The Case For Persistence In Prayer -- By: Curtis C. Mitchell
JETS 27:2 (June 1984) p. 161
The Case For Persistence In Prayer
Perhaps the most unpopular concept with regard to prayer is that of persistent petition. Is it necessary to bring the same issue to God time after time? Many argue that the believer should not continually bring the same matter repeatedly before the Father. It is contended that one should bring a request to the Father once and then sit back in faith and wait until God chooses to grant the request. We are told that to continue to bring the same petition before the Father indicates a lack of faith. All of this might sound very logical, but it is not Biblical. Christ went out of his way to teach the crucial necessity of determined persistence in effective prayer. He not only taught it, he also practiced it.
I. Christ Practiced Persistence
In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ literally practiced what he had previously taught.1 All three gospel writers record the incident with only minor variations. Under extreme emotional and spiritual pressure, the kenotic Christ sought assistance via the medium of prayer. In three prayer retreats Christ clearly practiced persistence. All three writers indicate continuous action in describing Christ’s praying. Mark and Luke use the imperfect to indicate that Christ “kept on praying” (Mark 14:35; Luke 22:41).2 Matthew gets the same effect by using two present participles, “praying and saying” (Matt 26:39). These prayer sessions were far more lengthy than the recorded petitions.
Mark’s account prefaces the actual request with a purpose clause in which he indicates the gist of Christ’s praying:3 “that if possible, the hour might pass from him.”4 M’Neile refers to it as “an agonized struggle… lasting for a considerable time.”5 This is further emphasized by the fact that Christ, after each prayer
*Curtis Mitchell is professor of Biblical studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California.
JETS 27:2 (June 1984) p. 162
session, returned and found his three disciples asleep (Mark 14:37). Hence in the prayer retreats Christ obviously did not simply offer the petition found in the synoptics one time and then return to his disciples. This would hardly have allowed them time to have fallen asleep. Quite obviously in each of these prayer retreats th...
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