Why Persistent Prayer Is So Difficult

Most of my blog posts are a personal reflection of something I am learning, experiencing or with which I am struggling. The latter fits this post. I’ve recently admitted to myself, and God, that my prayer life is nearing extinction. I pray throughout the day, but the fervor and the dedicated times of prayer have waned. I’ve found myself needing to go back to training camp for a refresher on the basics of living a life that honors God. Prayer, persistent prayer, is one of these basics.

sharkThe Shark Who Gave Up

There was a study I remember from my psychology class in college that left an indelible impression upon me. A shark was put into one side of a tank which was divided by a clear glass panel. On the other side of the tank was a school of smaller fish—a perfect dinner for the shark. The shark would dart toward the fish, but each time it would ram its nose into the glass barrier. The shark tried and tried again. Each time it scurried toward a fish it would abruptly hit the glass. Finally, the shark gave up and quit darting toward the smaller fish. What happened next in the study is truly fascinating.

The glass barrier was then removed from the tank. Both the shark and the smaller fish were free to roam throughout the tank; and they did. With the barrier gone there was nothing to prevent the shark from attacking and consuming the smaller fish. However, the shark was so accustomed to the failure of attacking the fish, and to the pain resulting from bashing into the invisible barrier, it never attacked the easy prey!

We can become like that shark. We pray and pray with only painful results. In the words of Casting Crowns, we “say ‘Amen’ and it’s still raining.” Drenched, we quit praying.

It’s Still Raining

Typically, it’s a specific need; something that is extremely personal and meaningful to us. It may the one thing we want God to do more than anything else. It may a need in our family, a relationship, an illness or simply the freedom to live a day or two without financial worry. Often, it’s a prayer that has been repeated for years or decades. We’ve grown weary of praying without results. The silence of God is excruciating.

What is our response when we go through seasons of seemingly “no response” to our prayers? We pray, and pray, and pray and not only do we not receive the answers we are desiring, but we sense no response from a God who is purported to love us. “What’s the use? I give up.” “Why spend time in doing something that doesn’t bring reward, only pain?” We grow weary of the failure and pain of unanswered prayer and the lack of response and, therefore, we are tempted to stop praying. –Our prayer life becomes extinct.

Many of us would agree we don’t understand all aspects of prayer. We may know there isn’t a magic formula or “four easy steps” to answered prayer. Determining which prayers are according to the will of God can often be a mystery. Yet, one thing we can know is we are not to give up on the God who calls us to prayer.

…and Not Give Up

The 18th chapter of the Gospel of Luke begins with these words, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

I find comfort in Jesus acknowledging this struggle so common to me, and perhaps to you.

Why would Jesus make such a point about persistent prayer? The answer: He knew what many of us now know: We are tempted to give up on seeking God through prayer. Jesus knew some of us would have a tendency to let our prayer life go the way of the dinosaur.

Jesus doesn’t give us a college lesson on prayer. Rather, by using the simple story of a widow repeatedly going to a judge, he reminds us to keep at it–to not give up.

The experiment with the shark is a lucid illustration of how we can give up and miss exactly what we crave. I can’t always explain the lack of a desired response from God, yet continuing in prayer in the face of silence is a choice that is foundational to our faith.

Y’all pray for me.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Great post Jack – and I’m guilty as charged and aspire to make God pervasive – every decision, every task, every relationship he can be consulted!



  2. Posted by Ed Bull on June 22, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for your transparency Jack, if we all would admit we all struggle with long persistent prayer. I ask that The Lord would change the situation or to change me. When neither happens and there’s no clarity it gets put on the back burner. It’s difficult sometimes because there may be a grey area and it’s hard to understand how to pray specifically with confidence in faith because he could answer my prayer in different ways. But long term persistent prayer normally for me means he needs to take me to a place I’m not prepared for yet or he is preparing the proper circumstances to bring about his purposes in that situation. How many times do I give up too soon, miss the opportunity to see The Lord work out his masterpiece. To Go be the Glory Great things he Done! Thanks for the encouragement.

    Ed Bull


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: