The Power of Persistent Prayer

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  July 24, 2022

Click here to listen to the service 
Read Luke 11:1 – 13
A couple of months ago, I preached a sermon entitled, “The Power of Prayer” based on a passage of Scripture found in Acts 16 that focused on the Apostle Paul’s encounter with a woman named Lydia and how the power of prayer impacted each of their lives. 
This morning, however, I want to invite us to go a step further as we focus our attention on the theme: THE POWER OF PERSISTENT PRAYER.
A quick search for the definition of the word “persistent” tells us that it means “continuing firmly or obstinately in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”
It is indicative of a spirit of determination, tenacity, and perseverance, despite the obstacles we may encounter.  To be persistent in prayer means that even when the circumstances around us have not changed or we have not gotten the answers we have been hoping for… we keep praying anyhow. 
Now, someone may be wondering why we would bother to be persistent and keep on praying if we are not getting the answers that we want?  Well let me suggest, that if we are praying only to get what we want, we are not praying in the way Jesus taught us to pray. 
As we look at our text for the morning, we find the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray in the way that John taught his disciples to pray.  Jesus’ response to them is what we often refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father” … and it is as instructive to us today as it was to His disciples back then.
The King James Version of the Bible offers what may be a somewhat more familiar rendition of this prayer:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.  Give us day by day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
However, let us keep in mind that this is not merely a rote prayer that we should simply commit to memory… rather, this is intended to be the model that we should follow when we pray. 
One of the first things that is important for us to note is that Jesus starts His prayer by praising God… acknowledging God for who He is… while asking for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done.
First and foremost, prayer is not meant to be about us.  It is about giving praise and thanksgiving to God, seeking His will in all things.  When we start our prayers in this way, it puts us in the proper frame of mind… acknowledging who God is and understanding that it is God’s will we should seek to follow.
And yet, how often do we get off on the wrong foot… not asking for God’s will to be done, but asking God to follow our will… to do what we want to be done with little or no concern for whether or not it actually lines up with God’s will?
But Jesus teaches us that we need to put first things first and that means putting God first in ALL things.  It harkens back what the Psalmist David wrote in Psalm 37 (4-6):
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.
 When we take delight in the Lord and commit our ways to Him and trust in Him, our desires will begin to line up with God’s will… and we will begin to notice a shift in how we pray and what we pray for.
Now, as we follow Jesus’ example, it is after we give God praise, that we should pray and ask for God’s daily provision… Give us each day our daily bread.”
It is a reminder that God’s provision is not something that we can simply store up and thereby eliminate the need to go to God in the days ahead.  Let us not forget what happened to the Israelites who tried to hoard the manna that God sent down from heaven… 
God told them to take only enough for what they needed for themselves and their family for that day (and twice as much on the Sabbath)… their daily bread.  But just like some of us, they wanted to have a little extra as insurance for the days to come… but what they got in instead was a messy infestation of maggots…
When we fail to trust God to provide for our needs on a daily basis and start to store up treasures here on earth where moth and rust destroy… we run the risk of creating a mess… thinking we have it all under control and don’t need to ask for God’s provision any longer.
But that runs contrary to God’s will for us. 
It is like the Parable of the Rich Fool we read about in Luke 12 which follows Jesus’ stern warning to a man looking to get an inheritance from his brother.  Jesus told the man, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 
That is when Jesus told the parable of a rich man who found himself with a rather large surplus of grain.  The man figured he would build himself some bigger barns and stash it away so he could simply “take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”  But he soon found out his plan was not pleasing to God, who told him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:13 – 21).
Jesus used this parable to illustrate the fact that we are not meant to simply store up treasures for ourselves… ignoring the needs of God’s people. 
Understanding that God has promised to provide for us day by day, comes with the realization that we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to someone else… which means we do not have to worry that blessing someone else will leave us in a lurch, because as Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
God will give us this day, and every day, our daily bread… just what we need to survive… and so we can bless someone else along the way.
So, when we pray according to Jesus’ model, we give God praise and ask for God’s provision… then we look to God for protection.
Protection from what you may ask… from sin and temptation.
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation.”
Let me just say, it can be really difficult for us to forgive others, even while we are asking God to forgive us… but forgiveness is not an optional exercise.  It is a command.
When Peter asked Jesus how many times he ought to forgive a person who sinned against him… Peter seemed to think he was being generous by suggesting seven times would be the right limit… However, Jesus told Peter he must forgive not just seven times but seventy times seven (see Matthew 18:20 – 22).  In other words, Peter keep forgiving as you have been forgiven…
