Jesus taught us to pray until we get the expected result. Even so, we must take cognisance of the will of God!
The Lord's Prayer
The acronym PUSH stands for Pray Until Something Happens. It suggests that we are to pray until we get results. PUSHing is thus, praying until something happens.
Once, after Jesus had finished praying in a certain place, one of His disciples asked that He teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). So, the Lord taught them what is now commonly known as "The Lord's Prayer". The Lord's prayer is essentially a prayer pattern that addresses:
Who we pray to:
"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." (Luke 11:2, KJV)
How He is to be approached:
"Hallowed be thy name." (Luke 11:2, KJV)
Our primary prayer concern:
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." (Luke 11:2, KJV)
Asking for our needs—provision, forgiveness, preservation, and protection—which is essentially God's will for us:
"Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil." (Luke 11:3-4, KJV)
Jesus' usual pattern was to teach, and then follow up with a parable or illustration to drive home the point He was making. So, after teaching His disciples this prayer pattern which incidentally He had taught while teaching on the Beatitudes, among others (Matthew 5—7), Jesus proceeded to give two illustrations of prayer (Luke 11:5-13).
In the first of these illustrations, Jesus spoke about a man who went to his friend late at night to ask for bread to serve a wayfaring friend (Luke 11:5-8). Jesus noted that though the friend was already in bed with his children, implying that he would be reluctant to come to the door, yet because of his friend's persistent knocking, he had to get out of bed and attend to his friend's need.
By this illustration, Jesus was telling us that praying is not a once-and-for-all affair. He was invariably telling us to PUSH—pray until something happens!
Pray until something happens
The Lord's prayer is not just a simple run-of-the-mill prayer, but one that requires that we PUSH! Generally, prayer is a continuous affair—one that we engage in until something happens. The Lord drove home this point after He illustrated this man's persistent knocking till his reluctant friend got out of bed, with the following statement:
So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10, AMP)
The significance of the Lord's statement is that there is a certainty of getting an answer from God if we keep on ASKing—Asking, Seeking, Knocking. Rather than ask a few times and no more, we are to ask persistently—until we receive the answer. Instead of seeking lackadaisically, we should be ardent and refuse to give up until we find what we seek. And, instead of knocking a few times casually and turning around to leave empty-handed, we should be intent and persist in our knocking until the door is opened.
The Lord thus instructs us that prayer is much more than a casual, when-I-feel-like-praying, a-few-times-a-month affair. Rather, prayer requires that we keep at it until we get what we want! For He says, everyone, not some, but all who ASK—Ask, Seek, Knock—will receive, find, and the door will be opened to them, respectively.
To get results when praying, this must be your disposition in prayer. Praying just a few times will not do it. You must pray until you receive, find, or get an open door. The operative word is, UNTIL!
God wants to answer your prayers
In using the illustration of the reluctant friend who got out of bed, the Lord wants us to understand how an unwilling friend had no choice but to answer the door because of his friend's persistent knocking or importunity. The Lord is telling us that our heavenly Father, unlike the unwilling friend, is ever willing to give us what we ask for in prayer.
In the second illustration (Luke 11:11-13), the Lord illustrated how earthly fathers, who are by nature not good, give good gifts to their children. He then states that God, who is altogether good by nature, will provide us with the best gifts that He has—the Holy Spirit—if we but ASK! By this illustration, Jesus wants us to know that God desires to answer our prayers. Thus, He says:
Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32, NKJV)
A few verses before the above verse of Scripture, Jesus spoke of how God takes care of birds and the lilies that grow by the roadside. He said that we are of far more value to God than the birds and lilies and that the Father delights to give us the kingdom—all that pertains to God's kingdom and all that are for our benefit, God wants to give to us! No wonder the Bible says to us:
Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. (Philippians 4:6, CEV)
"Pray about everything" must be our watchword henceforth. We should not try to grade some issues as requiring prayer and others not requiring prayer (but our thoughts and efforts). No! pray about everything!
Never give up when praying
By teaching the illustration of the man who got bread from his reluctant friend, the Lord encourages us not to relent in our ASKing. Instead, we should keep on ASKing until we get an answer. He told His disciples to keep on ASKing until their joy was full (John 16:24).
