The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Just Keep Praying’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 4/26/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1Q4i4Sz
Taking His Time
Let’s acknowledge the obvious: not all of our prayers are answered right away. First John 5 says that if we ask according to God’s will, He hears us; and if He hears us, our prayers are as good as answered (vv 14-15). But we don’t always get our answer right away.
So what do we do in that awkward calm: when we know God hears us, but we haven’t seen anything happen yet? How can we make sure we keep ourselves in a posture where we’re ready and able to receive when He’s ready and willing to bless? And how can we avoid falling into the trap the enemy sets for us in his attempts to steal our blessings from us?
All of us are praying for something. Whenever we pray, God can have one of three responses: 1) yes, 2) no or 3) not now. But what about cases of physical healing, where we know God’s will is to heal? Why do our prayers bear fruit right away in some cases, and take a while to develop in others? And when we don’t see fruit right away, what does it mean?
If we don’t see an answer to a Biblical prayer, it can mean one of two things: either 1) we are not adequately prepared for God to resolve our concern, or 2) Satan is trying to keep God’s answer from us.
In some cases, we’re simply not prepared for God to bless us in the ways we ask to be blessed. In Proverbs 30:8, King Agur makes a strange request of God:
“Give me neither poverty nor riches – feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.”
The king knew that if he stayed poor, he would compromise God’s name by disobeying His commandments. But he also knew that if he got too rich, he would do exactly the same thing!
God promises to bless us with everything we need to go out and accomplish His will for our lives. This is Biblical prosperity. When it comes to promotion, God might withhold what we’re asking for until we’re truly ready to receive it. When was the last time you asked God to increase your income? Probably very recently. But when was the last time you asked Him to hold off on the increase until you were really ready to use it wisely?
Our son, Clive, is ten months old. He reaches for everything. If he can get his hands on a cup or glass on the table, he’ll knock it to the floor. He doesn’t do it on purpose; he just sees something, and he wants it; so he asks for it in his own, aggressive way. Because he grabs for everything, we have to be very careful as his parents. The other morning, he reached for my hot mug of coffee (don’t worry; he didn’t get too close). He thinks he wants it, but doesn’t realize that if he actually got a hold of it, he would get burned. Do you see where I’m going with this?
It’s actually in your best interest for God to hold onto your blessing until you’re ready to receive it. But this only applies when it comes to promotion; wanting something more than what you already have. It rarely applies in cases of restoration: asking God to restore something that has been lost or stolen.
Restoration vs. Promotion
When it comes to restoration, waiting on an answer to prayer likely has very little to do with you. If you’re contending for physical healing and you haven’t seen it yet in your own body, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. This is where we go wrong in the church. In cases of restoration, unanswered prayer usually means that the enemy is trying to prevent something from getting to you.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Eph 6:12
I am not one to harp on spiritual warfare. Satan has already been defeated. Death has already been beaten, and Jesus conquered the grave. There is no fight left to be won. There is, however, territory left for us to repossess in Jesus’ name! While we don’t have to go out and fight our enemy, we do have to be aware that Satan is real so we can take authority over him!
Case Study: Daniel
Daniel was a man of prayer. On several occasions, he prayed to God that He would reveal what would happen to the people of Israel. He was so committed to prayer that he even risked his life to pray , and ended up in a lion’s den, after King Darius made prayer illegal. But even Daniel didn’t always get his answers to prayer right away:
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar. The message was true, but the appointed time was long; and he understood the message, and had understanding of the vision. In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. – Dan 10:1-3
Daniel prayed, and he fasted. He did all the right things. But he still had to wait to hear from God. Finally, the answer came:
Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. – Dan 10:10-13
We see several things worth noting here. Daniel’s prayers had an immediate impact on heaven: his words were heard on the first day he prayed, and God’s messenger was immediately dispatched.
But Satan was standing in the way, trying to prevent Daniel from receiving the answer to his prayers. Daniel’s adversary sent a messenger to block God’s blessings from ever reaching him.
Could this be happening in your life? Is there something God wants to get to you that Satan is making sure doesn’t arrive? What’s your response in a situation like that? Do you cry out to God, and ask why He doesn’t want to bless you? Or do you acknowledge God’s faithfulness, identify the enemy you have in common with Him, and ask Him to send reinforcements?
