Even though the extravagant prayer promise by Jesus has its discernible qualifiers, we are nonetheless encouraged to pray in wholesale fashion. When the Apostle Paul is bringing encouragement to the church at Thessalonica, he says this: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18 In three diminutive verses Paul fashions for us a lifestyle for a lifetime. If you’ve ever questioned God’s will for your life or your purpose in life, it is answered here: worship all the time, pray all the time and be grateful all the time.
I’ll be the first to admit that prayer is a bit of a mystery. And I’ll also admit that I know more about the mechanisms and pedagogies of prayer than my own fidelity to Paul’s brief prescription. Prayer is hard – at least real prayer. I pray quite a lot; yet, I’m quite certain I don’t pray enough. I’ve only known brief seasons of praying without ceasing. Moreover, it wasn’t just Paul who said it, Jesus mentioned much the same in one of his many parables: Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. ~Luke 18:1 That which follows is the story of a poor widow driving a local, unjust, agnostic judge crazy with her persistent pleas for justice. As the story progresses he finally grants her request, if only to get her out of his judicial hair. Jesus contrasts this unseemly judge with God the Father. If this uncaring, compromised judge gives in to a persistent widow for whom he feels nothing, then how much more will God grant the persistent requests of his own children whom he does love?
So, there seems to be a bit of heavy-lifting required on our end. I don’t know why. But we’re asked to pray and not get discouraged in so doing. I can only guess that something necessary is happening inside of us. If we’ve grown tired of praying a certain prayer, perhaps heaven has waited us out for our own good. The wisdom of a “no” becomes evident with time and a “no” is certainly one type of answer to prayer. But more often, I believe, he is using our persistent prayer to craft and shape us as we pray – making us ready to receive both the blessing and the burden of a “yes.”