How many times do you think we should pray for something? There are those who declare that once you pray over a matter—either for a soul to be saved, for someone to be healed, for a domestic situation, or for any thing—repeating that same prayer indicates unbelief.
Think about that for a moment, because it’s very important to understand the ramifications of that position. Let’s restate the question more specifica1ly. If you ask God in prayer to save your son, should you never ask Him again? If you ask God to guide you in a decision, should you never seek guidance in that same situation again? If you ask the Lord to help you solve financial problems, are you never to pray concerning finances again?
I am often asked how many times we should pray for something. My answer is always, “Let’s see what the Word of God has to say concerning your question.”
Jesus “spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray, and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). The Master Himself epitomized this concept. He prayed continually, and He never lost heart. Since Jesus is our model, we should follow His example.
Remember, as believers, we’re involved in spiritual warfare. This is no game, no child’s play. We’re not wrestling “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
Spiritual Soldiers Fight until They Win
In a war you fight to win. If you’re a good soldier, you dig in and fight until you win. You don’t quit. This same principle applies to spiritual soldiers involved in spiritual warfare. It applies to prayer. You cannot afford to be a quitter in anything, especially in prayer.
You may be involved in a spiritual battle to see someone come to the Lord, so you pray earnestly a time or two, or for a week or a month. If you don’t see any progress, you quit. Do you realize that you may have quit just an hour, just a day too soon? And that if you had not lost heart and quit, the victory would have been yours.
I thank God that throughout history there were people who didn’t tire of praying. Martin Luther prayed many times before he was able to take a strong, public stand that “the just shall live by faith,” and win his spiritual freedom. John Wesley prayed many times before his “heart was strangely warmed” at Aldersgate and the course of his life, as well as the course of his country, was changed. The founders of our country prayed many times before God removed all the barriers and the United States of America became a reality.
Now, back to the opening question: If you pray more than once for anything, is the second prayer a prayer of unbelief?
My answer is a firm, unequivocal no! I cannot accept that theological precept, and I urge you to open the pages of Scripture with me to examine both sides of the question.
We will first examine the account of the Israelite’s assault upon an “impregnable” enemy city.
And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. Then it shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat” (Josh. 6:2-5).
Joshua had sense enough to do exactly what God told him. He didn’t argue and ask, “Lord, why should we march more than one time? Why should we pray more than once? Aren’t You able to perform a miracle with just one prayer?”
Joshua obeyed God and the people marched. They marched and they prayed. They did it one day; God said, “Do it again.” They did it the second day; God said, “Do it again.” This action was repeated until God’s command was fulfilled to the letter. Then the miracle happened.
They prayed their way around that city thirteen long, weary times before the answer came.
But when they obeyed God, He gave them the miracle they sought.
If they had left the Ark (the symbol of God’s presence) behind when they marched, the miracle would not have been given them. If they had let the trumpeters remain in camp on the seventh day, the miracle would not have happened. If they had ceased praying after the first, or the second, or even the twelfth time, the miracle would not have happened. But they persisted in prayer as God commanded, and they got their miracle.
Why did God say to march around the city once a day for six days, then seven times on the seventh day? I don’t know. I only know that when Joshua and the people obeyed God, He gave them a mighty miracle. He gave them the hitherto “impenetrable” city of Jericho. It fell to the Israelites without a fight.
There are reasons for answered prayer. The first and foremost is obedience—strict, absolute obedience. There are also reasons for unanswered prayer. The first and foremost is disobedience.
I believe prayer is like the ocean tides. When the tide begins to roll in, the water is low and the beach is covered with flotsam and trash. Then a wave rolls up higher. The next ones come up farther. Soon each successive wave is lapping even higher upon the shore. And as each one pushes its way farther up on the beach it washes away the trash.
Prayer is like the tide. Pray. Pray again. Pray again. Each time you pray, the devil is defeated again. Each time you pray, more is accomplished. More clutter and trash are washed away, and the miracle you desire is closer to realization. Each time you pray for a situation or person, it’s like another march around Jericho, or like another wave on the beach. Though you don’t see the answer, it is being accomplished!
So you pray till the answer comes. Like the march around Jericho, the city will fall down.
Like the tide, it will come in.
Elisha’s Persistence Resulted in a Miracle of Healing
There was no doubt about it; the child was dead. Elisha’s servant reported it to his master. This child was a special child, a child of promise. The Shunammite woman had longed for a child, but her husband was old, and she despaired of having one. Now, just as the prophet had predicted, she had a child. But tragedy had struck. The child had died. She sent for Elisha.
And he [Elisha] went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh of the child became warm. He returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and stretched himself out on him; then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes (2 Kings 4:34-35).
This is an outstanding miracle of healing that took place because a man of God would not give up easily. He stretched himself out on the child, praying as he did so, several times before the miracle of healing occurred.
He could have given up and buried the child. But he refused to do so. Once was not enough, so he came back and repeated the performance. And the child was brought back to life.
Persistence Brought Healing to Naaman
Naaman was a mighty general of the Syrian army. He had wealth and power. He had everything he needed. But he had something he didn’t need—leprosy. If his leprosy were to be discovered, he would become an outcast. Something had to be done. It was a serious situation.
The Jewish maid of General Naaman’s wife suggested that he go to Elisha the prophet.
“Elisha will cure you of your leprosy,” she promised.
Naaman refused to visit a mere prophet. He presented himself to the King of Israel with his request. When Elisha heard of the request, he sent a messenger to Naaman telling him what to do:
“Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean (2 Kings 5:10-14).
At first Naaman was angry at being sent to the tiny, muddy Jordan River. But he finally went. You can be sure that with each of his dips in that river he prayed, “God, make me clean. God, make me clean.”
After a dip he was still leprous. But he dipped again.
After the second time under, he checked himself. His skin still bore the marks of the disease.
So he dipped again. And again. Each time he prayed.
God blessed his persistence. He was healed.
Jesus Taught Persistence in Prayer
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). In this parable, Jesus told of a persistent widow who came to the judge again and again with her requests until they were granted.
On one occasion, even Jesus prayed for a blind man twice.
Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly (Mark 8:22-25).
Persistence! Even our Lord demonstrated it by His life, by His very action. He did not give up until the miracle came!
Even the great apostle Paul believed in praying more than once. “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me” (2 Cor. 12:8). Paul didn’t give up praying until the Lord showed him the answer. If Jesus didn’t give up, and if Paul didn’t give up, then we shouldn’t give up. We should hang in there until the answer comes.
Jesus Persisted in Prayer at Gethsemane
Just before going to the cross, our Lord spent a night in prayer. He admonished His disciples:
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words (Matt. 26:41-44).
Jesus, our Lord and Savior, believed in praying more than once, saying the same words when He did so.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we have scores of illustrations of those who believed it necessary to hold on in prayer until the answer came, even if the matter must be presented to God several times.
Therefore, on the basis of biblical evidence, I urge you, my friends: don’t give up in prayer.
Don’t give up.
My mother prayed for my father for seventeen years before the answer came. If anything is worth praying for, it’s worth doing it right. Pray and pray again. Write down your request; write it on the wall of your room if necessary. But pray. Repeat your request. Repeat it with thanksgiving and praise to the Father. But repeat it. And in His perfect timing our loving heavenly Father will give you what you need. You can count on it.