Going the Distance
Jesus encouraged His disciples to “always pray and not give up” (luke 18:1). Persevering in prayer isn’t easy, but Scripture and history are full of examples that show how much it matters. Hannah prayed year after year that God would bless her with a baby (1 samuel 1:7), and Israel’s history was forever altered because of Samuel’s birth. Paul, Silas, and Timothy told the Christians in Thessalonica that they prayed “night and day” for them (1 thessalonians 3:10). Paul also told the church in Colosse about how Epaphras was “always wrestling in prayer” for them (colossians 4:12). God’s Word underscores again and again that we are to go the distance and “always keep on praying” (ephesians 6:18).
Still, sometimes we get discouraged. Especially if we’ve been praying for a number of years for someone to come to Christ and have seen little change. But don’t give up! It was in the middle of discouragement that Jeremiah was reminded that God’s “compassions never fail” and are “new every morning” (lamentations 3:22–23). If each day is filled with fresh new mercy from God, any day may be the day that darkness flees and “Christ the Morning Star shines” (2 peter 1:19 nlt) in the heart of someone you love as you persevere in prayer. It is “God’s kindness” that leads us to repentance (romans 2:4).
We have the assurance that we are asking for the best of all possible gifts when we pray for others to receive Jesus, and Jesus reminds us that our “Father in heaven” will “give good gifts to those who ask him” (matthew 7:11). The Bible also affirms that God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 peter 3:9). So we can pray expectantly with faith, knowing we are asking for something after the Father’s heart, even if it takes a long time.
George Müller told of encountering a missionary who was concerned for the salvation of each of his six sons. The man had prayed for many years without seeing a change and asked Müller for advice. Müller responded, “Continue to pray for your sons, and expect an answer to your prayer, and you will have to praise God.” Six years later Müller encountered the man again, who told him that five of the six came to the Lord within an eight day period two months after they had first met. The man was now praying confidently for his sixth son. What a difference it makes when we pray with faith!
We must pray boldly and faithfully, even though we may sometimes wait for years for an answer to our prayers. Müller confided on another occasion, “I have been praying every day for 52 years for two men, sons of a friend of my youth. They are not converted yet, but they will be!” Both of the men came to Christ shortly after Müller’s death.
We must humbly submit ourselves to God as we pray, seeking His will above our own and His purpose above all others. God’s Word assures us that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (james 5:16). Faithful prayer, including prayer with fasting, leaves a legacy of love and blessing in others’ lives as we intercede for them, whether we see it right away or not. Jesus told two parables on prayer in which boldness and persistence were the reason for the answer given (see the parable of the persistent friend in Luke 11:5–13 and the persistent widow in Luke 18:1–8). And when he taught on fasting, Jesus did not say “if you fast,” but “when you fast” (matthew 6:16, italics added). Clearly Jesus intends for us to pray passionately and with deep commitment, seeking His kingdom above all. How can we not, when so much is at stake?
Because of God’s kindness to us through Jesus, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” (hebrews 4:16), lifting up God’s “great and precious promises” (2 peter 1:4) as we cry out with compassion for those who are lost in darkness and facing eternity apart from Him. And as we love others with our prayers, we can be assured that our Savior “is also interceding for us” (romans 8:34) to help us in every way.
When Peter told the crowd on the day of Pentecost to “repent and be baptized,” he added, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (acts 2:38–39). Jesus is calling, calling lost souls out of darkness and into His everlasting love and light. He is also calling us to follow Him into a world which desperately needs the salvation only He can give. Pray and go! The “Lord of the harvest” (luke 10:2) is waiting. He has promised, “We will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (galatians 6:9).