Pray and Never Give Up

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“We didn’t have enough money for our rent last month.  I prayed to God for help, and the next day, this unexpected check showed up in my mail – just enough to cover the rent!”

“Amen!  God is so good!  Who else can testify?”

“God healed my sister from cancer – her scans showed several spots in her lung, but when the doctors went in to remove her lung – there was nothing there!”

“Glory to God!”

I sat there in my chair, trying my best to rejoice with these testimonies of God’s action in the lives of these precious women.  But I didn’t have a victory story.  I had a long, drawn-out prayer that God seemed to be ignoring.  I had been lifting this before Him for several years and it seemed that heaven had shut the door on me.  My friend sought me out after the gathering – she knew of my long-standing prayer and she knew that, while I was happy for these ladies, my heart was heavy for my own situation.  She tried her best to encourage me while I washed serving spoons in the kitchen.

“Don’t give up your prayers,” she said with a hug.  “God will be faithful to you too.”  Then she told me “When you get home spend some time reading 1 Kings 18 – I think it will encourage you.  I’m praying with you and for you.”

I gathered my purse, Bible and the used kitchen linens and headed out the door.  At home I made a cup of coffee and headed to my porch swing with my Bible.  Pushing my feet against the wooden porch floor, I set the swing in motion and flipped to the story of Elijah, the Old Testament prophet of God.  In this chapter of his story, the land had been under a long drought, and because of the drought a severe famine had taken many lives. Elijah pointed his finger directly at the problem – the wickedness of King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel and of the nation of Israel that followed them into the worship of Baal.  Elijah proposed a challenge: the God of Heaven and Earth against Baal.  The priests of Baal prayed and danced and cut themselves all day to entice their pagan god to set fire to the sacrifice on the altar.  No response.  No fire.  No god.  Elijah prepared the same sacrifice, and even drenched it with water, making it an even greater challenge.  With one prayer “the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” (v. 38).  Instant answer to prayer!  That’s the God we like to see!

After this victory, Elijah declared to Ahab that the same God that burned up the sacrifice would bring the rain the land so desperately needed.  He went to the top of Mount Carmel with his servant and began to pray.  “‘Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant.  And he went up and looked. ‘There is nothing there,’ he said” (v. 43).  Not a single cloud in the sky. Elijah had no evidence that his prayer was going to be answered – except for God’s word. The Lord had told Elijah “‘I will send rain on the land’” (v. 1).  Elijah sent his servant back to scan the skies. Seven times.

God said it would happen. So look again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And the seventh time the servant saw a tiny cloud “as small as a man’s hand, rising from the sea” (v. 44).

Unlike his prayer at the altar, this prayer was not answered instantly.  Elijah had to persist and trust the word of the Lord.  There are two things we can take away from this story:

  1. Watch and pray until the Lord answers. When Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7), the phrases were given in the present, active form: ask, and keep on asking; seek, and keep on seeking; knock, and keep on knocking.  Be persistent in prayer, knowing that your God is faithful.
  2. Don’t overlook the small answer – it may be the first sign of a great blessing coming your way. Elijah recognized the hand of God in the cloud the size of a man’s hand.  He knew that this was the first sign of God’s promise being fulfilled.  That tiny cloud signaled the beginning of the end of the drought as “the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, [and] a heavy rain came” (v. 45).

The truth is, many years later, I still have not received the answer to my long-held prayer.  But I’m still praying.  My best friend prayed for her son to come to Jesus for more than 30 years.  And God saved him just a couple of years ago.  She never gave up on her son because she never gave up on God.  Beloved, I don’t know what you’ve been praying for nor how long you’ve been praying, or if you’re even still praying.  But I know that God is faithful – in the short-term and in the long-term.  He has never failed.  He’s not about to fail you.

“He who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8).  Jesus said “always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1).  Friend, you can take Him at His word.

Faithful Friends

friends“Some men came, bringing a paralytic, carried by four of them” (Mark 2:3).

I just couldn’t pray.  I couldn’t pray because the pain ran deep and wild like muddy water rushing through a broken dam.  I couldn’t pray because I was an intercessor; I’d never prayed for myself.  I couldn’t pray because I couldn’t find the words to say.  My mind was numb, my heart was shattered.  I was a broken woman, paralyzed by the crushing burden I was bearing.  And I had to keep it all to myself.  I was the one others looked up to, the one with wise answers and a verse for every situation.  If they saw me now, I would lose their friendship and respect.  I became very good at wearing the mask and hiding my feelings.  I fooled everyone.

Well, not quite everyone.  Two friends looked past my disguise and saw the raw, open wounds of my heart.  They could not be duped into believing I was okay.  And because they loved me – the real me – they prayed the prayers I could not.  They prayed over me on the phone.  They prayed over me at my office.  They prayed over me at the altar and after Bible study (which I was still teaching).  They prayed over me at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart and wherever we were.  They carried me to the Father when I couldn’t carry myself.

In Mark’s Gospel, a group of friends are bringing a paralyzed man to Jesus for healing.  Four of them bore his weight as they held the corners of his mat.  They climbed onto the top of the house and tore away the roof to get their friend to the only one who could help him.  Interestingly, Mark says “When Jesus saw their faith. . .” he forgave the man and healed him.  Their faith.  No the paralytic’s faith.  The faith of his friends.  I wonder if, like me in my time of distress, the man had any faith himself at all.

Someone you know needs your prayers.  Someone needs you to pick them up and carry them to Jesus.  They have no strength of their own.  They are paralyzed by life’s struggles and unable to come to Jesus by themselves.  The Lord honored the faith of the man’s friends, just as He heard and honored the prayers of my friends.  Healing came for the paralyzed man and for me; borne on the wings of others’ faithful intercession.  Beloved, let’s look beneath the surface of our friendships.  Let’s seek out the ones who bear the heavy burdens, and let’s bring them to Jesus.  When my faith was almost gone, the faith of my friends carried me.  Who needs your prayers – and your faith – today?