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Persistent prayer is perhaps the weapon our enemy Satan fears the most. This is why he will try and discourage us to keep praying if we don’t see a breakthrough right away.
In the Bible we see numerous characters that prayed for years before they saw something happen. In Luke 1 we see Zacharias and his wife prayed persistently to have a child. Finally in verse 13, when they are past the age of child bearing, the angel brings the news they are going to have a son. In Luke 2:36-39 we read about an amazing woman in ministry named Anna. She was a prophetess who at the age of 84 was persistently praying night and day for the redemption of Jerusalem.
In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus gives us the parable of the persistent widow. He starts by saying that we should always pray and not lose heart. To not lose heart means to not faint, to not give up, or to not let your faith melt. The parable is about a widow who repeatedly goes to a judge to make her case. Even though he doesn’t respect her, or God, he gives in to her because of her persistence. If the evil judge is moved by persistence, how much more so is God. Jesus asks if when He returns He will really find faith, this kind of persistent faith.
We sometimes wonder if God doesn’t hear us or if He is holding out on us just to make things challenging for us. Daniel prayed and fasted for 21 days before he saw a breakthrough. It wasn’t that God wasn’t at work, but that there was a spiritual battle raging. The angel tells Daniel that the first day he prayed his words were already heard. (Daniel 10:12). Just because we don’t see a change doesn’t mean our words are not heard, but rather that there is a fight going on.
In Acts 26:18 we see clearly that there is a power struggle between the powers of darkness and the kingdom of God. It takes persistent prayer to push back the darkness so people can come to see the light of Christ. George Mueller is well known for his faith to trust God in providing for the orphanages he started. But his faith was also used to bring others to Christ. In the book Delighted In God, Roger Steer writes about his persistent prayer life.
“If I say that during the fifty-four years and nine months that I have been a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ I have had thirty thousand answers to prayer, either in the same hour the same day that the requests were made, I should not go a particle too far…But one or the other might suppose all my prayers have been thus promptly answered. No, not all of them. Sometimes I have had to wait weeks, months, or years; sometimes many years…In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without one single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God, and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day I continued to pray for them, and six years more passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remain unconverted. The man to whom God in the riches of His grace has been given tens of thousands of answers to prayer, in the self-same hour or day on which they were offered, has been praying day by day for nearly thirty-six years for the conversion of these two individuals, and yet they remain unconverted”
It is said of D.L. Moody that he had a list of 100 people he believed to come to faith. At the time of his death 96 people had given their lives to Christ. One might think that when we die, our prayers die with us. But this is not the case, our prayers outlive us. At Moody’s funeral the last 4 people came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Today there are many prayers of grandmothers and grandfathers that live on, even though they have gone to heaven.
Who do you have on your prayer list that you pray for daily like Muller and Moody did? What would happen if we persistently prayed for our lost loved ones and friends who are snared in the grips of darkness? Perhaps the greatest gift we could give a loved one this year is to add them to our persistent prayer list and rejoice with them for all eternity when they come to faith in Christ!