Have you seen the meme that says, “You’re being held at gunpoint. The person holding the gun lets you make one phone call. If they answer, you die. Who are you calling?” You can probably think of a couple of people you know who never answer their phone. I know I can. What if it were reversed and they had to answer or you would die? Know anyone that always answers when you call? I fit into that category. I even answer the phone when the caller ID says, “Potential Spam”. I like to be available if someone needs something, so I answer.
Several years ago, my mom passed away after a year long battle with breast cancer. We prayed and fasted and had faith like you’re supposed to. We had purchased a dress for her to wear for Easter believing that she would rise up by then and be able to go to church. She didn’t get healed, and even died less than a week after Easter. To be honest, I got upset with God thinking He wasn’t available to answer our prayers. I decided I wouldn’t call on Him for anything again, but we could stay in contact, as silly as that seems. That was the case for a couple of years until I needed Him again. I knew that He would be available despite my tantrum and I began to go to Him again when I needed help.
Psalm 46:1 says, “God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You’re a proven help in time of trouble— more than enough and always available whenever I need you” (TPT). While I can point to individual times in my life where I wish God would have answered my prayers the way I wanted Him to, the consistency of His character across millennia is that He is a safe place for us to run to in times of need. He does answer when we need Him most, and He does not abandon us. He is available for us to call out to despite the things we’ve done because when He looks at us, He’s not looking for our goodness in order to be available. His relationship with us is not about what you’ve done or your works. You are His child, redeemed by the death of His son, and like a good father, He’s there for you when you need Him.
One of the questions I like to ask people is, “What’s a trait that makes you successful?” I hear all kinds of answers from this question, but one that always stands out is persistence. Some of the most successful people I know are also some of the most persistent people I know. They keep going and pushing when others have given up. They know that if they give a little more effort, try a little longer or stick with it longer than anyone else, they’ll get what they’re after. They’re the epitome of dictionary.com’s definition of persistent: continuing firmly or obstinately in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.
The same principle holds true for those who are persistent in prayer. I know people who have prayed daily for decades for their spouse or child, and I’ve watched those prayers answered. It’s nice when God answers a prayer the first time we pray it, but more often than not, God answers persistent prayers. Are you willing to pray for what you need for decades? That to me is persistence. It’s obstinately holding on to God’s promise and your faith that He will answer as long as you keep knocking. If you’re still waiting for God to answer, then keep praying. God hears your prayer the first time you pray it, but there are things moving in the spiritual realm that require you to remain persistent in your prayers to get your answer. Don’t quit now.
Here are some Bible verses on being persistent in prayer.
1. Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].
JAMES 5:16 AMP
2. Rejoice always and delight in your faith; be unceasing and persistent in prayer.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-17 AMP
3. Be persistent and devoted to prayer, being alert and focused in your prayer life with an attitude of thanksgiving.
COLOSSIANS 4:2 AMP
4. For every persistent one will get what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he longs for. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door.
Matthew 7:8 TPT
5. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
A while back, there was a concert my wife and I wanted to go to. On the day the tickets went on sale, I had two phones, an iPad and a laptop out trying to get tickets. After sitting in their digital waiting room for an hour, a message popped up saying they were sold out. As we got closer to the concert date I began looking at all the resale sites, but the ticket prices were outrageous. As we were driving down the road discussing it, my wife closed her eyes and said, “Lord, it would be awesome if you could give us free tickets to this concert. Amen.” I laughed internally and thought, “No one is going to give up their tickets, but ok God.” The day before the concert she got a message offering her free tickets to the concert. We were both blown away.
In 2 Kings 6, Elisha was the prophet of Israel, and the group of prophets who were with him decided the place where they were staying was too small. They wanted to build a bigger place, but Elisha didn’t think they needed to. After begging him to come, they went to the river to cut down trees to build a bigger place. Verse 5 says, “But as one of them was cutting a tree, his ax head fell into the river. ‘Oh, sir!’ he cried. ‘It was a borrowed ax!’” (NLT) Elisha had him point to the place where the ax head went into the water. He then threw in a stick and the ax head floated to the surface. The man grabbed it and went back to work.
Both stories remind me that God is concerned about the little things in our lives. Going to the concert didn’t change our lives, but God knew it was something we would appreciate. Sometimes we forget that like a parent, God just wants to bless His kids. We don’t need to feel like we’re bothering Him with the little things. He’s just as able to take care of the “little” requests in our lives as the “big” ones. God simply wants to be involved in our day to day lives instead of being our spiritual 9-1-1 call. He’s looking for relationship with us. If we’re going to have one with Him, then we need to let Him into all areas of our lives including the little ones.
