Our message this morning is entitled “Persistent Prayer.” In our series Prayer That God Answers, we’ve found several requirements in God’s Word for answered prayer. First of all, what we pray for must be according to God’s will. Secondly, we must pray in faith, without doubting, believing that God can and will answer our prayers. Thirdly, our topic today, is that we must pray persistently, until the answer comes. As we’ll see, if we stop praying before the answer comes, our prayer will not be answered.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) pray without ceasing,
This verse commands us to pray without ceasing. Other translations say to “pray continually,” “pray constantly” or “never stop praying.” What does it mean to pray without ceasing? It means to be in constant communication with God. Talking to God about what you’re doing. Asking Him for guidance and direction. Praying for the things that He puts on your mind.
Ephesians 6:18 (ESV) praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
This verse simply expands on what it means to pray continually. Our prayers should be in the Spirit, whether they’re prayed in English or in other tongues. We are to pray for all the Lord’s people, both those who have committed their lives to Jesus and those who have not yet committed their lives to Him.
Luke 18:1 (ESV) And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
Then Jesus told a story about an unjust judge and a widow who came to Him to receive justice for her case. At first the judge ignored her, but the widow persisted in coming to him, until finally the judge give her the justice she asked for.
Luke 18:7-8 (ESV) And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Jesus concluded by saying if the unjust judge finally answered the persistent widow’s request, how much more will God answer the prayers of His children who cry out to Him day and night. Jesus ends with a question of whether He will find faith on the earth when He returns?
You see, faith and persistence in prayer are integrally linked. f you have faith, you will persist in prayer until the answer comes. If you don’t have faith, you will give up when the answer seems to be delayed.
Today, as last week, we are going to concentrate on praying for lost people, friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors or schoolmates. It is God’s will to save them. We must pray persistently in faith until they submit their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ. So, how can we learn to pray persistently?
Luke 11:9 (ESV) And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Jesus had just told a story about a man who kept knocking on a friend’s door at midnight, until he got up and gave him a loaf of bread. The man had decided to persist in knocking until his request was answered. In the same way, we must decide, we must choose, to be persistent, to keep on praying for those who don’t know Jesus until they come to know Him. Why do we sometimes have trouble in being persistent?
Galatians 6:9 (ESV) And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up..
When we pray for some time and don’t see the answer, we are tempted to become tired of praying. Yet, here God’s Word command us not to be weary. Why? Because in God’s time, the answer will come. You see, your prayers are like seeds that take time to sprout and bear fruit. If you don’t give up in prayer and remain persistent, you will reap a harvest. In the prayers we are focusing on today, you will see the people you are praying for saved. Although, we may be weak in our own resolve and strength, we must learn to …
Philippians 4:13 (ESV) I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
This verse is God’s promise that when we are doing God’s work, He will give you the strength and the persistence to complete it. When it seems as though your strength is not enough to keep praying, rely on God’s strength. It will be more than enough. Decide to be persistent in your prayers for the lost until they are answered.
My wife Carol’s father was not raised by Christian parents. Oh, they thought they were Christians because they went to church and were better than most people in their behavior. But they had no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When Carol was in middle school, her parents became believers in Jesus and began attending a Bible-believing church. The whole family began to pray for Carol’s grandparents to be saved, but for years and years, nothing seemed to happen. In fact, for a long time, the grandparents would not even talk to Carol’s parents because they had left the church they had grown up in.
Finally, both grandparents grew terminally ill and were close to passing on. In both cases, a pastor went to pray with them in their last weeks on earth and they prayed to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Persistence in prayer saw the harvest reaped and we will one day see them in heaven. Not only must you be persistent in prayer, you must learn to …
Psalm 126:5-6 (ESV) Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
To pray for the lost is to take up the burden of their eternal destiny. It is to care enough for them that you will persist in prayer, even in tears, until God brings the answer. If you listen to God carefully, He will place His burden in your heart for the salvation of certain people. The people that God gives you a burden for will be those closest to you, including relatives and friends. As you accept that burden from God, He will motivate you to pray persistently for their salvation.
