Do you believe that God can do anything–really believe? Not theoretically believe He can with no personal assurance He actually will, but know-it-from-the-bottom-of-your-gut-He-absolutely-will believe? Because that’s the kind of belief Jesus said we should have when we pray, yet it is ironically the kind most of us lack.
“The next morning as they passed by the fig tree He [Jesus] had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, ‘Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!’ Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.'” (Mark 11:20-23 NLT)
Most of us really don’t have this kind of faith. It’s not that we don’t think God could do it–it’s that we’re not assured He will. Yet Jesus wants us to. Maybe we really wanted something and prayed, and it didn’t happen. Maybe we just don’t know if God wants whatever it is we want. But the result is the same: we’ve give up on fervent prayer.
What’s that, you ask? It’s how your kids ask when they really really really really want something–the “Please, Mommy, please please please please, I’ll do anything if you say yes” kind of request. The kind you’re personally highly invested in–that you’ve got a lot of skin in. The kind you’d give pretty much everything for if bargaining was an option! In other words, it’s the “persistent widow” kind of prayer:
“One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”” (Luke 18:1-8 NLT)
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t really prayed that way often enough in my life. Maybe it’s that our selfish human natures tend not to care too much about anything but what directly affects us, or maybe our love really is growing colder (I hope not!). Yet, there are some things every one of us does care about personally. For me, it’s that each of my family come to saving faith and spend eternity in God’s glory–that they get to truly know and love their eternal and amazing absolutely-like-no-other Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ His Son–God incarnate–whom He sent. And I am trusting that He will accomplish this. Maybe in my lifetime, maybe after I’m gone–I don’t know that part–but I’m trusting He will. Why? Because:
“…The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God–it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].” (JAMES 5:16 AMP)
Jesus said a lot when He was with us–and one of the things He tried to pass on is the efficacy–and necessity–of persistent prayer:
“Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened. If your children ask for bread, which of you would give them a stone? Or if your children ask for a fish, would you give them a snake? Even though you are bad, you know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more your heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11 NCV)
I’ve asked God and had Him give me what I wanted after a single request–but other times I’ve prayed for a long time and not yet received what I asked. Yet if I’m honest with myself, I’ve not implored God unrelentingly. Have you? When something’s really important, do you beg Him like your life–or someone else’s–depended on it? I don’t know why, but our requests sometimes don’t seem urgent enough to hang our entire existence on, but that’s precisely what we must do as we approach the throne of God with the most important of requests–we must implore unrelentingly; we must supplicate with heartfelt and persistent prayer. Casual matters call for casual requests, but some issues are far too important for haphazard prayer!
Do you remember the epileptic boy Jesus’ disciples couldn’t heal–the demon who wouldn’t leave when they tried to cast him out–whom Jesus had to personally heal? Yes, it’s a slightly different situation, but do you remember what Jesus answered them?
“The followers came to Jesus when he was alone and asked, “Why couldn’t we force the demon out?” Jesus answered, “Because your faith is too small. I tell you the truth, if your faith is as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. All things will be possible for you. [That kind of spirit comes out only if you use prayer and fasting.]”” (Matthew 17:19-21 NCV)
1) They didn’t really believe enough that it would happen, and 2) prayer and fasting was needed. Could the same be true of some of our prayer requests?
Perhaps we don’t really believe–we’ve been asking God far too long and nothing’s happened, or what we want just doesn’t look like it could even ever happen. And, we’re not personally invested enough–we haven’t fasted and agonized in intercessory prayer–we haven’t, in other words, cared enough.
Now, I do have to say that there are some prayers God really just says “no” to; I’m thinking about Paul’s request for God to remove the “thorn in his flesh,” for example. But so many more, especially where His kingdom and salvation are involved–these are requests we know God wants to grant:
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15 NIV)
If I ask anything according to His will, I have what I asked of Him. Let that sink in…
So…do you believe God can do anything? Is what you’re asking–your heartfelt desire–according to His will? Then pray–with a persistent-widow kind of unrelenting supplication as you implore your Father–knowing that “…it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 NKJV)!
Dear Lord God,
Help me to pray with the kind of unrelenting supplication that you tell us to pray with! Amen.