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December 1, 2023

If I Pray Enough, Maybe God Will Do This


We are learning to be more effective in our praying for prodigals and the unsaved. Yesterday we looked at the fact that we are reservoirs and outlets for God’s power and life. We release His power through the laying on of hands, decreeing His word and promises, and faith-filled praying. Typically, breakthroughs do not occur simply from asking God to do something. As His partners and conduits of His power, He expects and needs us to release this power into situations.


Today, we’ll begin discussing why persistence - consistent and ongoing releases of this power - is often required. There are many misconceptions regarding this. Some believe the various provisions we ask of God come with different prayer “prices”: this provision requires asking 10 times; that one is much more valuable, requiring 100 prayers. Or perhaps the price is measured by time: for this item, you must pray for a month; that request, however, will require a year of prayer. While this may seem silly, it is how we subconsciously approach prayer, at times. “If I pray enough, maybe God will do this.”


Others, whether consciously or subconsciously, think we can “talk God into” doing things for us. But can we? Can God be won over or persuaded; does He ever “finally decide” to do something? If He truly knows the end from the beginning, as Isaiah 46:10 states, how could He finally decide what to do?


Another misconception is that we are “rewarded” with answers to prayer because of our patience or persistence: “Hang in there long enough, and I might do this for you.” Or, as many believe, based on what is commonly called “the prayer of importunity” (Luke 11:5-11), if we persist long enough, or often enough, we can overcome God’s reluctance and motivate Him to give us what we need.


I need to slow down a little on this “prayer of importunity” because it is so misinterpreted and misunderstood. Many have been taught all their lives an improper meaning of this passage. Jesus used the illustration of a person who received unexpected visitors late at night but had no food to give them. So, even though it was midnight, he went to the home of a friend, woke him, and asked for three loaves to give his guests. Jesus said, “I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth” (Verse 8; KJV).


Importunity does indeed mean persistence. But importunity is an unfortunate and inaccurate translation. The Greek word used is anaideia, which actually means “shamelessness”(1) or “bold unashamedness.”(2) The root word, aidos, means “modesty or shame”(3) and is translated as such in 1 Timothy 2:9, encouraging women to dress modestly, as opposed to revealingly. Here in Luke 11, however, the word occurs with a prefix that makes the meaning negative: “without modesty or shame.”


Jesus is actually teaching here in Luke the same message He gives us in Hebrews 4:16: “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace,” rather than approaching God with a sense of unworthiness or shame. In other words, have confidence in the relationship! Just as this petitioner in the story, we can approach God boldly, at any time, knowing we are welcome.


What a different meaning than most Christians have been taught regarding this story. Persistence in prayer is not needed in order to overcome God’s reluctance. Unlike an earthly parent, He cannot be “annoyed” into giving us provisions or blessings.


Another misconception many believers have is that we must wrestle with God until He gives in and gives us what we desire. To me, the very thought of wrestling God is horrifying! The passage used to teach that we should do so is Genesis 32:22-32, where Jacob wrestled all night with the angel of the Lord. Many messages have been preached using Jacob’s words as an example for our praying: “I will not let You go until You bless me.” (verse 26).


Scripture, however, does not present this wrestling match as an example of how we are to relate to God in prayer. The reason Jacob’s wrestling lasted all night is firstly that God was allowing it to continue in order to accomplish His goal; the angel of the Lord could have flipped Jacob into space had he wanted to do so. In 2 Chronicles 32:21, one angel destroyed an entire army. Secondly, the reason it took so long to accomplish this goal is that God and Jacob were wrestling for different things. Jacob wanted an assurance that God would protect him from Esau, from whom he had swindled the blessing of the firstborn son; God, however, was using it to accomplish a breaking of Jacob’s conniving nature, in order to transform him.


This is why the angel asked Jacob - while they were wrestling! - what seemed like a ridiculous question. In response to Jacob’s demand for the blessing, the angel said, "What is your name?" Doesn't that seem strange? In the midst of the wrestling match, with Jacob’s hip out of joint but him still holding on for dear life, the two of them beginning a nice little conversation to get acquainted.


Of course, that isn’t what was actually happening. God was determined to bring Jacob to an awareness and acknowledgment of the truth about his nature, which was described by the meaning of his name. The Amplified Classic translation demonstrates this clearly: "[The Man] asked him, What is your name? And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, ‘Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]!’" (Genesis 32:27).


That's what the Lord wanted and needed: Jacob’s revelation and acknowledgment of his condition and need. Jacob didn’t wear God down; God wore Him down. Yahweh was saying, “You might con your earthly father, Jacob, but you can’t con Me. I know who you are, and I know what I need to transform you into. That’s the real “blessing” you need, and I need it for you, too. I can’t do with your life what I want until this transformation occurs. Whether you know it or not, you’re going to help Me save the world. So, You’re right- we’re not leaving here until you get the blessing!”


When the breakthrough of humility, revelation and repentance finally occurred; God’s grace and power were immediately released. Jacob received a new nature, along with a new name: Israel. His life and actions from this time on reveal the great transformation that occurred.


"But Jacob prevailed," (verse 28), some might say.


He “prevailed” by losing. The only way to win a wrestling match with God is to lose. If Jacob, the old nature, wins, Israel loses; if Jacob loses, Israel wins. The only way to truly find our lives is to lose them (Matthew 16:24-26; Luke 9:23-25). Jacob lost Jacob and found Israel. Such sweet defeat!


As you can see, Jacob’s story is not an example of how we are to relate to our Heavenly Father in prayer. We are to approach Him with bold confidence, knowing our Father is for us. We ask Him for that which is "according to His will" (1 John 5:14), not try and wrestle from Him something He doesn’t want to give us. We are laboring together with Him (2 Corinthians 6:1), not warring against Him. We storm the gates of hell (Isaiah 28:6; Matthew 16:18), not the gates of heaven.


Yes, persistence is necessary as we intercede for people’s restoration, salvation, and other breakthroughs, but not to overcome God's reluctance. This is vital to know and remember, for it is impossible to petition Him in faith, which is a requirement, if we aren’t confident it is His will to do what we are asking.


Fight the fight of faith; don’t fight with God.


On Monday, we’ll look at the actual reason we persevere in our praying and decreeing as we intercede for our prodigals.


Pray with me:


Father, we are learning to work with You more effectively. Thank You for teaching us to partner with You and see Your will accomplished in our lives. We know You are for us - we wrestle against principalities and powers, not against You. You’re

a good Father.


We bring our prodigals before You now, asking You to meet with them. Speak to them through their thoughts, reminding them of who they really are, and what their destiny truly is. Awaken the desire in them to know You. Release Your convicting power, but also Your beauty and magnificence. We ask You to send the right people and voices to them, and to create the right circumstances in their lives. We ask for angels to orchestrate events that influence them.


We break the hold of demonic mindsets, addictions, and appetites off of them. We bind every attempt to keep them blinded to truth. We break every hold of darkness and of evil alliances. We command the lifting of the veil that blinds them to truth, and we release the light of the gospel to them. We declare that our prodigals will be miserable in their pigpens, and find no fulfillment in their lives of sin.


We pray and decree these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Our decree:


We decree that we will partner with God to see our prodigals return to Him.


Click on the link below to watch the full video.



Much of today’s post was taken from my book Intercessory Prayer, published by Baker Books.


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  1. Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977), p. 28.

  2. Jack W. Hayford, Praying Is Invading the Impossible (South Painfield, NJ: Logos International, 1977; revised edition, Bridge Publishing, 1995), p. 55, 1977 edition.

  3. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 14.




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