“How do I know when to stop praying? How do I know if this thing that I am praying to go away is really my ‘thorn in the flesh’?”
The young mom who posed this question to me was facing an ongoing health crisis with one of her children. She and her husband were praying. Her family was praying. People in their church were praying. But nothing seemed to be happening. The child continued to struggle without any improvement at all. They were all physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Why wasn’t God answering their prayers?
As I listened to the distraught mother, I understood her. Perhaps you do too. Have you prayed and prayed for something specific and still don’t have an answer?
Here’s what I told her. Pray until you get an answer.
In the twelfth chapter of Second Corinthians we find one of the most iconic images invoked by the apostle Paul in the New Testament. His “thorn in the flesh.” We don’t know what this particular thing was that Paul struggled with, but he prayed and prayed and prayed that God would take it away. Three times to be exact. And finally, God told him; “No, and stop asking.”
Paul prayed until he got an answer. The answer wasn’t what he hoped would happen, but it was an answer. We should pray until we get an answer too.
Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, we have to persist in prayer before God answers us. In First Kings 18, the prophet Elijah prayed that a 3 ½ year drought would end. He prayed and then sent his servant to go look over the sea and tell him if there were any clouds rolling in. Six times he prayed and each time, the servant reported that there was not a cloud in the sky. Elijah didn’t give up. He kept praying. The next time, God sent the rain.
What would have happened if Elijah had stopped praying after only four times? Would he have missed out on a miracle?
We don’t want to take that chance. If we get a clear answer, like Paul did, it’s certainly appropriate to stop praying. However, until then, we persist.
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Reading Plan–Week Thirty-Three
Day One–2 Corinthians 12
Day Two–2 Corinthians 13
Day Three–Galatians 1
Day Four–Galatians 2
Day Five–Galatians 3