There are several reasons for the need of perseverance in prayer. Even when asking in faith and for the right reasons, patience and persistence are often needed. Some of the reasons are:
God may have a “fulness of time” He has chosen for the answer, a kairos/right time that hasn’t yet arrived.
Our development - He may be using the delay to work in us.
Other peoples’ actions or choices could be delaying prayers we pray for them.
There is another little known reason why it often takes time for prayers to be answered, however. It is a very important truth to understand. Many people give up in their prayers and faith - some abandon prayer altogether - due to a lack of understanding regarding this truth. It is vital that you understand it, so much so that I’m going to do something I’ve not yet done with these GH15 posts: a 4-day series in order to cover the subject well. I believe this teaching could drastically alter your prayer life, perhaps even change your life - it did mine.
Two frogs fell into a can of cream,
or so it has been told.
The sides of the can were shiny and steep,
the cream was deep and cold.
“Oh, what’s the use,” said number one,
it’s plain no help’s around.
“Good-bye, my friend, good-bye, sad world”
and weeping still, he drowned.
But number two, of sterner stuff,
dog paddled in surprise.
The while he licked his creamy lips
and blinked his creamy eyes.
“I’ll swim at least a while,” he thought,
or so it has been said.
It really won’t help the world
if one more frog were dead.
An hour or more he kicked and swam,
not once he stopped to mutter.
Then hopped out from the island he had made
of fresh churned butter.
I heard this witty poem on the subject of tenacity over 40 years ago in a message by John Garlock, one of my professors at Christ for the Nations Institute. There aren’t many messages a person remembers 40 years later, but John Garlock had a knack and an anointing for preaching “rememberable” sermons.
Garlock mentioned the story found in 2 Samuel 23:8-12 regarding three of David’s mighty men: Shammah, Adino, and Eleazar. Shammah had tenacity in the face of a humble assignment, defending a small plot of lentils from a bunch of Philistines. Adino personified tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds as he killed 800 Philistines single-handedly. Eleazar pictured tenacity in the face of incredible overwhelming fatigue, as after fighting for several hours, his hand had to be pried from his sword.
I rank perseverance and endurance near the top of my list of most important spiritual traits. And the longer I live, the higher it rises. “Hang in there” didn’t make it into the Ten Commandments, but it did into the nine fruits of the Spirit. The Greek word makrothumia, translated “long-suffering” in Galatians 5:22 (KJV), is defined by Strong’s Concordance as “longanimity or fortitude.”1 That’s what I said, “Hang in there.”
In this day of instant everything - from “fast foods,” to “get-rich-quick” schemes, to “how to have the biggest church in town overnight” to “four easy steps to answered prayer” seminars - we are rapidly losing the character trait of hanging in there. We cook faster, travel faster, produce faster, spend faster . . . and we expect God to keep pace with us, especially in prayer.
We are much like the African cheetah that must run down its prey to eat. It is well suited for the task, as it can run at speeds of 70 miles per hour. The cheetah has only one problem, however, in that it has a disproportionately small heart, which causes it to tire quickly. If it doesn’t catch its prey quickly, it must end the chase.
How often we have the cheetah’s approach in prayer. We speed into our prayer closets with great energy, we sometimes hurry to the front of the church, or perhaps we run to someone else for prayer. But lacking the heart for sustained effort, we often falter before we accomplish what is needed. For our next prayer excursion, we decide to pray harder and faster, when what is needed may not be more explosive power, but more “staying” power - stamina that comes only from a bigger prayer heart.2
George Mueller was a “stayer.” One example of his persistence is related by Dick Eastman in his book, No Easy Road:
“The great point is never to give up until the answer comes. I have
been praying for sixty-three years and eight months for one man’s conversion. He is not saved yet, but he will be. How can it be otherwise . . . I am praying.” The day came when Mueller’s friend received Christ. It did
not come until Mueller’s casket was lowered in the ground. There, near an open grave, this friend gave his heart to God. Prayers of perseverance had won another battle. Mueller’s success may be summarized in four powerful words: He did not quit.”3
The very Son of God spent many entire nights praying in order to connect with the Father and fulfill His ministry. It took Him three arduous hours in Gethsemane to find strength to face the Cross: “He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears” (Hebrews 5:7 NASB).
We, on the other hand, have mastered the art of one-liners in prayer, and think if we give God a two-hour service once a week we’re fairly spiritual. “Easy does it” might be good advice in a few situations, but for most of life, including prayer, easy doesn’t do it.
A pilot early in a flight went to the back of the plane to check on the reason for a warning light. The problem was a door ajar, which flew open as he approached it. The pilot was immediately sucked from the aircraft.
The copilot, seeing by his panel that a door was open, turned back toward the airport immediately and radioed for a helicopter to search the area. “I believe I have a pilot sucked from the plane,” he said. After landing the plane, everyone was astonished to find the pilot holding on to the rung of a ladder, which he had miraculously managed to grab. He had held on for 15 minutes and, still more amazing, had managed to keep his head from hitting the runway, though it was only six inches away!
Upon finding the pilot, they had to pry his fingers from the ladder. THAT is perseverance!4
Anyone long associated with the church of the last 50 years, especially in America, knows that our problems do not result from a lack of information or material strength. If we fail in achieving what God needs from us as we run our race, it will be a failure of heart and spirit.
Like the frog, I have kicked and swum my way - often over long periods of time - to more victories than I have accomplished quickly and easily. I have fought until my hand clove to the sword, and like the pilot, I’ve held on to the ladder until my hand froze in place. No, I haven’t always won but I have learned, without a shred of doubt, that tenacious endurance is often the key to victory in prayer.
“Here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!” (Psalm 27:14 TPT)
Pray with me:
Father, yesterday we heard about the importance of dreaming Your dreams for America. We know that those dreams are inextricably related to Your dreams for other nations, as well. You love us all the same. We stir up those dreams, refusing to allow them to die. We will never let go of them - NEVER. The greatest harvest of souls in history is beginning. America will play her part. We continue to ask for awakening in our nation. We release your power and the hovering of Holy Spirit over all of America - every city, every school, every church, every home, and every level of government.
Lord, like all successful intercessors, we are determined to be “stayers.” We ask for the fruit of perseverance to be kindled/stirred up in the hearts of Your people. Let another great prayer movement be born in America. You do not want the church praying only during elections. You want us praying always.
Help Your people overcome all hope deferred. Pull from them the poisonous arrows of disappointment and despair. Remind them what Paul told Timothy: “Stir up the gifts in you! Fight the good fight of faith! God has given you a spirit of power!” Please do whatever it takes to remove the spirit of complacency and apathy from your people. Let the fires of intercession burn again in this land. Though it only be only from a remnant, You will answer.
We decree that the church of America is being awakened once again to the power of prayer.
James Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), ref. No. 3115
Craig Brian Larson, Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), p. 245, adapted.
Dick Eastman, No Easy Road (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1971) pp. 97-98.
Larson, Illustrations for Preaching, p. 14.