Memory Verses :
"I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence,
And give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth."
-- Isaiah 62: 6, 7
I for one, struggle with this whole issue of persistence in prayer. To keep asking God for the same thing over and over, seems to me to be an insult to Divine Intelligence and an admission of my own lack of faith. The Scripture clearly teaches that God knows what we have need of before we even ask (Matthew 6: 8), and that if we pray in faith we can expect even mountains to be removed (Mark 11: 22 - 24). I have heard and read leading proponents of the 'faith movement' who seem to agree with me. They say that if you truly believe God, pray and ask for what you will and don't ask any more, but instead just thank Him for having already done it.
Why then, does it seem as if we are enjoined time and time again in scripture to keep persistently praying about unanswered petitions? In Luke 18: 1 - 8, the Lord goes as far as to compare the believer's perseverance in prayer to the persistence of a widow petitioning and unjust judge. The lesson seems to be that if an unworthy judge -- one who feels no constraint of right or wrong -- is compelled by persistence to deal justly with a helpless individual, how much more will our Righteous God answer the persistent prayers of His children! The entire purpose of the parable is to teach us to pray without giving up (Luke 18: 1).
Praying without giving up, persistent prayer. Frankly, I wrestle with it because this kind of importunate prayer brings to mind the unrelenting appeals of a whining, spoiled child determined to get his way at all costs. Today's text from Isaiah, however, permanently dispels that image. For here we see why persistence in prayer is a pleasing thing to God.
God says, "I have set watchmen upon thy walls...which shall never hold their peace..."
These prophetic watchmen have been stationed on the walls for the primary purpose of waiting and watching for evidence of the Lord's return to and restoration of Zion (Isaiah 52: 8 - 9), but here in our text they are given two other specific and essential activities: a. they are to allow themselves no rest ( "...keep not silence...") as they continually cry out for the restoration of Jerusalem; and, b. they are to give God no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a "praise" in the earth.
As I read this text, a light bulb comes on and I realize that persistent prayer is not about "twisting God's arm" to get Him to do something that He doesn't want to do; it is all about coming to an ultimate level of agreement with His "passionate" intent. We persistently pray for what we already know God has promised to do (Isaiah 62: 1 - 4). In so doing, we demonstrate to God that we desire Him to do a thing as much as He desires to do it. Two simple, perhaps even silly examples come to mind:
First example. I still remember several years ago, my daughter Sharon's 11th birthday. Her sole birthday request was for a family outing to Six Flags Over Georgia, the famous amusement park. With game faces, rumbling stomachs, and aching heads her mom and I (along with her 2 brothers) strapped ourselves into "thrill" ride after "thrill" ride. Several times as we waited warily for a ride to begin, our teenaged ride-operator would amuse himself/herself by challenging all of us that if we were really ready for the "fun" to begin, we needed to shout our "enthusiasm." Although in each instance my shouts lacked the conviction of the younger riders, the general idea being communicated was clear -- the ride-operators wanted us to demonstrate that we indeed wanted them to do what they all along intended to do, start the ride.
Second example -- this one nearer to my heart. In the African American preaching tradition, it is not uncommon to hear preachers elicit a desired audience response with words like -- "Somebody tell me to go ahead!" or "I wish someone would tell me to preach!" I am guilty of doing this, so let me speak for myself. Without exception, every time that I have said this, I already fully intended to "preach." But I have found that the entire experience is immensely more satisfying for all involved when the congregation demonstrates that they want to hear what I came to say as much as I want to say it. In fact, I will venture further to say that my ability to preach is magnified and enhanced by the excited, vocal agreement of the congregation.
It is from this perspective then, that we come to appreciate the value of persevering, persistent prayer. God is inviting us to labor with Him in the manifestation of His promise in our lives. What an opportunity! We are buckled in for the ride of our lives, but before it can start, God challenges us to show Him that we are as ready for the thrill of fulfilled purpose as He is. Do we truly long for transformation and restoration, or are we just going through the motions? He already knows, what we often fail to discern or admit, the real state of our ardor toward Him.
And so when I read these verses from Isaiah, I am convicted anew by the divine invitation to demonstrate the intensity of my desire for God through my consistency and fervency in prayer. Maybe the image of a determined child coming to his parent is not so far from the mark. No one is more shamelessly relentless than a child with a promise from her parent. A child with a promise is impassioned to the point of pressing beyond his own weariness; he doesn't "keep silence." A child with a promise is emboldened to the point of giving her parent "no rest."
Today, we are the heirs to great and precious promises from our Father. Will you come into agreement with His desire to fulfill His promises in your life? Are you childlike enough to continually cry out to Him? Are you determined enough to "give Him no rest"? Jesus said, "...unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18: 2, NIV). Well, since He put it that way, I think that I will accept my new role as "God's spoiled brat." I will "give Him no rest" until I experience the transformation and restoration that He has promised! Will you join me?
Thoughts for your Journal :
1. Are there any promises that God has yet to fulfill in your life because your desire and His intentions are not in agreement?
2. If the "proof of desire is in pursuit" what does your pursuit of the things of God say about your level of passion for the things of God.
3. In what area are you being challenged today to be shamelessly persistent in prayer?
Prayer Focus for Today :
Lord, teach me to have a childlike obsession with seeking and crying out continually for everything You have promised me. Father, forgive me for the many time that I have "fainted" (given up) concerning things that I know You promised me!
Bible Reading Plan :
- Proverbs 30
- Isaiah 62
- Luke 18
Prayer and Worship Opportunities:
- Monday - Friday Noon Prayer
- Wednesday Morning Glory Prayer - 5:30 a.m.
- Thursday/Friday - Impact Crusade Revival - Bishop Kevin Legette and Bishop Marc House
- Saturday - Noon Prayer and Healing
Blessings in all you do,
Bishop Mark Moore