In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus teaches a parable about being persistent in prayer. If God answers our prayer immediately, why do we have to persist in continuing to pray? Is there a deadline for when we stop praying?
This is a great question. Luke is the only one of the four Gospels to include this parable about the persistent widow. Right before this parable is a conversation about the return of the Lord. Following it, Jesus talks about the Pharisee who boasts about his spiritual prowess and the tax collector who knows he is a sinner.
Luke tells us right in the beginning that this parable of the persistent widow has to do with prayer. But the key is also tied to faith, for Luke says we must not lose heart, and then at the end, when the Lord returns will he find faith on the earth (Luke 18:1, 8)?
So persistence in prayer has to do with faith. I don’t believe in unanswered prayer. I believe there are three answers God gives to anyone who prays. He either says yes, no, or not yet to our requests. We expect the yes when we pray but if we pray with wrong motives (James 4:3).
Sometimes God says, “Not yet,” meaning that the timing of our request does not line up with his will. So how do we know when to stop praying for something? The Lord will give us release based on his answers to our prayers.
I believe persistence in prayer has to do with keeping God’s promises in front of us. If I may take a personal example from my own life, I have been praying for over six years forgot to heal me from my paralysis.
Jesus tells us that he is willing to heal in his Word. He tells us that he is the God who heals us. I believe it his promises for complete healing and I see examples of paralytics getting up and walking. I don’t feel release from persistence in my prayers for healing.
I wake up every day and ask the Lord if today is the day I will be restored. But if I stopped persisting in my prayer, I would begin to accept this paralysis as the way life should be for me. I would forget his promises and not rely on them anymore.
That would be a lapse in my faith for the promises God has given. But I know he answers prayer and I know he promises my healing. So I persistent prayer until the time is right for God to be glorified through my healing. I don’t want to get used to this.
So persistence in prayer may be tied to faith that God’s promises are true and are for you. If we stop persisting in prayer, we may lose sight of our faith in his promises. Jesus promised that he is returning to the earth. If we give up on that promise and stop persisting to ask him to come back, will he find faith on the earth when he does return?