Pray with persistence – Greg Laurie – and
We have a secret weapon in the church. It is called prayer. And when all other doors may remain closed, one door is always open: the door into the presence of God through prayer. The problem is that prayer is so often our last resort. It’s what we do when all else fails.
In contrast, the church of the first century prayed – and they prayed constantly. When King Herod had Peter arrested and thrown into prison, we read that "constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church" (Acts 12:5 NKJV).
King Herod, or Herod Agrippa I, was already responsible for killing James. And now he had turned his attention toward Peter. So when their leader was arrested, what did the early church do? Did they organize a protest and storm Herod’s palace? No. Did they launch a boycott of all products made in Rome? No. The church prayed. While there is a place for taking action, our first priority always should be prayer.
The problem is that many times our prayers have no power in them because there is no heart in them. And if we put so little heart into our prayers, how can we expect God to put much heart into answering them?
We don’t read of the church tossing up some flippant prayer along the lines of, "Lord, save Peter, or whatever. …" Rather, they prayed with passion and persistence. Another way to translate the phrase "constant prayer" would be "earnest prayer." In fact, the Greek word used to describe their prayer is the same word that was used to describe the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his arrest. The Bible tells us that "His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44 NKJV). That was a prayer of passion. It was an agonizing prayer. And that is how the early church prayed: with great fervency and great passion.
All too often, we offer heartless prayers. Someone will tell us about a crisis they are facing, and in all honesty, our prayers sound like this: "Oh, Lord, just help them. And then get back to me." We don’t care. We don’t pray with passion. And we don’t pray continuously.
How do you handle life when your problems are bigger than you are? Get Greg’s manual for adversity: "Dealing with Giants"
Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Luke 18:9 NKJV). From the original tense, it would be better translated, "Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking." When someone keeps knocking at your door, you answer it just to have some peace and quiet. The good news is that God is not irritated by your asking. He tells you to be persistent and to keep at it. We will pray for something once, twice, maybe even three times and then say, "Well, I guess that God isn’t going to answer this prayer." Keep praying about it. Don’t give up so easily.
Keep praying, because God has his timing in answering our prayers. Sometimes we think our prayers weren’t answered when, in reality, we just didn’t like the answer. But no is as much of an answer to prayer as yes. God answers prayer three ways: yes, no and wait. We usually like yes. We at least can accept no. But wait? That is hard, because we don’t like to wait. In a culture where we are accustomed to getting everything on demand, we don’t want to wait. But God has his timing. Sometimes he says, "Go." Sometimes he says, "Slow." And sometimes he says, "Grow."
Our objective in prayer should be to align our will with the will of God. If you want to see your prayers answered in the affirmative, then your goal should be to pray according to God’s will. But how do we discover God’s will? We discover the heart and mind of God through the study of the Bible. And as we know more and more about God’s desires and will, then we will pray accordingly.
Jesus made this amazing promise: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7 NKJV). We like promises like this one – especially the latter part about asking what we desire. But we also need to remember the condition of this promise, which is, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you. …" If you are spending time studying the Bible and getting to know the nature and the character of God, then you will start praying for what He wants. True prayer is not bending God your way; it is bending yourself God’s way.
The Bible tells us that the apostle Paul had what is described as a "thorn in the flesh." We don’t know what that "thorn" was, but it was some type of physical infirmity. Three times Paul prayed that the God would remove it, but God answered, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV). So effectively God was saying to Paul, "Grow. I am going to use this set of circumstances in your life to cause you to grow."
But then there was Moses, who wanted to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It was a great idea, but his timing was way off – about 40 years early. So God essentially was saying to Moses, "Slow."
But sometimes God says, "Go," and we are even shocked at how quickly our prayers have been answered. This was the situation as the early church prayed for Peter. While they were still praying for his release, he was knocking at the door of the house where they had gathered. In fact, when the girl who answered the door announced that it was Peter, no one believed her at first. But God came through, and they were excited as they realized their prayers had been answered.
This story opens with Herod’s wreaking havoc on the church. James was dead, and Peter was in prison. Herod had on his side the power of government, the sword and the threat of prison. But the church had on their side the Creator of the universe and the secret weapon given to them (and to us) called prayer.
And when this story comes to a close, Herod is dead. After giving a speech, he accepted the people’s adulation rather than giving glory to God. As a result, the Bible tells us, "Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died" (Acts 12:23 NKJV).
The next verse adds this detail: "But the word of God grew and multiplied." You see, it is not over until it’s over. So keep praying.