has been or will be told. Thank you, Mr. Thrasher, for reminding me to step through it.
How strong is your persistence muscle? Do you remind God of His promises and pray repeatedly for his will in particular situations? Sometimes our requests need refinement, but the only way we will understand this is if we bring our requests repeatedly before the Lord with a humble and submissive heart. Does your request line up with what He has promised and taught through Scripture? If you do not know, ask God for wisdom and study his Word for the answer. James 1:5–6 promises that God will give wisdom to those who seek it through faith.
Think about a time when you have prayed that God would fulfill a promise in a very specific way–maybe that he would bring a friend or relative into his kingdom, or that he would relieve the suffering of one of his servants, or that he would glorify himself through a particular situation. Make yourself a reminder on your phone or computer or calendar to pray for this specific request at least once a week. Then be on the lookout for how God will work in you as you pray.