This coming church year one of the areas that the elders want the church to focus on is the area of corporate prayer. That’s why we’ve set aside quarterly times for the whole church to gather and pray (the first one is Aug 26th). We can also pray together in our home groups and in our homes. How often our devotional prayers are characterized by coldness or unbelief or just going through the motions. Praying with others is often a means of grace in that we are called to be more engaged more alert and more in faith than when we are praying by ourselves.
Prayer is hard work; there is no getting around it. And like every other area of the Christian life we want to keep working at growing in God’s grace in these areas. In fact, praying in faith and praying with persistence go hand in hand. We should be praying persistently because we are praying in faith—believing the Lord according to his promises.
PRAYING IN FAITH
Praying in faith involves exercising our spiritual muscles. Sometimes as Reformed believers we can tack on “if it be thy will” to our prayers in a way that isn’t helpful. We do this in connection to Jesus' own prayer in Gethsemane, “not my will, but yours, be done.” But his prayer falls more into a prayer of consecration rather than a prayer of petition. If you examine Jesus’ interactions with people in the gospels, he doesn’t focus on the consecration type of prayer but praying in faith. He is often either commending them because of their faith or reproving or chiding them (or even condemning them) for their unbelief. This call to exercise one’s faith may seem to contradict the sovereignty of God, but it actually falls—mysteriously—under his providence.
Each person has been given a measure of faith, and we are to exercise that faith for fruitful ministry (e.g., Rom 12:6). It takes effort and time soaking in the Word and promises of God for our faith to grow. Hebrews 11 motivates us to do so because it tells us that he who comes to God must believe that he exists and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him (v. 6).
PRAYING WITH PERSISTENCE
If we look at the lives of believers in Scripture we see their faith as they sought God and believed him persistently. In Isaiah 62, the Lord says “You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth” (62:6–7). God loves and actually encourages us to remind him persistently of his promises and plans. Jacob demonstrates this type of persistence in Genesis 32 while wrestling with an angel (or God himself): “Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’” Jacob was motivated to “strive with God” because he had heard that his brother Esau (the one he cheated/deceived out of his father’s inheritance) was coming to meet him with 400 men. He desperately needed the grace and protection of God.
In Romans 4 Paul commends the faith of Abraham because
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Rom 4:18–21)
Jesus takes this idea of persistence even further when in Luke 11 he tells the story of a man going to his friend late at night to obtain some bread:
“I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence [shameless persistence, unembarrassed boldness] he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:8–9)
WE WILL NOT LET YOU GO UNTIL…
In our corporate and private prayer we want to pray for God’s kingdom to come and for his name to be hallowed. We want to pray that God would move in a powerful way in our lives, our church, our denomination, our area and throughout the earth. Let us be those who are devoted to God honoring, shameless, persistent prayer that says to God, “We will not let you go until you bless us, until you do great things for your glory and for our good.”