How long should I keep praying?

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There’s something I’ve been praying for a very long time … if you consider six years a long time. It certainly seems like forever when you pray for the same thing nearly every day.

Toward the end of last year, I was getting discouraged. Truth be told, I’ve been discouraged on and off throughout the past six years, but it was really coming to a head last fall. Over and over, I heard Psalm 13 in my head: “How long, Lord?”

It was around the same time I kept coming across messages on the persistence of prayer—on the radio, in devotions at work and in the devotional messages I was reading on my phone. Just last month, I read a particularly encouraging post about waiting on Boundless.org.

OK, I’ll be persistent, I thought. But for how long? When should I stop praying about it?

I wondered if maybe God had already given me an answer but I just didn’t realize it and kept praying in vain. I wondered if He was trying to change me instead of the circumstances, but, I reasoned, even if I change, the situation has to change, too. It has to. It’s too toxic, too destructive.

This can’t possibly be His will long-term. … Can it?

I know God’s answers aren’t always what I expect. Sometimes He answers no. Sometimes He says wait. Those are valid answers, too. It’s not just “an answer to prayer” when I get what I want.

On the other hand, the Bible doesn’t endorse giving up.

So how do I persist without begging? How do I approach God in confidence without questioning His will?

I always come back to this: God is God and I am not.

I trust that He’s smarter than I am. If He wasn’t, He wouldn’t be much of a God. He knows why things happen, whether we understand them or not, and as Creator of the world, has every right to operate in His own time. Who are we to argue with that?

I know my prayers aren’t falling on deaf ears. I know I’m not praying to an imaginary presence in the sky. I’m praying to the God who knew me before I was born. The God who calls me by name and whose presence lives in my very soul.

I also know through experience all the many ways He has answered me in the past. I have emails to friends and page after page in my prayer journal to prove it.

And so, after six years of praying for this particular thing, I’m still praying. Yes, I’ve taken brief breaks now and again when I’ve grown tired of praying for the same thing, but I always come back to it, hoping and believing I’ll someday hear a “yes.” Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe it’s just not time yet.

Has there ever been a time when you were ready to give up on praying for a certain thing? What did you do?

 

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