I have often been asked, “Pastor Ronnie, how long should I pray for something?” I do not believe there is a Christian anywhere in the world today who has not asked at one time or another, “How long should I pray for something?” Years ago, some began to teach that if you really had enough faith, you would only have to ask God once for something. In fact, it went beyond that. If you did ask more than once, you were doubting God and not having the kind of faith God wanted to see.
I did not believe that principle then and I certainly do not believe it now. I believe this teaching is in total contradiction to the teaching of Jesus Christ.
Why do Christians struggle with the question of how long we should pray for something in life? I believe there are three reasons.
- The Issue of Faith
Every growing Christian wants to live by faith. However, when a prayer request has been continually presented to God with no outward response from God, a tension occurs within us. This tension has to do with the subject of faith. How long is too long to pray about something? Does my need to keep praying indicate a lack of faith? Where does faith fit into what I am presenting to the Lord in prayer?
- The Issue of Guilt
If you are committed to prayer in your life, you know that you will continually battle with Satan. In fact, you will endure some of the toughest battles with him while you pray. Many times he will come to you while you are praying and attempt to discourage you. He will tell you, If you had any faith, you would not keep on asking God about that. Or Satan may whisper in your ear, Your heart is filled with doubt, so God is not going to answer your prayer.
All of a sudden you begin to wonder, How long should I pray for this? Guilt begins to flood your soul because you are asking God about it so much of the time when you talk to Him. Satan has been the author of creating doubt in your heart about whether or not you are doing the right thing by praying to God.
- The Issue of Uncertainty
When you do not know how long you are to pray for something, you experience an element of uncertainty. When you operate in the lane of uncertainty, your faith seems to come to a standstill. Uncertainty breeds doubt in your life.
You see, what you may struggle with at times are the same things each of us struggles with. The issues of faith, guilt, and uncertainty do not need to invade any of our hearts.
So how long should we pray for something in life? Let me answer this for you:
I believe you need to pray it through until the breakthrough comes and the answer becomes clear.
What Jesus Taught about Praying It Through
Jesus was the Master Teacher of prayer. Your prayers and your prayer life should be a mirror of His prayers and His prayer life.
In the Scriptures, Jesus taught us the following truth about prayer:
He said to them,
Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? — Luke 11:5–13
When you understand this parable, you will know what it means to pray it through. Let me place this passage in context for you.
One of Jesus’ disciples admired His prayer life so much that he asked Him,
Lord, teach us to pray. — Luke 11:1
Jesus immediately responded by teaching the disciples what is called the Lord’s Prayer. After He presented this model prayer, Jesus used a masterful illustration.
Suppose you had a friend who came to your home unexpectedly at midnight. This friend did not have anything to eat the entire day. Since you had not been expecting his visit, you were not prepared to give him anything to eat. Desperate to find some food to offer him, you crossed the street to a neighbor’s house and began to knock on your neighbor’s door. You yelled, “I need three loaves of bread.” Your neighbor was sleeping when you awakened him, and he yelled back at you, “Leave me alone! My family and I are trying to sleep, and I am not going to get up and give you anything.” You were tempted to walk away from the house, but you decided not to do so. Instead, you knocked on the door again and repeated your request. Because of your persistence, your neighbor eventually got out of bed and gave you whatever you needed.1
After giving this illustration, the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, made the following declaration:
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. — Luke 11:9
The literal translation of this in the original language of the New Testament reads something like the following:
Ask and keep on asking, and it shall be given to you. Seek and keep on seeking, and you will find. Knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
I want you to pay close attention to what Jesus was saying to us about prayer. He wants us to be persistent in our prayers — to keep on asking, to keep on seeking, and to keep on knocking until God answers our request.
Asking is a very important element in prayer. When you ask God for something in prayer, you are recognizing His authority over you and submitting your request to Him in faith that He will answer.
Seeking is another important element in prayer. Jesus taught you not only to ask Him for things in prayer but to seek after God in prayer. If you need a job, it’s not good enough to pray, Lord, I need a job. Give me a job. You know my phone number, so have them call me or text me.
This is a low view of God, because He wants you not only to seek Him in prayer about the job but to pursue that job at the same time.
Knocking is another important element in prayer. Knocking indicates that you go beyond asking and seeking in going after what you need. It is being persistent with your request. It is taking the request to a new and different level.
Jesus taught you to ask and keep on asking. He taught you to seek and keep on seeking. He taught you to knock and keep on knocking.
Jesus was teaching the importance of not giving up in prayer. Jesus was teaching the importance of praying something through.
Think back to Jesus’ masterful parable of persistence. When you ask someone for bread, you are submitting to his or her authority to give you the bread. When you are seeking, you are traveling to the neighbor’s house for the purpose of having your need for bread met. When you are knocking persistently at your neighbor’s door, the neighbor will meet your need.2
As the Lord Jesus instructed His disciples in prayer, He began to ask them some questions. He asked,
How many of you as fathers would give your son a snake if he asks you for a fish? — Luke 11:11
My children know I am no snake handler, so they would definitely not receive a snake. Then Jesus asked,
If your children ask you for an egg, how many of you would give them a scorpion? — Luke 11:12
I do not handle scorpions either, especially after I was once bitten by a brown recluse spider.
As a father, I do not know another father who would give these kinds of gifts to his children. But then Jesus turned the discussion into another question in relationship to the heavenly Father:
If you, since you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall I as your heavenly Father know how to give good gifts to you? — Luke 11:13
Jesus assured us that the heavenly Father will be a better father to us than any earthly father could ever be to his children. God always knows what is best for you. Just as you would only give to your children what they need, your Father in heaven will only give you what you need. God is the perfect Father.
- Woodrow Kroll, When God Doesn’t Answer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 157.
- Kroll, 157.
Excerpted with permission from How to Pray by Ronnie Floyd, copyright Ronnie Floyd.
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Are you still praying for the breakthrough? Keep going! Are you still battling spiritually for God to make a way, to bring healing, to draw someone you love to Himself? Keep praying! Come share your thoughts on persevering in prayer. We want to hear from you!