Exploring Prayer With
By Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
Chapter 23 — Persevering in Prayer
Luke 18:1-8, "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"
Recently I received a letter from a fine Christian lady listing the things she had prayed for in recent weeks that had not been answered. She was not bitter to God but was concerned. Somehow or other it is easy for us to believe that prayer is an Aladdin's lamp and that we simply rub it and tell what we want and it will come immediately. Such is not the case. Sometimes it may take continual coming to God with our prayers. Luke 18:5, "Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me." Sometimes it takes crying day and night for a long time. Luke 18:7, " And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?"
A young lady comes to God and prays and tells God she wants a certain young man for a husband. Sometimes she even gives Him a time schedule. A man says that he wants a certain job. He comes to God and asks for that job and tells God where he wants to work and when he wants to work. When God does not answer immediately or at the appointed time, Disappointment and even doubt may occur.
It must be understood that God does not always answer immediately. He wants us to persevere in prayer. Sometimes the time is not right. Just like the husbandman who spends much time in panting and waiting as the seed germinates, even so God's people must spend time in waiting until God gives the answer. Of course, this waiting should also be a time of continually praying and pleading with God for the answer.
Why would God want to make us wait and why would He allow His children whom He loves and for whom He wants to provide to continue to agonize and persevere in prayer? There are many reasons. Some are listed in other chapters, but there are three special ones worthy of note:
1. God knows WHAT is best. Sometimes the Christian comes to God to present his petition, and God knows that it is a prayer for that which is second best for us. He may have something better. Now He often does, if we persist, give us that which is second best. Such was the case in the story of Balaam. When the messengers came from Moab asking him to come to prophesy in Moab, Balaam sought the Lord, and the Lord told him not to go. Still other messengers were sent who offered him rewards and and honor. Again Balaam came to God in prayer, and this time God allowed him to go. It was not God's first choice for Balaam. God told him His first choice the first time he came, but Balaam continued asking, and God granted him permission to go to Moab.
Many Christians have second best because they want their prayers answered quickly. Sometimes the Lord delays to see of we will wait for His best for us. I am thinking of a young lady who asked God for a Christian husband. She thought she was in love with a young man, and the wedding date was set. The ceremony was planned, the wedding gown was purchased, and then something happened. Those who loved her and knew her best felt that she was settling for second best, so she withdrew her prayer to God, cancelled the wedding and prayed for God's best. In God's good time He answered this prayer. Oh, how happy she is now! Isn't it wonderful that God knows what we need more than we know ourselves, and isn't it wonderful that sometimes He delays answering our prayers hoping that we will trust Him because He knows WHAT is best.
2. God knows WHEN is best. He knows when we are ready for the answers to our prayers. Sometimes a young lady will plead for God to give her a certain young man, and this young man is the will of God for the life of this young lady. However, God knows that perhaps she is not ready for marriage yet, so He waits to answer, and then when the time is right, He presents His answer to her. Sometimes a young ministerial student graduates from college or seminary and asks God to give him a church. God knows there is more ripening and maturing that he needs first, so God in His mercy withholds His answer until the proper time. If the answer comes sooner, it may be that the young preacher, bot being ready yet, will make some mistake that would injure his own ministry or the life of the church. So God waits, and while He waits the young man continues to pray. God has the answer all ready wrapped, addressed and postmarked, but His timing is important. The WHEN is just as important as the WHAT.
I know a young couple who asked God for a child. A year or two passed and they did not have one. They became bitter with God. The very fact that they would become bitter with God because He did not answer in their appointed time implied that they were not ready for a child. There was some more maturing to do. They continued to pray, and as they prayed they matured and as they matured they withdrew their bitterness. Then they relied upon God not only to give them a child but to know when it was best. As they matured, God prepared them for the answer that He had already had set aside for them in Heaven.
When we ask the first time, God often puts our answer aside, puts our name on it and holds it for us. He wants us to have it, but He wants us to have it at the right time.
There are some things for which I am praying right now. I know God has them set aside for me, and my name is written on them. I also know that I am not prepared for them yet. I need to grow some more. I need to mature some more. I need to pray some more. So as I continue to wait and to pray and to plead with God to give them to me, I am trusting Him to know when.
I knew for years that God was going to lead me to start a college for the training of young people for His service. I prayed and prayed and prayed and waited and waited and waited, but God was not ready yet. I kept praying and kept praying and kept praying and kept waiting. God knew when I was ready, and with the passing of the years I continued to persevere. In God's good time He knew when I was prepared and ready for the answer. So when the time came, He took the answer that He had already set aside for me and sent it my way. Only God knows what time the Christian is ready, and only God knows the times and seasons.
It is a temptation to the child of God to think that since God lingers, He is not going to answer the prayer. We must remember that if our prayer be according to the will of God, if we are praying in the Spirit, God may answer our prayer if we will give Him time.
3. God knows when the answer is ripe. Sometimes we pray for something and God sets it aside for us but the answer itself is not ready for us. The farmer wants the harvest but he has to have patience until it is fully ripe and ready for harvesting. Sometimes we ask for something and we may be prepared for it, but the fruit may not be ripened. God has marked it for us and He will give it to us if we will continue to pray, but we have to wait 'til the answer is ripe.
For example, a young man prays and asks God for a young lady to be his wife. God sets her aside for him and itis the will of God that he receive her, but perhaps she is not yet prepared to be a wife. Perhaps the Lord lingers until she ripens, matures and will make a much better wife, and then the beginning of married life will be much happier.
The Christian, therefore, should pray. He should pray believing, but he should realize that God may set the answer aside for him but not send it right away. It may be that it is not God's time yet. Perhaps the Christian who prays is not ready for the answer. Perhaps the answer is not ready for the Christian or maybe the request is second best and God has something better. Believing this, the temptation could be to quit praying. Oh, no, no, no, beloved! We need to pray for God to give us the desires of our hearts! He knows knows when the harvest is ripe. It is ours to continue to pray. James 5:7,8, " Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."
PREVIOUS | NEXT | TABLE OF CONTENTS