Pray Specifically and Persistently

Pray Specifically and Persistently

You do not have because you do not ask.
–James 4:2

In Elijah’s second prayer on Mount Carmel, we learn to pray specifically. James 5:17-18 says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” When Elijah prayed, he prayed with laser-like specificity. Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain for three and a half years, and it didn’t. He prayed for the widow’s son at Zarephath to be raised from the dead, and he was raised from the dead. He prayed that fire would fall from heaven, and it fell. He prayed that the rain would come, and it eventually came. He prayed with specificity. I have a sneaking suspicion the reason that we don’t pray specifically is we don’t want to embarrass God, and we don’t want to disappoint ourselves. But God delights in answering specific requests.

One of the best ways to have a vibrant prayer life is to keep a prayer journal. I’ve done that for decades. I take a spiral notebook and divide each page with a line down the center. On one side I put my requests, and on the other side I record God’s answers. I look back at that prayer journal when I’m discouraged. It has been so encouraging to see the faithfulness of God in impossible situations. It’s a great faith-building exercise to do that. And I’m even more grateful for the “no” answers than I am the “yes” answers. I read some of those things I was asking for ten, twenty, or thirty years ago and say, “What was I thinking? If God had said yes to that, it would have been a fiasco. I’m so grateful God had the wisdom to say no.” We need to be specific in our prayer requests. James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask.”

Another principle we learn from Elijah’s prayer is to pray persistently. Sometimes God answers our request immediately, as He did for Elijah’s prayer for fire to fall from heaven. But sometimes God doesn’t answer immediately. That doesn’t mean we should stop praying. It didn’t for Elijah. Look at 1 Kings 18:42-44: “Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, ‘Go up now, look toward the sea.’ So he went up and looked and said, ‘There is nothing.’ And he said, ‘Go back’ seven times. It came about at the seventh time, that he said, ‘Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.’” What would have happened if Elijah had stopped after the sixth time? He would have missed out on God’s dramatic answer to his prayer. In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable “to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (v.1). In this parable, a persistent widow kept asking an unrighteous judge to intervene on her behalf. The point of the parable was this: Keep on praying. Don’t pray only when the answer is obvious and easy. Pray when the answer seems impossible, and keep praying even after God says no or not yet. Those who prevail in prayer are those who are persistent in their praying just as Elijah was. That’s the secret to an extraordinary life.

***

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Practice Powerful Praying” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.