Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me. John 11:41-42
How many times must you pray the same prayer and ask God to do the same thing before He hears you? Once, twice, or day after day until you get what you are asking for? Tough question, right? There are times when something bothers you and you pray about it. Nothing seems to happen so you pray again, and again. Or, may you give up entirely, thinking you don’t know the right words; or you think, “This may work for others but not for me!”
Jesus, anticipating that this would be one of the issues of concern for us, told a story about a widow who lived in a certain town where there was a judge who cared neither for God nor for people. Luke, the physician, records it in the passage found in our Bible in Luke 18.
Someone took advantage of this widow Jesus told us about, so she went to a judge and asked for justice. For some time he was indifferent and refused to deal with the situation. Day after day, the woman came back with the same request. Finally, the judge relented. He said, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming!” (Luke 18:4-5).
Jesus prefaced the story saying that the disciples “…ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). You may say, “OK, should we, like the widow, keep on knocking on heaven’s door until we get an answer?”
How many times must you pray the same prayer and ask God to do the same thing before He hears you? Once, twice, or day after day until you get what you are asking for? Tough question, right?
First, let me point out a couple of things which you need to know. The picture of the judge who is indifferent and guilty of catering to the rich and famous isn’t a true picture of our heavenly Father, who has no respect for persons whatsoever. Money and prestige don’t open the door to the throne room of heaven. Furthermore, I think it can fairly be said, “God is on the side of the little window, the insignificant person who is denied justice and fairness in life today.”
The picture of the widow who has to try—with great difficulty—to get justice out of a corrupt system isn’t really a valid illustration of how prayer works. The New Testament says clearly that prayer is based on the relationship of a child with the father. Make a note of Galatians 4, which tells us that we are adopted by our heavenly Father and become His children through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Now, let’s go back to that original question, “How many times must you ask God to do something before you know He has heard you?” Let me ask you a second question, “When you were a child, how many times did you have to ask your father for something before he responded to you?” Once you got his attention, he answered you, right? Always gave you what you wanted, right? No, sometimes he loved you too much to give you what you asked for.
There are times when you need to prevail in prayer, asking God to do what you feel is His will. You sense that you have connected with heaven, but you don’t yet have the answer. From that point on, you don’t need to keep on asking the same thing, but begin to thank Him in advance for His answer and wait patiently for Him to do what you have asked. Jesus put it, “…your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). When you know He’s heard, you eventually get a clear answer. It really happens.