Satan’s goal is to convince us that everything God sends is never going to arrive. When we take a delay in answered prayer to mean that God doesn’t love us, or want good things for us, Satan wins. But all we have to do to take back the victory is just keep praying.
Daniel didn’t see his prayers answered immediately, so he just kept praying. We see that as the result of his first prayer, God sent a messenger. We also see that as the result of his continuing, persistent prayer, God sent another messenger: Michael, one of the chief princes.
When you ignore what you don’t see yet, and just keep praying, God sends reinforcements. As reinforcements arrive, the enemy gets so tired and worn down that he abandons his opposition and we receive God’s blessings! We need to be persistent so the blessings God sends to us actually reach us!
Jesus exhorted His disciples to pray persistently:
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.
- Luke 18:1-8
Paul exhorted the disciples to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). Jesus said we should always pray, but then took it one step further: we should also pray without losing heart.
The widow in this story was seeking action from an unrighteous judge, and he complied. How much more will our Righteous Judge in heaven come to our aid! The widow in this story also had no advocate to fight on her behalf; but we have an Advocate in heaven Who is always willing to fight for us!
Notice that the widow never questioned if the judge could actually grant her petition. She knew he had the power and authority to make things happen. When she didn’t immediately see justice, she just kept asking. She was persistent, and eventually he sent more resources her way. The widow refused to be bound by the legal process (the Law), and made her petition directly to the Judge. The writer of Hebrews tells us to, “…boldly approach the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16) in the same way!
This widow knew how to be persistent. But there is a difference between being annoying and persistent. Persistence recognizes there’s something to be gained; annoyance, on the other hand, assumes there’s nothing to be had.
The point of praying without ceasing is not to be so annoying that God gives in; but rather to be so persistent that He is moved with compassion! Persistent prayer is a demonstration of faith. It means showing God we’re not afraid to hold out for the fullness of His promise. The enemy would love it if we settled for counterfeit blessing, and came up short on what God wants for us. But our responsibility as Christians is to hold out for the real thing!
God instructs us, His people, to never silence our prayer requests:
I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Give Him no rest. – Is 62:6-7
God’s hope for our lives is that we would just keep praying until we see something happen! He needs change to take place on this earth, and you and I are the men and women He will use as prayer warriors to make sure it comes to pass!
Just Keep Praying
In Luke 11, Jesus tells His disciples how to pray, with the prayer we’ve come to know as, “the Lord’s prayer” (Lk 11:1-4). Then, He goes on to tell His disciples to keep seeking, asking and knocking, until they receive what God needs them to have (Lk 11:9-13). But in between those exhortations, He sandwiches another lesson on persistent prayer:
And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. – Lk 11:5-8
The disciples had just learned how to pray, and Jesus immediately follows that teaching with instruction to never give up. When we are persistent, God will give us all the resources we need. Even when the enemy tries to intervene, God will continue to pour out resources from heaven until the enemy is completely overwhelmed by all the blessing coming towards us!
No matter what happens, just keep praying. If you feel like you can’t pray any more, just keep praying. If you feel silly, like you’ve made the same request one hundred times before, just keep praying. Your breakthrough might be released as you pray just one more time. If you can just pray one more time, you can get through anything. Even if you don’t see fruit right away, just pray one more time, and continue doing it until you see breakthrough!
There are other practical steps we can take when we’re waiting for our prayers to bear fruit. First, we can recruit more people to help:
“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
- Matt 18:19-20
God’s Word constantly exhorts us to stay in community: to live life together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Your church family is here to pray for you. God guarantees that whenever we get together and pray for other people, He will be right there in the middle!
There is also such as thing as spiritual momentum. Find someone in your church, or your community, who has recently had prayers answered. Find someone who has been seeing miraculous testimonies in his or her life. When God starts to deliver on some of His promises, the rest of the answers often come speedily:
For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
- Matt 13:12
As we experience miraculous testimonies, our faith grows; and as our faith builds, we have the confidence to step out and pray for other people! Find someone in your church who has been experiencing breakthrough, and ask him or her to pray for you!
He Will Act
God will act on our behalf. Whenever we pray, we must know that He will deliver on His word. He does not do it only for our sake. In fact, He has much more at stake than we could ever imagine:
For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; for how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another. – Is 48:11
When we pray to God, according to His will, His name is on the line. He will not prevent answers – heavenly resources – from getting to us when it is His will to supply them. But until we see them, we have only one task: just keep praying!
- by Pastor Mike White
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