I remember learning to ride a bicycle like it was yesterday. My uncle ran alongside me holding onto my seat, eventually letting go and shouting, “keep pedaling!” As soon as I stopped pedaling, I fell. I received quite a few scrapes and bruises that day, but that didn’t stop me. I continued to get back on the bike and start over. Eventually, and after several spills, I was off on adventures experiencing the joy of biking—even riding with no hands!

Determination in learning to ride a bike is one thing. I can handle physical bumps and bruises for a day or two. But what about mental or emotional wounds? I’ve found that a successful prayer life involves perseverance even when I’m let down and heartbroken, even when it feels as if I’ve been neglected and cast aside.

1 Thessalonians 5:17–18 reads, “Pray without ceasing, be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

To learn that God’s will is to pray without ceasing seems like a simple admonishment, but how does one continue in prayer after experiencing disillusionment from unanswered requests or an answer of “no” to a long-standing prayer? Several years ago, I was just coming out of a long season of infertility and my prayer life had become non-existent after years of prayerfully waiting for a child.

About that time, I started a new job working as a production assistant with the television program Day of Discovery. A few years into my new job I went on assignment to China. Our team took the three daughters of Eric Liddell, whose story is told in the movie Chariots of Fire, to their father’s gravesite for the first time. Their elderly Aunt Louise also accompanied us on the trip.

We met the ladies at the airport in Beijing and after walking to the bus with our heavy suitcases, I was alarmed to see Aunt Louise struggling to catch her breath. I sensed the Lord nudging me to place my hand on her and pray out loud, asking God to help her breathe.

I sat in my bus seat wrestling with the Lord. I just met these ladies—what if they weren’t Christians? What if I offended them? I would feel so awkward. And to be honest, I was still struggling because of my years of unanswered prayer for a child.

I decided to step out in spite of my doubts. I turned around in my seat and put my hand on Aunt Louise and prayed, “Lord, please help Louise to breathe!” After my prayer, there was an uncomfortable and awkward silence, even though her breathing improved. Still, my lack of faith made me question if I’d really heard from God at all.

A week later, on the last day of our trip, one of Eric’s daughters shared with me, “the night you placed your hand on my aunt and prayed for her to breathe, that was a eureka moment for me! For years I had abandoned my faith, but when you prayed that simple prayer, I realized the personal connection we have with Jesus and it has reignited my faith in Christ.”

What if I hadn’t prayed for Aunt Louise? What if I hadn’t pushed past my lack of faith and wrestling with God? Just like learning to ride my bike, what if I hadn’t gotten back up after my infertility “bruises”? What if I hadn’t gotten back up and continued “pedaling” in prayer? God doesn’t tell us to continue in prayer only when we get the answers we want, He simply says don’t stop. Keep pedaling. Keep praying.

Since then I’ve learned, through countless struggles and many tears, to persevere in prayer. And I have experienced a rich joy and seen the fruit of not giving up. It’s been over ten years since that trip to China. My prayer to have children was never realized, but I’ve experienced a vibrant, fulfilling life with Jesus that has been beyond anything I ever imagined it to be. The next time you struggle to pray, don’t let the crashes and disillusionment of life stop you—remind yourself of God’s past answers to prayer and when apathy becomes a road block ask Him to reveal what might be causing your indifference. The joy that awaits you on the other side is far more exciting than riding a bike with your hands in the air!

Julie Richardson

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