Romans 10:1 (ESV) Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
Paul had a great passion for his fellow Israelites to be saved. He continually prayed that they would be saved and many were. His prayers were not just doing something he knew he should do. No, it was the deep desire of his heart that they would be saved. In fact, his desire was so intense that he writes earlier in Romans that he “could wish that he himself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his people, the Israelites.” That’s passion beyond what I could wish myself, but we need to pray with deep passion and conviction.
2 Corinthians 5:20 (ESV) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Prayer by itself, rarely is the end of the story. Most often, when we have God’s burden and pray passionately for something, God will direct us to take action. In the case of praying for people’s salvation, oftentimes, God will direct you to witness boldly to them with your words and actions. A witness backed by hours of prayer will be much more effective than witness without prayer. As you pray for people to be saved, have open ears to hearing God instruct you to talk to the person that you are praying for about Jesus. Or to invite them to church. It’s all about accepting God’s burden and compassion for the lost.
Late one night, a woman named Chrissy was awakened as the phone rang. When she answered, it was her older brother on the line. He shouted. “Sis, I just invited Jesus into my life, I’m saved. The preacher said to tell someone immediately, so I called you because you’ve been praying for me for so long.” Chrissy was speechless. Her brother had screamed at her at their mother’s funeral when she tried to share Jesus with him. He had broken up a pastor’s home to marry his third wife. He had been antagonistic to the things of God for years and years. Yet somehow, her prayers had finally been answered. A captive had been set free. God wants to do the same for you, as you accept His burden and pray for your lost loved ones.
John 1:12 (ESV) But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
When a person receives Jesus into their lives by believing in Him, they become a child of God. Jesus says that they are born again. Every human being is born physically from their mother’s womb. But a believer is born a second time, spiritually, when they believe in Jesus. So, as we pray for people to be saved, we are actually praying that they will be born into God’s family, as a new child of God. Now, you and I cannot cause a person to be born again as a child of God. So we must …
Titus 3:5 (ESV) he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
People are born again through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works in a number of ways to draw people to Jesus Christ. We must pray for the Spirit to bring conviction of sin and repentance from that sin in the people we are praying for. must pray for the Spirit to give the gift of faith to the person so that they can genuinely believe and put their trust in Jesus Christ. It is then the Spirit that makes a person into a new creation as they are born again into God’s family as a child of God. As we pray for people, we must fill both our minds and our mouths with words of faith.
Ezekiel 37:4-5 (ESV) Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.
The words that we speak, both to ourselves and others should be words of faith. In these verses, the prophet Ezekiel is commanded in a vision to speak to dry bones to come to life. The vision of Ezekiel is a picture of what happens when a person is saved. Spiritually, a person far from God is like dry bones, no spiritual life at all. But when that person is born again, the Spirit of God brings life to the dry bones.
So, as we pray for those who are not yet saved, may our words, to ourselves and to others, speak of what God is going to do in saving that person. May we declare, indeed prophesy in faith, that as we continue to pray, God will ultimately bring salvation in His time. When we pray for something to happen and then speak words of failure and discouragement, it undermines our prayers. We must declare God’s Word in faith regarding those we are praying for.
After her mother died, a woman named Pam gave her life back to God. She began to pray for her brother O’Brien who had strayed far from the faith of his mother. While stationed in Asia, he had married a Buddhist. Pam continued to pray, asking the Holy Spirit to break bondages and draw them to himself. After two years of prayer, her brother called to say that he had found the Lord and was going to follow him. When his Buddhist wife came to visit Pam, she gave her heart to Jesus as well. Two new spiritual children of God were birthed as Pam partnered with the Holy Spirit in prayer.
It’s a wonderful mystery. You and I can’t save anyone no matter how hard we try. Yet, God will not save anyone without the participation in prayer of believers. Through prayer, you can partner with God to birth spiritual children.
In order to see the lost saved, we must decide to be persistent in our prayers until the answer comes. We mustn’t grow weary, but instead rely on God’s strength. We accept God’s burden and heart for the lost as we pray with passion and witness boldly. We pray for people to be born again into God’s family through the Spirit’s work. We speak words of faith, both to ourselves and to others about the work that God’s Spirit is doing in the lives of others as we pray for them.
As we keep on praying, we will ultimately reap a harvest of souls that will impact eternity.