The Importance of Persistence
Jesus spelled out prayer for us very clearly. One day His disciples came to Him saying, ”Lord, teach us to pray.” After giving them a model prayer, He told them a parable about a man who went to his neighbor’s home to beg for bread because of the late arrival of a friend. The neighbor refused to even get out of bed. But the man kept pounding on the door insisting that his neighbor rise and grant his request. Jesus concludes the parable by saying, ”I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11:5-8).
In another place Jesus illustrates prayer comparing it to a widow whom kept coming and pleading her case before an unrighteous judge. The judge finally said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because the widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, lest by her continually coming she wears me out.” Jesus concludes by saying, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now shall not God bring about justice for his elect, who cry out to Him day and night . . .? However when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Take note that Jesus is equating faith with “continually coming, crying out day and night” (Luke 18:1-8). In other words, faith expresses itself through persistence.
That should be our persistent attitude in prayer. Note Paul’s words; “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints . . . “ (Ephes. 6:18). [The word translated as “perseverance” is the Greek word proskarteresis, which is a verb meaning “to wait until one’s trial comes before the court” or “to diligently remain at one’s work.”] One of the greatest intercessors in the history of the Church was George Mueller of Bristol, England. He was a man who exemplified persistence in prayer. In praying for the salvation of lost individuals he made this comment: “I have persevered in believing prayer for more than fifty-two years for some, and shall continue till the answer comes: ‘Shall not God avenge His own elect which cry day and night unto Him’ (Luke 18:7).”
I once saw a plaque in a brother’s office that made this declaration: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. That may be an overstatement, and though it does not speak directly to the issue of prayer, there is wisdom in it.
Prior to his becoming Prime Minister, Winston Churchill was invited to come and speak to the students at Harrow, his alma mater. At this time his fame was an orator was widely known. Everyone expected a great feat of oratory, as he would pass on his wisdom to these students. There was a hush over the assembly as he approached the podium. His speech was simple and brief, he said, “Never, never, never, . . . give up.” He then took his seat.
With that one sentence, Winston Churchill electrified the audience. What gave Churchill’s words such power was the fact that he was not merely repeating a “motivational” principle. It was something that he adhered to in his own life. He was a man who never gave up. (I recommend for your reading Stephen Mansfield’s book entitled Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill, published by Highland Books.) Though he was not addressing the issue of prayer, his words are applicable to it.
I recognize that effective prayer involves more than simply being persistent (See I John 5:14), but it is a factor addressed in the Scriptures. May we all, by God’s grace, become more consistent and more persistent in our prayer life.