Forgiving as we have been forgiven is also something that the Apostle Paul wrote about in his letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians (see Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32) … following along with Jesus’ prayer encouraging us to ask for forgiveness of our sins even as we forgive others…
But Jesus also teaches that we need to ask God to lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil…
In other words, we need God’s help to keep us in a place where we will be safe from falling into more sin… and speaking for myself, that is definitely something that I need to pray for on a daily basis.  Because let’s be honest, this world is full of opportunities for us to sin and fall into temptation… And God knew that we would need protection which is why He sent His Son Jesus to give His life for us.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 10:13):
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Now, one of the ways in which we can resist the temptation to sin is through THE POWER OF PERSISTENT PRAYER.
Persistence in prayer helps us to recognize that we need God… in order to endure in every circumstance… because the fact is that what seems like it is too hard for us to handle is just right for God.
Now, after teaching His disciples the model prayer, Jesus presented them with a hypothetical situation asking them to imagine they have gone to the home of a friend and ask for some bread to feed a guest who has arrived.  The friend initially does not want to get up and answer the door because it is late at night… yet, he responds because of the persistent plea for help…
Jesus then told the disciples, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Ask… seek… and knock – these are the keys that unlock THE POWER OF PERSISTENT PRAYER“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Now, there is something that needs to be made clear here… when we pray, what we receive, what we find and what is opened to us will be what is in line with God’s perfect will for us… although it may look and feel quite different than what we may have originally asked…
God knows what we need even more than we do and God knows what is in our best interest which is why God gives us every good and perfect gift (see James 1:17).
Even more than earthly parents who hear the pleas of their children and respond accordingly, our heavenly Father hears us when we pray and gives us just what we need.
And the really good news is that God “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).
Sometimes, however, we get hung up on the fact that what God gives us is not what we were hoping to receive.  We thought that THE POWER OF PERSISTENT PRAYER was going to let us win the mega-million in the state lottery or marry Mr. or Mrs. Right or heal us or our loved ones from a serious accident or illness.
But just because we do not get the answer that we want does not mean God did not answer our prayer… including our persistent prayer.
It has been suggested that God will often answer our prayers in one of four ways:
  • When the request is not right, God says, “No.”
  • When the timing is not right, God says, “Slow.”
  • When the request and timing are right, but we are not right, God says, “Grow.”
  • And when the request is right and the timing is right and we are right, then God says, “Go.”
God loves us too much to give us everything we want simply because we want it.  Those lottery winnings may lead us down a path that ends up in bankruptcy because we were not in a position to know how to manage so much money.
Marrying who we thought was Mr. or Mrs. Right may have landed us in divorce court or worse… because we had no idea that person would be abusive or deceptive.
And even if we do not get the healing for ourselves or our loved ones that we hoped for on this side of heaven, we can hold onto God’s promise that, “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Because Jesus gave His life for us at Calvary… that means this world and this life… complete with all the pain and heartache that comes with it… is not all there is. We have the blessed assurance that the best is yet to come… when Jesus comes back for His bride, the church, that where He is, we may be also.  
But until that day comes, we can remain persistent in prayer… giving praise to God for His provision as well as His protection and for His promise of eternal life that is ours through the gift of His Son and our Savior.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Now, Jesus not only gave us the model prayer that is found in our text for today, throughout the Gospels we find Jesus taking time away to pray… demonstrating THE POWER OF PERSISTENT PRAYER.
And just as often as not, Jesus was not praying for Himself but rather, He was praying for others, including each one of us…
In Matthew 19 (13) we read, “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.”
In John 17 (11) we read, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”

And even on the night He was betrayed, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed… It is a prayer that is probably familiar to most, if not all of us, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (see Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:35 – 36, Luke 22:42).
Even in His moments of deepest anguish… to the point that Luke said, “His sweat was like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44) … even then Jesus’ prayer was for God’s will to be done… for Jesus’ life to be exchanged for ours… to be accepted as payment of the penalty that our sins deserved… “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The power of Jesus’ persistent prayer, prayed on our behalf, has given us the greatest gift we could ever hope to receive.  And who could ask for more than that?  Amen.
And in the spirit of persistent prayer, let us stand now and join now in singing our Hymn of Discipleship:  Sweet Hour of Prayer #570.