Perseverance: “…to persist in anything undertaken; to maintain a purpose despite difficulty, obstacles or discouragement; to continue steadfastly.“
There ought to be no doubt in our mind that the practice of biblical prayer demands perseverance. It ought to be one of the easiest things, since the most basic definition of prayer is “talking to God”. However, the most seasoned Christians will tell you that there are many obstacles, difficulties and discouragements in the way of prayer in this world of sin, where our hearts and minds are so often weighed down by so many matters of secondary and lesser importance. The Lord Jesus anticipated this and that is why, I believe, He attaches this teaching on perseverance in prayer in addition to the outline of prayer given in response to the question of one of the disciples: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1).
Before we move on to the subject of perseverance in prayer (Lk 11: 5-13) allow me to repeat what we have said over the last two Sundays concerning the “Lord’s prayer”.
The order of this prayer suggests that there is a structure to prayer. We are called begin with God and His Name and His kingdom and thereafter we are invited to present all our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. This is what is suggested in Matthew 6: 33 :
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you…”
This simple outline is profoundly comprehensive. Everything is covered here. God is at the top of the prayer agenda as He is remembered, worshipped and honoured. This is followed by the invitation to present all our daily needs to God. Prayer is speaking to the God who knows everything, sees everything and who can do everything. So we must not think that prayer is an information session, for we cannot add any knowledge to God. David says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold O LORD you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4). Neither is the purpose of prayer to remind God, just in case God forgets! God is not a man . He who has planned and executed every detail of this universe continues to uphold everything by His perfect knowledge.
So prayer is a gift from God, and it is for our benefit. He invites us and enables us to speak to Him. Christ is the Mediator through whom we have access into His presence. That is why we pray to God the Father in the Name of Jesus. In prayer we speak to God like a child would speak to a father. The father is the child’s provider, and the child trusts him to provide his essentials. The father has the resources, and the father has the knowledge concerning what is really needed and what is really important, and what is not important or beneficial.
And so, as the Lord Jesus teaches His disciples these principles of prayer, there is now an added matter- that of persevering in prayer! In verses 5- 13 He addresses 2 questions which we would often ask in connection with the matter of perseverance in prayer :
1. How much of prayer is my responsibility? How much effort must I put into prayer and how long must I persevere in order to obtain an answer?
2. Why and on what basis should God be obliged to answer my prayer, and why does it often take time before He answers prayer?
1. My Responsibility – Patience and Perseverance in Prayer
By means of a simple story Jesus teaches us an important fact about prayer. A man goes to the house of his friend at midnight, and asks him for food. He tells him that a friend has arrived unexpectedly from a journey and he has no food to set before him. You will understand that for a man in bed with his family all tucked in, this is an inconvenient hour, and yet amidst protests (v.7) the man perseveres and gets what he wants.(v.8)
The point of the story is simple: If perseverance in asking works so well between man and man, how much more may we expect when we persevere in prayer with God? May I remind you that Jesus used this illustration to encourage us not to give up in prayer – particularly in relation to those prayers that carry God’s approval. Your duty is to persevere in prayer! In fact, perseverance is one of the ways in which you show that you really mean business with God!
Your duty is to persevere by asking: If the man had not asked his friend for bread, he would not have received it. The same is true for prayer. If we do not ask God, then we must not expect to receive. Jesus encourages us to ask perseveringly : “…ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find ; knock, and it will be opened to you…”. The matter of asking with perseverance is taught here and later again in Luke 18:1-8, in the parable of the persistent widow, where it is explicitly said that “… he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1). We must learn to persevere in prayer.
Your duty is to persevere by asking with sincere motives: We are making this point because we do need to understand that our prayers are not always answered immediately for we often ask in the wrong spirit or with wrong motives. Thus James tells us: “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:2,3). Now the man in Jesus’ story had a sincere and legitimate need. There was no issue of wrong or of hidden motives or self-gain implied in his asking. He was asking for three loaves of bread, and this for another person who had suddenly arrived on his doorstep, and who needed something to eat.
James makes the point that asking (praying) in a context of unconfessed and ongoing quarrels and fighting and covetousness causes God to be deaf to our prayers.  A self -centered spirit as is described by James perverts our prayer life, and we will not receive anything from God.
