I'm concerned that we as Christians have allowed our culture to have far too great of an influence on how we pray (and whether or not we even choose to pray). Instant gratification has become deeply woven into our social and personal fabric. We're quick to lose focus, change how we pray, stop praying, etc. if we don't see God answering or responding to our prayers immediately. We can lose out on a LOT when we stop!
But when is it appropriate to quit praying? What does quitting say about our faith in God? How can we know when it's time to give up on praying for a person or matter? Does God give us any clues?
R.A. Torrey shares some things to consider in the following paragraphs:
"God does not always give us things at our first efforts. He wants to train us and make us strong by compelling us to work hard for the best things. Likewise, He does not always give us what we ask in answer to the first prayer. He wants to train us and make us strong people of prayer by compelling us to pray hard for the best things. He makes us pray through.
I am glad that this is so. There is no more blessed training in prayer than what comes through being compelled to ask again and again, over long periods of time, before obtaining what we seek from God. Many people call it submission to the will of God when God does not grant them their requests at the first or second asking. They say, "Well, perhaps it is not God's will."
As a rule, this is not submission but spiritual laziness. We do not call it submission to the will of God when we give up after one or two efforts to obtain things by action. We call it lack of strength of character. When the strong man or woman of action starts out to accomplish a thing and does not accomplish it the first or second or one hundredth time, he or she keeps hammering away until it is accomplished. The strong person of prayer keeps on praying until he prays through and obtains what he seeks. We should be careful about what we ask from God. But when we do begin to pray for a thing, we should never give up praying for it until we receive it or until God makes it very clear and very definite that it is not His will to give it.
Some people like us to believe that it shows unbelief to pray twice for the same thing. They think we ought to claim the answer the first time we ask. Doubtless, there are times when we are able, through faith in the Word or the leading of the Holy Spirit, to claim the first time what we have asked of God. But beyond question, there are other times when we must pray again and again for the same thing before we receive our answers. Those who are beyond praying twice for the same thing are beyond following their Master's example. (See Matthew 26:44.)
George Muller prayed for two men daily for more than sixty years. Although both were eventually converted, one turned to the Lord shortly before George Muller's death, I think at the last service that George Muller held. The other was converted within a year after Muller's death. One of the great needs of the present day is for men and women who will not only start out to pray for things, but will pray on and on until they obtain what they seek from the Lord." (R.A. Torrey on the Christian Life; How to Pray, pages 298-299)
I Can't Possibly Do That!
The thought of praying daily for the salvation of a friend or acquaintance for 60 years sounds impossible. In fact, it is! By, and of ourselves
, it's incredibly difficult to pray for even two consecutive days! This is where we must turn to the Lord; asking Him to deepen and grow our desire for Him, to better align and shape our hearts more into ones like His own, then help us prayerfully persist in praying this way. This type of prayer is one that honors God and is one He'll answer without doubt or question. God wants us; His children, to desire Him, the things He does, and what He wants to do. To do so, we must seek His help to know Him better (on both personal and corporate levels) so that our hearts will align much more closely with His. Reading and praying His Word, and seeking the Holy Spirit to direct and shape our prayers and relationship with Him are helpful places to begin and continue in prayer!
You Quit So Soon?
George Muller didn't start praying for the salvation of those men with an expectation that it would take 60+ years for their hearts and lives to yield to Christ. He started praying with an expectation that if God burdened his heart to pray for these men, that God would faithfully do His part and accomplish the task. God held the timeline; not George. As George prayerfully pressed in to God; God helped him persist in prayer. God provided all that was needed to deepen George's faith and trust in Him. THAT'S how someone can daily pray for someone's salvation from days to decades, if necessary!
God can help us grow out of, and away from, the desire for instant gratification that our culture bombards and tempts us to yield to continually. But to grow in those ways, we must first ask and seek to grow in deepening personal relationship with God. To develop the stamina, strength, and heart ache to persistently pray for someone's salvation daily for weeks, months, years, and even decades on end- requires that we begin by asking God to create that ache in our hearts for the person or people He's placed in our lives. It's the same ache He has for these same people; people who are on a crash course with eternity in Hell if nobody specifically prays for their salvation. While God desires that nobody be lost, He's given each person the liberty to choose whether to accept or reject the Holy Spirit's wooing of their hearts to Christ.
Prayer for softening of hearts to the gospel, for the breaking of Satan's influence and grasp of hearts, minds, attentions, and lives, and for the salvation of souls are some of the most purposeful, powerful, and influential prayers God can lead us to pray. When we prayerfully persist, God receives the glory; souls come to faith in Christ; and God grows our faith and trust in Him. The impact and outcome of our prayers and persistence go far beyond simply the person or matter we're praying about. God multiplies the outcomes in His ways, His timing, and in His wisdom- for His glory alone!
Press on in prayer; in Him, today!