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Why You Should Not Be Timid in Your Prayers

As Jesus taught, keep asking and asking and “it will be given to you.”

Persistent prayer
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We can learn a lot about life, faith and prayer from the heroes and anti-heroes of the Bible. 

One of my favorite accounts involves the patriarch Abraham when three mysterious visitors arrived at his tent “near the great trees of Mamre” (Genesis 18:1, NIV). After revealing to Abraham and his wife, Sarah, that she would soon bring a son into the world, two of the visitors journeyed on to Sodom. The one who lingered revealed to Abraham that the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were scheduled for divine judgment. 

Abraham, apparently suspecting or recognizing his visitor as the Lord, began to plead: “What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people in it?” (Genesis 18:24, NIV). 

The Lord agreed to spare the city for the sake of 50 righteous people. Abraham pressed the matter like the Middle Eastern merchant he was: What about 45? 40? 30? 20? 10? The Lord agreed, “For the sake of 10, I will not destroy it” (Genesis 18:32, NIV).

It’s a striking, memorable scene that corresponds nicely with Jesus’ teaching about perseverance—even audacity—in prayer (see Luke 11:5-8). Abraham’s negotiations with God may embolden us to be persistent in our own prayers. But I think there’s more in that Genesis 18 account than may first appear. Because, after interceding for Sodom with such boldness and tenacity, Abraham apparently stopped asking at the number 10. But there weren’t 10 righteous people in Sodom. Only Abraham’s nephew, Lot, his wife, and two daughters were given an angelic escort out of the doomed city.   

Might things have been different if Abraham had kept asking? If he had continued pressing his appeal to, say, five? Or even one? If he had not stopped asking until God stopped granting? 

We don’t know. But when Jesus taught on the subject of prayer, telling a story of someone knocking on a friend’s door at midnight, pleading for bread, He applied His teaching: “So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you” (Luke 11:9, Amplified Bible). 

Years later, James, the brother of Jesus, wrote to early Jewish Christians, saying, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2, NASB). So, one thing we might learn from Abraham, Jesus and James, is to be persistent, bold—even greedy—in prayer. To “pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1, NIV). To not be timid. To not confine ourselves to small requests. And to not cease from asking until our pleas are granted. To ask…and to keep asking, and asking, and asking…and “it will be given to you.” 

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