For most of us, the word “persistence” can conjure up both positive and negative thoughts. Perhaps you think of a time when persistence enabled you to accomplish something fulfilling (finishing a college degree, weeding an entire garden bed, working out and losing weight). Then there are those other examples of persistence, like when a child asks you over and over again for something and you finally give in just so you don’t have to hear them ask anymore! Or perhaps when a family member persists in sharing their advice or opinion even though you have made it clear you are not interested.
One definition of persist, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “to be insistent in the repetition or pressing of an utterance (such as a question or opinion).”The Bible talks about this matter of persistence in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). Here, Jesus tells the following parable:
“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming (Luke 18:2-5, ESV).”
Jesus then goes on to say that if this unrighteous judge ultimately gave this woman justice because of her persistence, will not God give justice to his own children, who cry out to him day and night?
When we consider our prayer lives, are we quick to give up and lose heart when we don’t receive an answer from God? Do we persist in our prayers even when frustrated, disappointed, discouraged? Do we think, “Well, I serve an all-knowing God; I’ve already asked Him once, so surely I don’t need to keep pestering him over and over with the same request?”
If we look through Scripture, we can find many examples of persistent prayer. David fasted and prayed all night for his child to live (II Sam. 12:16), Paul prayed numerous times for God to remove a thorn in his flesh (II Cor. 12:7-10), Samuel prayed all night over Saul’s disobedience (I Sam. 15:11), and Jacob wrestled all night with the Lord until he received a blessing (Gen. 32:22-30). If we look back at the parable of the persistent widow, Luke had prefaced the story with “And [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1, ESV).”
So why does God ask us to be persistent in our prayers? When we look at Paul’s request for God to remove the thorn in his flesh, it becomes apparent that persistence in prayer can be used by God to mold, transform, and purge our desires and grow our relationship with Him. When Paul realized that God was not going to remove the thorn, he instead asked God to help him rely on His grace and power.
Praying with persistence molds our desires, teaches us patience, and grows our relationship with Christ.If you have been praying about something for a long time, don’t lose heart. Know that God wants to hear our prayers, He tells us to persist in our prayers, and He wants to deepen our relationship with Him through our prayers. Don’t give up!