I clicked end on my cell phone after talking with a good friend. We had commiserated about the woes of everything from economic problems, unemployed college-educated sons, and difficult relationships to our long list of prayer requests. It seemed that not only were our lives riding the potholes of life but our friends’ lives as well were encountering rugged terrain that would overturn a four-wheel drive vehicle.
It seems the problems are increasing in intensity, the prayer lists are lengthening, and the dirt kicked up along the journey is caked in our throats as lack of relief found in answers is like a drought.
If you haven’t left this post yet because you can’t possibly bear another dreary story, hang around. Hope is around the bend.
My friend told me that she keeps hearing these words whispered to her. “Don’t Give Up. Keep Praying.”
But keep praying with expectant faith.
“I know I keep praying,” my friend confided, “but I don’t have the hope that it will be answered.”
After many months and years of praying for a specific circumstance in our lives, we continue praying but it the heart resembles more of a mundane, routine practice with the sense of being trapped in a hamster maze.
John Wesley, in a book called, How To Pray, The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, he is quoted as saying:
“Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.”
In Luke, we find Jesus talking to his disciples about prayer. Perseverance was a keynote in Jesus’ parable.
” Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.
“Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s persisitence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:5-10 NIV
Again, Jesus addresses this topic of persistence in prayer in Luke 18:1-8. After telling the disciples another parable on the rewards of continuing in prayer, Jesus throws a stomach punch at the end and says,
“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
So, we know that God honors persistence in prayer, but Jesus also told us that fasting along with prayer is necessary for some difficult circumstances (See Mark 9:29 and notes with it). I hate to admit it, but I have not fasted along with my prayers in probably many years. Perhaps that is why some of my prayers are still hanging in the heavens and the answers can’t reach me for the spiritual battle in the atmosphere.
Two other points stand out as necessary accompaniments to prayer. Put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). I leave myself open to the attacks of the enemy when I don’t consciously dress myself each day in the armor. I’m unprotected and an easy target for temptation, frustration, depression, and an inability to protect my mind from wandering thoughts.
Last but not least is the need to rejoice always. Not an easy prescription.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Thessalonians 5:16 NIV
There is so much more to prayer, especially focusing on our attitude when we come to prayer and how we are living the Christian life. But the four points I think here that would help me as I hit another ditch of discouragement when prayers aren’t answered are:
1) Pray without ceasing
2) Fast and pray when the situations are difficult or the Lord leads
3) Put on the armor of God to protect us from the evil one
4) Rejoice always
Armed with new hope and a heart ready to do battle, I’m refreshed to tackle some prayer requests that have been hanging around. And hopefully, the road ahead will have fewer potholes and smooth out.
How’s your prayer life?