Persist in Prayer

by CPT Pete Erickson, USA

Prayer is an essential discipline for any Christian who desires to know Almighty God better. And yet, despite its beautifully simple nature, prayer is not easy to cultivate in the life of a believer.

In a busy world, prayer requires commitment--specifically stubborn persistence. If there is one profession in the world that understands persistence, it is the military.

All of us have been in a situation that required perseverance, whether it was a deployment, a military school, or a difficult season of leadership. We in the military know what it means to be persistent. As Christians in the military, we ought to see the parallels between persistence in life and persistence in prayer.

I believe God often "delays" His visible answers to prayer in order to cultivate persistence in us. Although we may not always get exactly what we ask for, we can be assured that if our hearts are right before Him and we have stayed the course in prayer, we are certain to know God more deeply as a result.

Called to Pray

In Luke 18 verses 1-8, there is an often overlooked parable of a widow bringing her case before an unjust judge. The judge dismisses the woman several times, refusing to listen to her. However, her persistence pays off, as the judge eventually relents, saying, "Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!"

Jesus follows up the parable by instructing his disciples, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly."

What an encouragement it is to know that just as the widow had an effect on an unjust judge through her persistence, even more we can count on the maker of the Heavens and the Earth to hear our cries through persistent prayer!

Cynicism Defeated

Often, in my own life, I've rationalized my desires by thinking, "Well, God knows what is best anyway, so what does it matter if I keep praying for this? If it's His will He will do it." This is precisely the wrong attitude to have regarding prayer, and I have to stop myself every time I begin thinking that way. The lesson from Luke 18 is to always pray and not lose heart. God is sovereign, and He knows what is best for us 100% of the time, but still He chooses to work through the prayers of His people. We are exhorted throughout Scripture to "Pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and not to "be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).

As the great author on prayer and the Civil War chaplain E.M Bounds states, "The tenor of Christ's teachings is to declare that men are to pray earnestly--to pray with an earnestness that cannot be denied. Heaven has harkening ears only for the wholehearted, and the deeply earnest. Energy, courage, and perseverance must back the prayers which heaven respects and God hears."[1] Too often, we rationalize why God will or will not answer a specific prayer request--and therein lies our immediate problem. God has the power to do anything that He wills, and while we may not know how God will respond in a certain situation, we have to believe in the very center of our hearts and minds that God does hear our prayers and is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20).

Hearts Conformed to God

We have each experienced a time in our life that has rocked us to the core of our being--an injury or death of a comrade in arms, a tragedy in the life of a family member or friend, or an unexpected hardship. When one of these events hits, we often turn to prayer--sometimes right away, and sometimes not for a very long time. We pray hard. We plead with God.

In my own life during these seasons, I've often stated my requests to God as confused and even angry. In a sense, I have argued with God for justice in my cause. I don't think this is wrong at all. David pleaded to God through the form of logical arguments in Psalm 143. David knew what it meant to cry out to God.

The Almighty delights in our specific requests. But more, He delights when we trust Him, even in the midst of indescribable hardship. We need to pray even when we are angry, confused, and scared. Through persistent prayer we learn to trust Him, despite what we see around us, and rest assured that He is our God.

Through persistent prayer, I've also noticed that God slowly but surely works on us. While asking for something specific, and believing in His power to accomplish it, we also learn to submit to His will. Those words, "submit to His will" can seem so intimidating. What if I don't like His will? What if something goes wrong? These reactions are a normal response to an event that God has placed before us for the exact purpose of conforming us to Himself. Through prayer--intimate, persistent prayer-God often helps us see this.

Persistence Is Not the Only Condition to Prayer

It would be grossly wrong to say that we get what we want from God only if and when we ask Him for it enough. This attitude is unbiblical, because, as we know, God is sovereign, and He knows what is best for us. We can't "twist God's arm" in prayer, and never ought to try. However, we know that God doesn't just tolerate our prayers; He is delighted and glorified when we pray to Him!

As ambassadors for Christ in uniform, what are we asking God to accomplish in our companies, battalions, or brigades? How about the military as a whole? Are we praying to God in full faith, persistently asking Him to use us to spread the Good News to those around us? God is waiting for the persistent prayers of His people to work mightily in us--and in those we contact. We can count on God as we pray, even in difficulty.

Captain Pete Erickson is a 2004 West Point graduate, serving as Cadet-in-Charge during his Firstie year. An Infantry officer, Pete has deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Platoon Leader and Company Executive Officer with the 101st Airborne Division and the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Pete is currently on brigade staff at Fort Carson, Colorado, awaiting Company Command.

[1] E.M. Bounds, The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, compilation published 1990, original 1929), 43.