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PER·SE·VERE (Week 3)

Do you find it hard to pray? That's because sometimes it can be. Sometimes we don't know if God hears us, cares, or we may just be afraid of what the answer will be. Nonetheless, we are still called to persevere in prayer.

Before we open up on the importance of persevering in prayer, we want to take a brief aside to talk to those who may not feel like God hears or cares about your prayer. We get it, it can be hard, boring, and seem meaningless to pray if you don’t feel like you actually have a Father, God, who even cares. God tells us this: That when we call on Him, He will rescue us (Psalm 50:15) – He hears your cry and He wants to free you from whatever you are bounded by. God also cares about you deeply and we can see that from just a few of the things that He calls you.

God calls you chosen (Colossians 3:12), beloved (Deuteronomy 33:12), His child (1 John 3:1), His treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6), and the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8). These are just to name a few of the many great things that God calls YOU. He doesn’t wait until you pray to begin thinking these things about you. God calls you these things right now. He wants you desperately, God is jealous for you. God desires you because He loves you. He not only can hear you, but he wants to as well.

So how do we persevere in prayer? What does this look like and why does it pertain to me?

If we are going to be honest with ourselves, we need to first admit something. Some of the highest and most “on fire” seasons we have had in our lives are marked by a great, consistent prayer life. When we pray we are speaking to and reaching out to the one we are claiming we want to worship, live for, and live like. When we pray we are taking time, whether it be long or short, to step out of the noise and just speak to God. You are effectively shifting focus off of other things that are vying for your attention and placing it onto Him. When we are continuously clear the static and create moments with Him we will start seeing growth and direction and clarity, producing some of those great seasons.

But prayer is not always easy to do though right? Sometimes we don’t know how to, we don’t want to, we are afraid of the answer and so on.

Paul was a man who prayed with perseverance. The guy was a straight up prayer warrior. Paul gives us a great example of how to do this even in the face of adversity and opposition.

One way he did this was by praying for his friends, giving thanks for them but also encouraging them. He did this constantly to not only keep himself in the habit of praying but to tell his friends he is praying for them and give them hope.

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 1:4

“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers”

Ephesians 1:16

Paul does this constantly, always telling his friends that he is praying for them and thanking God that they are in his life. There are so many examples of this, we’ve included the following list just to emphasize the amount of times that he does this and that we too should be persistent in praying for our friends.

· 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

· 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5

· Philippians 1:3-4

· 1 Timothy 2:1

· 2 Timothy 2:1-3

· 2 Timothy 1:3

Paul didn’t write all these prayers in one group text either. He wrote them over years and years of his ministry. There’s no foul in praying a single time for your friend but one of the best ways we can reach out to a dear friend is by giving them our persevered, continued prayer. This does not include commenting on a friend’s social media post after something tragic and saying a single time “praying for you” or “you have my thoughts and prayers”

Do they?

Are you really pray-ING? Are you actively, countlessly, fervently praying for them? We want to challenge you to really set after some of your friends and say I’m praying for you, daily. Are you someone who has been told that before? It is awesome and quite frankly, totally different, to hear that someone is not just “thinking of you”, but they are reaching out to Jesus and pleading on your behalf consistently. Talk about serious encouragement.

One more note on persevering in your prayer. When we pray we need to be coming to it from a mindset of aligning our will with God’s. God has an answer for all prayers and just because it isn’t the one we want or isn’t the one we think we are going to get doesn’t mean He doesn’t want your prayers or that we get a pass on this one.

Paul prays for God to remove a “thorn in his side” three times in 2 Corinthians. We are not given any specifics into what or who this thorn is but the point for this is that God doesn’t end up removing it from Paul’s life. Paul pleads and begs three different times but God uses this weakness to show that He is enough.

Why did Paul pray a second and third time regarding this? Why didn’t God take it away? Paul's prayer was likely asking a very specific thing of God: please take this burden from me. God responds with no and so Paul keeps going. After some time has passed Paul again pleads in prayer a second time, Lord take this from me. God again responds with a no. A third time, Paul prays, God answers no.

There’s a shift in Paul that occurs that I think he wants all of us to someday come to as well. Paul changes his prayer regarding this; his will changes. God was answering no because He knew better, His will is perfect. He tells Paul that his grace is sufficient and that power is perfected in weakness. Paul in verse 9 and 10 tells us that instead of pleading that this burden and thorn be taken away, he will now boast of it because despite this pain and burden, despite whatever bad thing is happening to him, he is pleased with Christ and what He is doing in his life. Amidst the weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and pressures.

When we pray we are also asking for our will to align with the Lord’s, just as Paul’s ultimately turned to. You know the other best example of this in the Bible? It’s Jesus, right before He is captured for the last time.

Jesus, the son of God, who knows all things and can do all things, prays for something that even He knows will not be done. Jesus knew that He was going to die on the cross, so why did He pray that it might not have to happen? In Matthew 26 we see that he does this twice in the garden of Gethsemane. But what He says at the end is most crucial – Not My will but Yours.

It takes Paul three times to start to understand this. He prays for what he wants, which in this case wasn’t even a bad thing, but eventually he starts to see that God has a greater purpose. Jesus prayed knowing full well that the first half of His prayer was not going to be answered the way He wanted “If possible let this cup pass” but He was satisfied and pleasing the Lord with the second half “Not My will but Yours”

Persevere in prayer. Even when you don’t know that God is going to give you exactly what you want. Even if you are tired and think that there isn’t time in the day for it. Even if you already prayed for that person once before. C.S. Lewis says this in his book The Screwtape Letters :

The prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best… He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

You are your biggest threat to the enemy when you don’t want to do something and seemingly have all the reason in the world to not do it, but you still do. Men of God, persevere. Keep going and continue to run the good race. In the face of counter-influences, opposition, or discouragement, persevere.

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