This partially answers our question as to why God keeps us sometimes waiting in terms of an answer to prayer. Often God teaches us in a time of waiting to confess our sins. At other times we learn adjust our prayers, or to drop them altogether as we discover that our motives have been wrong or misdirected. At other times it is just a matter of God’s sanctifying work within us by which He teaches us to be patient and perseverant. It is important to understand these things as we turn to the next point.
Your duty is to persevere with boldness! The story of “the friend at midnight” teaches us something else. Be persistently bold in your prayers! This man knew that he would get what he wanted from his friend. Why? Jesus says, firstly because he was his friend, and secondly because of his persistence.(v.8). Now notice that Jesus is building up to His final argument, illustrating in verses 9-13 that God is our friend, and as such He is neither tight fisted nor unsympathetic to our urgent pleading. He is after all our Father in heaven (11:2,13). Both, Abraham and Moses are good examples of men ‘urgently arguing ‘ with God on behalf of their people. They are clearly doing this on the basis of their relationship with Him. God was very real to them. We learn from their example, and from Jesus example here and in Luke 18:1ff that God is not offended if you ask with boldness and persistence. He is your Father and He is your friend. He is for you and not against you.
The secret of bold prayer lies in understanding and appropriating ‘the promises of God’ – the things that He has clearly said and promised in the Scriptures. We pray on solid ground when we ask according to the promises of God’s Word. Spurgeon says : “Our prayers are according to the mind of God when they are according to the word of God.”
Monica, the godly mother of Augustine (b. 354 A.D), the North African Church father prayed for him relentlessly before his conversion. I quote this transcript of a prayer of Monica, Augustine's mother, as a beautiful example of this earnestness and simplicity of faith in pleading the promises of the word :
2. God’s Responsibility: Faithful, Fatherly Love
So, how much commitment can I expect from God when I present my prayer persistently and boldly and without selfish motives to Him? The answer is this: God is fully committed to answer every God honouring request in prayer! The biblical basis for this is found in verses 11 & 12 : “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? “ Your heavenly father is good and kind. He will not give you something evil in return for a reasonable request. So if you ask what is God glorifying (Your kingdom come – i.e. to see souls saved- your children or family members saved), and if you ask for what you need (daily bread; forgiveness and power to forgive; escape from temptation) will God refuse you these things? No! He has promised to look after your daily physical, emotional and spiritual needs. The basis for this is the fact that God is a good, caring Father to His children. A good father does not ignore the legitimate needs of his children. He may not give them everything that they want, but He will provide everything that they need. That is good parenting. Even if the answer is “no” or “wait a little longer” it is a good answer and a loving response, and it is for our benefit. How thankful we can be that God does not always grant us the desires of our heart. Standing at this particular point in life, and looking back, I can say with gratitude: ”Thank you Lord that you did not grant me certain things which I had asked, and that you have closed certain doors.” So, God will withhold no good thing from me; yet at the same time I know that He will not grant me anything that would set me back spiritually, for the chief reason for which I exist is to glorify God.
A brief comment on the last verse : “ If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (v.13) In giving us the Holy Spirit, God gives us Himself , and in giving us Himself He gives us everything that we need and desire :
· Salvation to eternal life which is the work of the Holy Spirit ; this promise is for us and our children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:39)
· Sanctification, which is power from the Holy Spirit for holy living.
· Spiritual Gifts - the ability to work effectively in the kingdom of God and in our local church through the spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit gives us.
Persevere in prayer then, dear brothers and sisters. God is for you. But be prepared for Him to work in you while you pray . Ultimately we persevere because He perseveres with us . Amen!
 Jesus was probably asked this many times, and when He did He gave this outline which we find in Matthew 6:9-13 and also here in Luke 11:2-4, which clearly were different occasions.
 The 10 commandments ( Ex 20:1-17) follow a similar pattern : God and His honour first , and then the various human relationships .
 God is deaf to our prayers when we deliberately and habitually sin against Him : see for instance Jeremiah 7:17 ; 11:14; 14:11
 E.g. Genesis 18: 22-32 ( Abraham) ; Exodus 32:11-14 ( Moses)
 Quoted in Charles Bridges commentary on Psalm 119 : 76 p.207
 Augustine’s insights in this regard are remarkable ( Sheed : p.72)
 Confessions of Augustine : translated by F.J. Sheed , p.141f
 Westminster Catechism : Question 1 : “What is the chief end of man?” Answer : “The chief end of man is to worship (glorify) God and to enjoy Him forever. “