Pray Without Ceasing?

Pray Without Ceasing?

pray

After a long session of swapping our favorite verses about prayer, my Sunday School teacher brought forth his predicament.  “I just can’t find an example anywhere in the Bible,” he admitted, “of a person praying for years repetitively about the same thing (other than requesting their daily bread).  They always have one intense, solid, heartfelt prayer and accept that the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no.’  What do y’all think about this?”

I racked my brain.  Was he right?  Surely someone prayed for years for healing, or for a child, or for…something!  Hannah? No, she only prayed once in the temple (I Samuel 1:8. 9-18).  Job? No, he addresses Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, but he never directly complains to God.  Surely there is someone!  James 5:16 promises that “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  Surely this eludes to a lengthy prayer!  My mind raced.

The Apostle Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”  God desires to hear from his children.  However, the surrounding verses must also be considered.  Directly before this command, we are told to “rejoice evermore.”  Afterwards, Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God is Christ Jesus concerning you.”  These verses show that the continual prayer is filled with praise, not petitions.  Likewise, Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times:  his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

I ignored my school work that afternoon in order to further study this question, and I found only one valid example of a person praying multiple times for the exact same thing.  In II Corinthians 12:8, Paul told his readers that he had “petitioned the Lord three times that He would remove [his thorn in the flesh].”  In the end, Paul affirms that God’s answer had been “no,” but this weakness is an asset because it forced Paul to rely on God.

So what are your thoughts?  Should we pray multiple times for the same thing, or should we “leave it in the hands of the Father and walk away”?  What does the biblical model of prayer imply?

9 thoughts on “Pray Without Ceasing?

  1. That definitely makes you think. I would struggle with the once and done though. I have been praying for the salvation of some people for years and don’t intent to stop. Certainly I pray for the future spouse of my children and even their daily protection and walk with Him repeatedly. I know He only needs to hear me once so maybe it’s just selfishness on my part to make sure He has my requests front and center. Hmmmm, I shall now go ponder….or maybe just pray about it some more 😉

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    1. Salvation is the point that bothers me as well. While I believe that God only needs to hear me once, I have always been told that Luke 18:1-8 encourages us to pray more than once for lost family. Now hat I read the passage again though, I am given the idea that this is one long prayer that lasted day and night. I just don’t know.

      So please pray about it and tell me your answer 😉

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  2. I think that it is a mixture. In the examples that you mentioned, all of the people got clear answers from God.This being said, I think that when God has made his plan and answer clear, we should accept it and submit to him. On the other hand, Jesus gives two parables that seem to indicate that he wants us to pray persistently for things in Luke chapters 8 and 11. In these passages, I think that Jesus desires persistence from us because it is proof that we have faith that he will act. This thought comes from what Jesus says in verse 8, “I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” I also think of Anna and Simeon who waited on the Lord concerning the redemption of Israel, and never gave up, but continually “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:38). I think this could be an example to us of praying without ceasing. Read through these passages and tell me what you think.

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    1. I have already looked at each of these passages. We never see Simeon or Anna pray for anything specific, so that one is out (I don’t doubt that we should pray generally and continually). So far, the Luke 8 parable is the best example I can find to fit my predicament, but I am not completely satisfied with it. Did this woman come back time after time or did she simply pester the judge for one lengthy, heartfelt moment?

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  3. After lengthy study, reading Luke 18 a dozen times, talking to some people much wiser than me, and some prayer , I have come to a conclusion.

    I think Luke 18:5 is my answer. “Lest by continual coming she weary me.” She comes. She comes again. She comes again.

    I’m not always best at articulating my thoughts, but my mom put it this way, “I don’t think it shows lack of faith, it shows persistence and a willingness for our will to be changed to His.”

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  4. As you’re considering these questions I’d like to include another one for you to think about if I can. One of your comments mentions Paul’s request for his affliction to be removed and how he received the answer “no” multiple times. My question, and something I have been struggling with, is does it seem to you that the pattern of prayer in the Bible seems to include far more definite answers than we (at least I) sometimes demand from my sessions of prayer. By demand, I mean demand from myself that I be patient and expectant enough to wait (as we see in Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane) until I have received an answer, received the peace promised from God, and bent my will back to the Father’s on whatever issue is at hand. I feel that I am all too content to pray, walk away and wait, and speculate on the right course of action, which does not seem to me to be the pattern of Scripture in any way. It does however, seem to be the pattern of my prayer life. If we think that a good part of the examples from Scriptures indicates longer seasons of dedicated prayer, should we also be more dedicated to praying until we have received an answer? Thanks for your consideration!

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    1. That is a great point. Maybe the key is persistence in prayer. We should keep praying until we receive a definite answer. This would definitely fit the Luke 18 parable.

      Something else I want to know is how Romans 8:26 fits into all of this. We now have the Holy Spirit making intercession for us. Am I focusing too much on Old Testament prayers? Just another thought…

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      1. The Romans passage certainly does indicate that in our finite and imperfect humanity we will always need help to “bridge the gap” and it shows God’s grace that we have been given that intercessor. The passage as a whole speaks to the broken intimacy of the created world with the Creator and that longing to restore it. However, Paul is speaking to believers at that time and says “we don’t know how to pray as we ought”…so I am still left with the question of following the examples of the New Testament. Although none of us can pray (or relate with God at all) in perfect intimacy, I still feel that my life falls short of the examples set up and so even if none of us do it perfectly…maybe they were much closer than I am?

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