“Watch and pray so that you will not to fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NIV)
Why persistent prayer is important
Praying over a long period of time without seeing an answer can be discouraging. We have all been there. Yet Jesus, again and again, tells us to always pray and not give up. He was well aware how easily we get discouraged. This is why he warns us, not to give in to our flesh, but to continue praying persistently. So, have we fallen into the trap of giving into our flesh and given up praying?
“Name it, claim it”
Despite Jesus’ teaching to pray persistently, and despite the testimony of great men and women in the Bible, some strange practices have crept into the Church today.
One of them is “name it, claim it”, or “declaring it in Jesus’ name”. Praying without seeing results can be discouraging and frustrating. It also goes against our flesh, as we live in an age of instant gratification, and against the sense of entitlement so prevalent today.
We may have been exposed to a form of prosperity teaching that tells us everything is available to us as children of God. And yes, God wants to pour out his blessing on us in every area of our life, but in his timing and according to his plan and purpose.
We are dependent on God in everything and not entitled to anything.
I cannot think of one example in the Bible when someone received their answer to prayer by “claiming it in Jesus’ name”.
Abraham waited 25 years to have his Isaac.
Joseph lived as a slave for 13 years before being made prime minister of Egypt.
The land of Canaan was conquered in real battles spanning over decades.
Ezra and Nehemiah’s hard and frustrating work to rebuilt and revive Jewish life in Jerusalem after the Babylonian and Persian exile took years.
Jesus had to go through trial, torture and crucifixion to redeem us.
“Name it, claim it” is not Biblical. The promises of God take time. We need to go through a process of waiting, trusting, seeking and praying. That is why a consistent prayer life is so important. Waiting for God’s answer to prayer can be a trial, but it is a refining trial and never a waste of time!
“Leaving it to God”
Another common practice is putting “if it be your will” at the end of a prayer and then “leaving it to God” – while we actually mean to say: “That’s it, I’ll pray no more.”
Submitting to God’s will and leaving it to him are in fact the right attitude to have. If we really submit to his will then we will praise him even when he withholds our desire from us.
But such formulas or attitudes are questionable when used excessively at the expense of persistent prayer. If God calls us to persist, and from the scriptures we know he does, yet we do not, then such a mindset is counter-productive.
God’s promises are not an excuse not to pray, but a call to start praying. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, Jesus taught us to pray. Why did Jesus not teach us to just wait for God to do His will? Why would God want us to pray repeatedly for his will to be done?
So please: Pray. Give it to God. Then continue praying. And trust him with the how and when.
Can we pray against God’s will?
There is another reason why we so easily give up praying: we doubt God’s goodness and that he truly cares. We may even be worried that we pray against God’s will and so after bringing our petition before him once or twice, we step back, disappointed and confused, and reluctant to continue.
If God delays answering our prayer, we should not interpret this has his unwillingness. As we see in Daniel 10, God answered Daniel’s prayer from the first day but because of the enemy’s opposition, Daniel received his answer only 3 weeks later.
If the answer to your prayer is delayed, remember that there could be a battle going on in the invisible world! But it could also not yet be God’s perfect timing.
Cultivate a consistent prayer life. Always pray, don’t give up. Trust that God will make everything right in due season!