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There are examples in Scripture of praying once, but in most cases we are encouraged to “persevere in prayer” as long as the need to pray still exists. In James 5:17-18 we read, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain” (NKJV).  If we compare these verses with 1 Kings 17:1 and 1 Kings 18:42-45 it would appear that Elijah only prayed once for it to stop raining and then once again for it to rain again. In other words, he received an immediate answer to his prayers. But this is rare indeed.

In Luke 11:1 a disciple of the Lord Jesus said unto Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” In verses 5-10 the Lord gave them much-needed instruction regarding prayer, “And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.  So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (NKJV). Was not the Lord teaching them, through this simple illustration, to CONTINUE IN PRAYER until the need is met? I am struck by those words in verse 8, “yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” The Lord wants us to PERSEVERE IN PRAYER, dear fellow-believer, and He will surely meet our needs. We need to simply “Ask, and it will be given you.” Of course this implies that we are asking in FAITH, as we see in James 1:6, “And let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” And it must be according to the WILL OF GOD, as seen in 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.” We may have to ask over and over, but in the Lord’s perfect time He will answer.

In Luke 18:1 the Lord Jesus reinforced this teaching, “And He spoke a parable unto them, that men ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Of course if we only prayed once and our prayer was answered, there would be no need for this instruction. The parable in verses 2-5 reads, “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” The lesson is clear: by her persistence she gained the favor of the judge.  If an unjust judge can be won over by one’s persistent determination, how much more will our persevering in prayer move the heart of our loving God and Father to act on our behalf!

I would encourage you to read Genesis 18:20-33 for one more example of persevering in prayer. In verses 20-22 God revealed to Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham responds in verse 23, “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” He then interceded on their behalf, pleading with God not to destroy it for the sake of the righteous living there. He prayed no less than SIX TIMES, starting with the plea to save it if there were 50 righteous people living there. Each time he prayed God answered by assuring Abraham He would spare the city for their sake. Abraham finally reached the limit of his faith in verse 32, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there? So He said, I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” We are surely encouraged by Abraham’s  perseverance in prayer, but the question must be asked, “What if Abraham’s faith had gone a little further and asked the Lord to spare Sodom if ONE RIGHTEOUS SOUL was found?”  For in truth his nephew Lot was the only righteous man in Sodom. Abraham seemed to have feared he was asking too much so he stopped at ten, but had God’s grace reached its limit? I think not! God grace is without limit and we need only “Ask, and it will be given you.”  (143.5)  (DO)