I’ve always had this tension about prayer. Here’s the part I ‘get’ . . .
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18 ESV).
This is ‘abiding in Christ’ . . . ‘walking with God’ . . . living a life of continual submission and gratitude.
But here’s the part I’ve struggled with. How much do we pray for outcomes we want? Is it one prayer and done? “Let your requests be made known to God” and then move on? After all, Jesus said, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).
OR . . .
Are we to pray and pray and pray for what we want? Do we ask over and over? Do we beg God? In the garden, Jesus asked the Father to take the cup from Him 3 times. Elijah prayed 7 times before the rain came. Daniel prayed for 21 days before he received the interpretation of the vision. Jesus taught, “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). The words ‘ask,’ ‘seek,’ and ‘knock’ are literally translated “keep on asking,” “keep on seeking,” “keep on knocking.” And then there’s Jesus’ parable of the neighbor who’s knocking on the door late at night, seeking bread for his guest. He knocks repeatedly and Jesus praises both the persistent asking and the generous response.
OR . . .
How about this radical idea? What if prayer starts with God? What if it’s Him, through the Holy Spirit, who is reminding us to pray . . . to keep praying? Remember, Jesus is interceding with the Father for us (Romans 8:34). Suppose He’s calling us to pray along with Him . . . to add our voices to His, crying out to the Father.
I’ve been trying to pray every time I get the thought. To respond to every unction to pray . . . and do it immediately. If that means I pray 15, 20, 30 times for the same thing, I believe it’s because Jesus has asked me to. If I’m led to pray only once for something, it is enough.
One other practice to consider. After you pray, rest. Lift your request up to Him and then be quiet and rest. Sort of like the relay runner who passes the baton . . . once it’s passed, there’s nothing else the runner can do. He rests in knowing he did his part and now the results are up to the guy to whom he passed the baton. Resting after I pray somehow gives me confidence. “God’s got this.” I need not be anxious for anything; only grateful that the God of the universe has just heard my prayer. I now choose to trust Him and accept the outcome with grace no matter what it is.