I’ve noticed that when people are nervous, there are those who get real quiet and those who ramble on. I find myself in the later group a lot of times. For me, talking helps me to figure out what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. It helps me to sort out the problem, but it also keeps me from listening to good advice and can make others around me more nervous. I was once told, “You have two ears and one mouth. You need to listen twice as much as you speak.” That’s something I have to remind myself of quite often.
When it comes to prayer, I can find myself in the same boat. From the time we are young, we learn that prayer is talking to God. What we’re not taught is that it’s listening to God as well. I think God talks as much or more than we do, but we can’t hear Him over our own talking. Being quiet in the presence of the Lord requires discipline. You have to learn to shut down your mouth and your mind. The silence can be deafening at times, but it’s in those moments where we hear God the loudest.
Psalm 37:7 says, “Quiet your heart in his presence and pray; keep hope alive as you long for God to come through for you” (TPT). Many times there is a nervousness that God may not answer our greatest need. If you’re a talker, quiet your mouth. If you’re the quiet type, silence your mind. God doesn’t answer our prayers on our timetable. If we’re listening to what He says, and trust that what He does is always right and for our good, we can have hope in any situation. God is good all the time, and He sees beyond our most pressing need at the moment. Get quiet and still in His presence today, listen for His voice and give Him freedom to answer His way instead of yours.
There’s a story of a group of college students who went to visit the home of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church. They noticed there were indentions on the floor of his room where he knelt to pray each day. After the tour, the class loaded on their bus. When the teacher counted, there was one missing. He went back through the property looking for the student and found him kneeling in those imprints praying, “Do it again, Lord. Do it again!” The teacher quietly walked up, tapped Billy Graham on the shoulder and let him know they had to leave.
I love that story because Billy understood that if God did it in the past for someone else, He could do it again for him. King David understood that same thing. In Psalm 126, David remembered how God had delivered the Israelites in the past. Then in verses 4-6 he prayed, “And now, GOD, do it again— bring rains to our drought-stricken lives So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing” (MSG).
What has God done for someone else that you need Him to do for you? God is the same yesterday, today and forever. What He’s done for others, He will do again for you. You need to find your place where there are indentions on the floor, get in them and pray that God will do it again for you. I believe that what we sow in tears through prayer, we will reap as a harvest of blessing. If God hasn’t answered your prayers yet, keep planting those seeds of prayer. He will do it again in time.
One of the stories on the Bible that speaks to me every time is in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah wasn’t able to have a child so she was ridiculed, taunted, bullied and shamed. Year after year this went on. One year she had enough. Instead of attacking her bully, she went into the Sanctuary to pray. She wept bitterly before God, crying out in prayer for a long time. As she prayed, her lips were moving, but the words were coming from her heart. She wasn’t leaving until God answered her prayer for a son.
Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). One of the first questions that comes to my mind is, “When is the last time I prayed with that kind of desperation?” Most of our prayers are simple ones with little emotion. I believe one of the reasons God answered Hannah’s prayer, and will answer ours, is because it was fervent and came from deep within her soul, not just her mind.
Verse 12 says, “Hannah continued to pray to the Lord for a long time” (GNT). I’ve heard the saying, “Don’t pray until you’re through. Pray until you’ve prayed through.” This is where it is applied. Too many times, we ask God for something and when He doesn’t answer right away, we quit praying. Hannah didn’t just pray for a long time, she prayed a long time for years. God uses her internal torment to develop a life of prayer. She wasn’t going to stop until she got her answer. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is because of persistence.
After the Eli, the priest, had told her God would answer her prayer, verse 18 says, “Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad” (NLT). Hannah believed God would answer and acted accordingly. She didn’t let the years of God not answering prayer create doubt. She held onto the promise and acted in faith before God answered. She quit believing the words of the bully and held onto God’s Word instead. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is when we act in faith.
What’s the biggest or greatest thing you can ask God for? Think about that for just a minute. Seriously. For some of you, it might be the healing of a terminal illness. Others might need a financial miracle. For Abraham, it was an heir to leave all his belongings to. He was getting old, and he was already thinking about end of life details. He told God that his reward for his faithfulness was useless without a child.
Asking for an heir to be able to pass down his estate to was the biggest thing he could think of, and he asked God for it. In Genesis 15:5 it says, “The Lord took him outside and said, ‘Look at the sky and try to count the stars; you will have as many descendants as that’” (GNT). All Abraham was asking for was one descendent, and God points to the countless stars and says, “That’s how many I’ll give you!”
No matter what you or I can think of or ask for, God can do exceedingly and abundantly more. Abraham thought that asking for one descendent was Impossible, and God blew his mind. I don’t know what your prayer is, but I want you to know that God is able. What seems impossible or too big in your mind is not even the beginning of what God can do. Every time you begin to doubt, look at the stars and remember that nothing is impossible for God.