Question:

This is a question about prayer. Is it bad to keep on praying the same prayer all over again? It could be from desperation, or it can be another reason. For example, you have a problem or worry you share with the Lord and you think that you are not getting any answers. Does this mean there is something that you haven't settled with God and that's why? Or maybe the way one prays is wrong. Sometimes I admit I only pray when I need Him, though there are times I also thank Him for the blessings that I receive. I want to seek council of my church friends, but I hesitate. They seem to give different answers, so I think I might be putting "too much pressure and desperation" (to myself or to God) for repetitive prayers.


Answer:

One of the key attributes of a prayer is its sincerity. There are people who repeat prayers, but they are just rituals -- a series of words that they say. For example, Roman Catholicism is known for its designated prayers. They will pray the Lord's Prayer or one they call "Hail Mary" numerous times, but these prayers aren't from the person's heart. "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Matthew 6:7). A prayer is not an incantation or magical formula to gain something from God. Prayer is communication with the Almighty.

Now in times of need, you are likely to have a particular issue in the forefront. To talk with God about the issue repeatedly is not wrong. Jesus before his death prayed the same prayer repeatedly: Matthew 26:39, 42. Notice, "So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words" (Matthew 26:44). Jesus' prayer was not a vain repetition; each prayer was a heartfelt plea.

Bringing a matter up repeatedly can show the strength of our desire. There is a parable in Luke 18:1-8 that we should consider. Luke tells us what the purpose of the parable is up front: It is to teach men to always pray and not to give up.

The parable uses a widow who need justice but who must plead her case before an unjust judge. A widow is used because such women were often had no one to defend their cause (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 27:19). Because the judge doesnít fear God, arguments from the law concerning what is the right thing to do will not persuade him to give justice. The Law commanded judges to defend the helpless (Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3), but that would not impact this man. Because he doesnít respect men, emotional arguments based on sympathy for a fellow human will not sway him. But one thing will break down his armor Ė her persistent plea that he do something. Because of his selfish desire not to be bothered by this woman, he will grant what she wants so he will no longer have to listen to her.

This parable teaches by contrast. The judge in the parable is unjust, but God in heaven is just (Job 34:10-12). If an unjust judge will listen to a plea from one he despises simply because she is persistent, then what would a reasonable person expect from God when the many He loves come before him? It may appear to us that He is delaying as God acts patiently with sinners (II Peter 3:9). But He will not delay justice forever. When the appropriate time comes, God will act quickly.

Thus we too should be persistent in our prayers (I Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18; Romans 12:12), not from a motivation of breaking down Godís resistance but from knowing that God will answer our sincere prayers (Colossians 4:2).

Prayer is a direct expression of faith. Because we bring our problems before God, we demonstrate our belief that God is able to solve them and will solve them. Yet, Jesus wonders if his followers would be able to retain their faith and their persistence in prayer all the way to the end (I Peter 4:7; Hebrews 3:14).

When you pray you must remember that God answers as He sees best and according to His time line. Too often we want answers right now because we are too impatient. Too often we don't see what other things need to be done or how what we want must be balanced with the needs of others. See Unanswered Prayers for a discussion of this.

Not all prayers are answered. There are people who pray, but they don't really expect an answer. "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:6-8). For others, they pray for things that are not right. "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3).