To this end, Jesus gave the illustration of a widow who sought justice from an unwilling Judge and how the widow got justice by being persistent (Luke 18:2-5). The Bible prefaced this illustration with the following comment:
Then He [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1, NKJV)
The Lord's illustration of this widow's persistence shows that though she had no helper, yet she got justice. Therefore, if we would benefit from our praying, we must pray persistently, consistently, and enduringly—we must not give up, lose heart, or 'abandon ship' mid-way!
The Lord also taught that praying must be a daily affair rather than a weekly, monthly, or annual affair, for he taught:
Give us day by day .… (Luke 11:3, KJV)
The Lord also taught us that our praying must be result-oriented. Thus, if we are yet to get the desired result, we must continue to ASK. The Christian must not be content to ASK casually but ASK believing that they will obtain an answer from God (Mark 11:23-24).
After God had told Elijah that He would send down rain, Elijah persisted in prayer until his servant reported that a tiny cloud was forming on the horizon. Had Elijah not been praying in an uncovered area, he would have persisted until the rain came down. But so as not to get wet, he ran into Jezreel, outrunning Ahab's chariot! (1 Kings 18:41-46)
We must take account of the Sovereignty of God
At this time, it is important to understand that getting an answer in prayer may not necessarily be what you desire but what God decides. And this is where the sovereignty of God comes into play in our praying.
Every time we pray to God, the will of God always takes centre stage. If your praying is contrary to God's will on a matter, He will give you an answer that will let you know that you should not ASK for something contrary to His will. For example, when God told Jeremiah that He would bring judgment upon Judah, Jeremiah prayed, but God told him to cease praying for Judah because He would not heed Jeremiah's request. (Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14; 14:11)
But if you insist and continue to pray after God has told you not to, He may grant you your request to teach, not just you, but others also, a lesson in submission to the will of God. Many Christians love to cite the story of how King Hezekiah cried to God in prayer after God had told him through the prophet Isaiah that he should settle his affairs because he would soon be leaving the earth for the great beyond (2 Kings 20:1-6). Following Hezekiah's prayer, God added fifteen more years to his life. And, to this, many Christians shout, "Hallelujah!!!"
But there is a lesson for us here. After Hezekiah died (fifteen years later), his son, Manasseh, became king. King Manasseh was twelve years old when he ascended the throne. He reigned for fifty-five years and was extremely evil. Because of Manasseh's wickedness and idolatry, God swore that He would send the nation of Judah into exile (2 Kings 21:1-16). Although Manasseh later repented and restituted his ways after being taken captive (2 Chronicles 33:10-20), God still sent Judah into exile!
Manasseh was born during Hezekiah's additional fifteen years if you have not yet noticed. Perhaps, it was to forestall a "Manasseh" from coming into the world that God wanted Hezekiah to leave the world the first time He sent Isaiah to him. The lesson here is, “Do not seek to upturn God’s will for your life!” It will backfire on you:
Known to God from eternity are all His works. (Acts 15:18, NKJV)
Because God knows everything even before they commence, we should trust His judgment and abide by His will. Let us not think that our present circumstance, resulting from God's sovereignty, is unpleasant. The flip side is that if we decide to go contrary to God's will, we will ultimately regret it!
Not your will but God's will
When we have our way in prayer, we end up the losers. Therefore, when you ASK, leave the response to God, and stick with His decision, no matter what. After a Judge has given a verdict on a case in a Nigerian Court, irrespective of the outcome, both lawyers for the plaintiff and the defendant will chorus, "As the Court pleases!"
When God responds to our prayers, we, as Christians, must say, "Father, as it pleases You; Your will be done!" Such was the example the Lord Jesus set for us after He had prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, three separate times, for an hour, each time. When it was clear that God's verdict was that salvation was to come by Jesus' crucifixion and no other way, Jesus said, "Your will be done, not mine!" (Matthew 26:39, 42)
Our response to God on every matter, no matter how unpleasant to us, must be one of submission to His will. We must not try to get God to alter His will because He just might and, we would get the kind of repercussion that came to Judah because Hezekiah refused to accept God's verdict!
Keep on PUSHing
Meanwhile, let us keep on praying until something happens. Let us keep asking, seeking, and knocking until we receive a response from God. And while we are at it, let us recognise and appreciate the sovereignty of God—that His will is supreme over our requests.
By the grace of God, next week and for a few weeks to come, we shall discuss how to be victorious in importunate praying. Shalom.