There was a night last month when I was brimming with silent anger.
You know know what I mean? Have you ever felt the anger that makes you ball up your socks and throw them at the floor (socks being the object of choice because they make the least noise), or the anger that makes you have imaginary arguments in your head without saying a word aloud? Have you experienced the anger that makes you take a shower just so that if you cry, you can blame the puffy eyes on misplaced shampoo?
I was feeling that type of anger, and it was rooted in extreme discontentment.
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?