I was driving on the Avenue of the Cities listening on K Love (which I do enjoy) to a woman talking about prayer. The woman shared that God had been teaching her through the Scriptures that prayer with faith includes continually coming to God with the same request until He answers. One of the host commented on how he could see where she was coming from and made a reference to the passage in Matthew 7. But gave a little push-back stating that could be true for her at the stage she is at in her spiritual walk with God but that may not be true for other people in their walk with God.
This peeked my interest. So I listened more intently to see what he meant and for him to elaborate. He went on to share that just in the next chapter the Centurion only asked Jesus once and he didn’t need to ask more than once to have faith in his request (prayer) to Jesus.
At this point, I went from interested to discouraged. If I had a quarter for everytime I heard someone give bad counsel with good intentions I would be a rich man. The reason why I get discouraged is that people are regularly in need of good counsel. And yet they are also surrounded by information (that is very accessible) that seems right but ultimately misleading.
The conversation above is a perfect example of this. I mean the lady gave her passge from the Bible and the host gave his. He seemed to offer a solution for both passages. Maybe I don’t need to pray about things more than once. At the end of the conversation the host had the lady agreeing that maybe praying about things just once is sufficient even when their hasn’t been a response from God. But is that what the Bible teaches?
Can I ask for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven once and that be sufficient? Can I pray for my wife’s spiritual growth once and be done with it? Can I pray for the salvation of my friends once and be confident that is all I really need to do concerning prayer?
What the Bible Teaches
The answer to all these questions is obviously “no.” I know, that this may seem obvious, but coming to God continually, pouring out your heart and pleading with Him over the same things is not something optional, nor is it something only for certain Christians at certain places in their walk with God. Jesus taught explicitly on a number of occassions the importance not only of prayer but the importance of coming to Him over and over again concerning the same things (Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:5-10). Jesus never put qualifications on this, rather he told this to his disciples when they asked him how to pray.
But what about the appeal to the passage of the Centurion only asking Jesus once for Him to heal his son. Well if we look at this passage we soon see that Jesus answered him before the need to ask again. In other words, the Centurion was answered the first time he asked Jesus. There was no need for him to ask again. Are we to believe if Jesus didn’t respond to his request the Centurion would have left and said, “well I asked him once, and that should be sufficient.” Not in a million years.
The truth is we are a culture trained for instant gratification and seek the maximum results that require the least amount of effort. So the idea of only being called to pray once for something sounds quite appealing. Why spend the time and heartache of asking God for something that wouldn’t matter anymore than simply asking for it once.
The truth is prayer is hard-work but it reaps tremendous fruit. There is no easy route out of the delightful duty we are called to as ambassadors for Christ. We are to make our request known regularly as if the frequency actually mattered to the response that would be given. And we are to come to Him trusting that He is always seeking to give us good gifts just like a father desires to give good gifts to his children. And lastly, we are to pray persistently because the answer to the prayer isn’t the only goal. Our hearts are being formed into the image of Christ through the whetstone of prayer. This means the frequency matters because our hearts and motives being remade matters.