How to Pray, by R.A. Torrey
Chapter 6: Always Praying and Not Fainting
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus emphasizes the lesson that men ought tot pray and not faint. The first parable is found in Luke 11:5-8 and the other in Luke 18:1-8.
“And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight and say unto him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he from within shall answer and say, ‘Trouble me not: the door is now shut and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.’ I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.” (Like 11:5-8)
“And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint; saying “There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded men: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him saying, ‘Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while, but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I fear not God, nor regard men, yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ and the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily! Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
In the former of these two parables, Jesus sets forth the necessity of importunity in prayer in a startling way. The word rendered importunity literally means shamelessness. Jesus wants us to understand that God desires us to draw nigh to Him with a determination to obtain the things we seek that will not be put to shame by any seeming refusal or delay on God’s part. God delights in the holy boldness that will not take no for an answer. It is an expression of great faith and nothing pleases God more than faith.
Jesus seemed to deal with the Syro-Phoenician woman almost with rudeness. But she would not give up that easily, and Jesus looked upon her shameless persistence with pleasure. He said, “o that thou wilt” (Matthew 15:28). God does not always give us things at our first effort. He wants to train us and make us strong by compelling us to work hard for the best things. Likewise, He does not always give us what we ask in answer to the first prayer. He wants to train us and make us strong people of prayer by compelling us to pray hard for the best things. He makes us to pray through.
I am glad that this is so. There is no more blessed training in prayer that that which comes through being compelled to ask again and again, over long periods of time, before obtaining what we seek from God. Many people call it submission to the will of God when God does not grant them their request at the first or second asking. They say, “Well, perhaps it is not God’s will.”
As a rule, this is not submission but spiritual laziness. We do not call it submission to the will of God when we give up after one or two efforts to obtain things by action. WE call it lack of strength of character. When the strong man or woman of action starts out to accomplish a thing and does not accomplish it the first or second or one-hundredth time, he or she keeps hammering away until it is accomplished. The strong man of prayer keeps on praying until he prays it through and obtains what he seeks. We should be careful about what we ask from God. But, when we do begin to pray for a thing, we should never give up praying for it until we receive it or until God makes it very clear and very definite that it is not His will to give it.
Some people like us to believe that it shows unbelief tho pray twice for the same thing. They think we ought to “take it” the first time we ask. Doubtless there are times when we are able, through faith in the Word or the leading of the Holy Spirit, to claim the first time that which we have asked of God. But, beyond question, there are other times when we must pray again and again for the same thing before we receive our answer. Those who are beyond praying twice for the same thing are beyond their Master. (Matthew 26:44) George Mueller prayed for two men daily for more than sixty years. One of these men converted shortly before his death, I think at the last service George Mueller held. The other was converted within a year after his death. One of the great needs of the present day is men and women who will not only start out to pray but will pray for things on and on until they obtain what it is they seek from the Lord.