Have you ever prayed for something or for someone for so long that you were tempted to give up? Have you grown weary of praying in your flesh but know in your heart you should continue?
If you have, you’re not alone. I have felt this many times. The Bible encourages us to remain steadfast through the stories of men and women who faced prolonged trials or challenges yet never gave up in prayer.
Examples of Persisting in Prayer in the Bible
Abraham persisted in prayer for Sodom (Gen. 18:23–33). Moses persevered in praying for Israel (Ex. 32:31–32;Deut. 9:25–29). Hannah continued to plead with the Lord for a son (1 Sam. 1:10–11). In Psalm 40:1, David wrote,
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
And Psalm 116:1–2 says,
I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The apostle Paul encouraged “praying at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18), being steadfast (Col. 4:2) and “constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12) and to “not be anxious about anything” but to pray about everything (Phil. 4:6). He said we should make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings . . . for all people” and that “in every place the men should pray” (1 Tim. 2:1–2, 8). He also wrote that praying without ceasing was God’s will for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:17–18).
Jesus Taught and Modeled Persistence in Prayer
Jesus told His disciples a parable of a persistent widow. It begins with an explanation of its meaning: “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). To “lose heart” means, “to lose one’s motivation in continuing a desirable pattern of conduct or activity, lose enthusiasm, be discouraged.”1
When Luke wrote this passage, he wanted to make Jesus’ point crystal clear: being persistent in prayer was important, even though the disciples would face harsh opposition, lose their motivation to pray, become discouraged, and be tempted to give up. Jesus knew His future disciples, you and me, would also need this encouragement.
We also read in the book of Luke how Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (5:16 NIV) and had a habit of going to the Mount of Olives to pray (22:39). During His short time on earth, Jesus modeled the importance of having consistent times alone with His Father in prayer.
While recounting Jesus’ prayer before His crucifixion, Luke used the imperfect verb form to describe Jesus’ prayer for the Father to remove the cup of suffering from Him, if He was willing (Luke 22:41–42). This communicates that Jesus continued in prayer, most likely voicing the same request in different ways. But as theologian Curtis Mitchell wrote, “A repetition of earnestness is to be distinguished from vain repetition.”2
Jesus persisted in heartfelt, humble prayer while surrendering to God’s will over His own. If Jesus modeled this while on earth, and especially before the most challenging trial of His life, how much more should we be praying, particularly during seasons of difficulty?
How Do We Persist in Prayer?
But how is it practically possible for us to persist in our prayer lives? How do we continue to pray for someone or some circumstance after weeks, months, or even years of praying without any apparent results? Here are four ways to persist in prayer.
1. We Persist by the Power of the Holy Spirit
The power to persist in prayer comes from the motivation and enablement provided by the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ final recorded words at His ascension in Acts 1:8, He told the disciples they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come.” In Romans 15:13 (NIV), Paul prayed, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
When praying to the God of all hope, it is His Spirit who provides the power to persist and to “overflow with hope,” even when we’re discouraged or the answers to our prayers seem delayed. With Spirit-filled and Spirit-empowered prayers, we will not lose heart but will have the endurance to persevere in praying to the God who is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).
In his book Kingdom Prayer, Dr. Tony Evans writes, “God addresses the losing-heart situation with power. He wants you to know He is able.”3 When our flesh fails and we feel unmotivated to pray in general or for a specific request, we need to have faith that Almighty God is able to answer our prayers and the Spirit is able to provide the power to continue.
If we do not pray with faith and the expectation that God not only hears our prayers but also has the power and ability to answer them, we will lose our motivation to pray. Dr. Evans goes on to say that as our prayers are fueled by the Spirit, “Rather than lose heart, you will gain momentum as you allow his power to become your strength.”4 Persistent prayer is possible when it is powered by the Holy Spirit and offered in faith to our miracle-working, prayer-answering God.
2. We Persist by Asking God for Help
When we ask God to help us persist in prayer, we know that this is in line with His will and we can be confident that this is a request He delights to answer (1 John 5:14–15). We can ask Him for a fresh filling of His Spirit to empower our prayers so we will be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might,” that each of us may have “endurance and patience” (Col. 1:11) in our prayer lives. Aren’t you glad we can persist by His strength and not by mustering up our own?
3. We Persist by Praying Together
I have found it to be helpful to ask others to join me in carrying a prayer burden. For example, I recently grew weary in praying for someone’s salvation, while one of my prayer partners was tired of praying for God to heal her physically. As we prayed for each other’s needs, I found that she gave me new things to pray for and new verses to pray through, which gave me a renewed passion to pray for my own requests. As Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT) says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Our prayer lives will not be quickly broken as we pray for and with each other.
4. We Persist by Resisting the Devil
You better believe that Satan wants to trick us into thinking that our prayers are powerless, useless, and ineffective so we’ll just give up. But as Paul explained in Ephesians 6, we can be strong in the Lord by putting on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10–17), which allows us to stand firm when Satan attacks. After explaining each piece of armor, Paul said to keep “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (v. 18). It is through prayer that we put on the armor of God, which protects us from Satan’s schemes.
I recently attended a conference for Moms in Prayer, an organization that facilitates prayer meetings for our children and their schools. Their founder, Fern Nichols, shared this photo to illustrate how powerful it is when believers pray together.5
When we pray together as the Body of Christ, we are stronger and not easily defeated. As we hold up our shields of faith together, we will extinguish any arrows of doubt or despair that may come our way. We can take our stand against Satan when we are protected by God’s armor and spurred on by the presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let’s Press On
Perhaps there have been times when you’ve prayed about something and it seemed like God didn’t answer your request. Or maybe He gave you an answer you didn’t like or intervened in a way that was different than what you asked for. This is where the surrender and yielding to God that Jesus modeled in the Garden of Gethsemane comes into play. We can be free to pray according to our heart’s desires (Rom. 10:1), but we must release our wills, dreams, hopes, ambitions, plans, and even our desires to the all-wise, sovereign God. We can trust that His ways and plans for us are always best.
I have had many prayer requests that have required me to persist in prayer. I have two daughters and a son, but due to infertility, each pregnancy was preceded by years of prayer—and I’m not exaggerating when I say years! I have and will continue to pray for the salvation of family members and other loved ones. I also continue to pray for the requests of others that have not yet been answered, like friends to heal, spouses to get saved, marriages to be restored, prodigals to come home, financial problems to be resolved, and addictions to be broken.
Is there a relationship or circumstance where you’re tempted to lose heart in praying? It’s no coincidence that you are reading this post today. God wants you to persevere in your praying . . . and so do I! While you continue steadfastly in prayer, know I’m right there with you in my own prayer life, persisting, asking, seeking, and knocking before the throne of grace.
My prayer for you today is that you would not lose your passion, motivation, or enthusiasm in prayer. Since we always harvest what we plant, let’s continue to sow seeds of prayer in our own lives and on behalf of those around us, because we know we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:7–9). May we be women who “run with endurance” in our prayer lives (Heb. 12:1).
Let’s continue to ask God for His help, allow His Spirit to empower us, and pray with and for each other while wearing the full armor of God, so we can resist any temptations from the enemy to ever give up. I’m recommitting to persist in my longstanding prayer requests today. Will you join me?
1 W. Arndt and F.W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 272.
2 Curtis Mitchell, “The Case for Persistence in Prayer,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (June 1984): 162.
3 Tony Evans, Kingdom Prayer: Touching Heaven to Change Earth (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2016), 69.
4 Ibid., 72.