By Kirra Antrobus
Prayer is the most powerful tool Christians have. Prayer connects us with the heart of God, enabling us to communicate with him about the things that are important to us. Prayer can be as easy as thanking God for a picture-perfect day, but it can also be demanding, requiring persistence and commitment. The Old Testament gives us many examples of persistence in prayer. Daniel and Elijah are two examples.
Daniel Seeks an Answer
Daniel, who was in exile in Persia, prayed and fasted for three weeks as he sought an answer from God. He was standing on the bank of the Tigris River when an angel appeared before him. The angel spoke, explaining to him why he had been waiting for three weeks
Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia (Daniel 10:12, 13).
You can be sure the prince of Persia mentioned by the angel was not a human prince. He was a powerful demon—so powerful the angel needed Michael, another angel, to assist him.
This account helps us understand that when we pray, unseen things happen in the spiritual realm. The forces of darkness may be impeding our answers, attacking us with doubt and disappointment, or delaying an answer. When you pray, pray that Satan and his angels will not be allowed to interfere. Pray with the authority Christ gives us and seek to remove any roadblocks the devil may attempt to place in the way.
Elijah Prays for Rain
A second picture of persistent prayer is found in 1 Kings 18. Elijah told King Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain” (v. 41).
Although it had not rained in the land for more than three years, Elijah went to the top of Mount Carmel and began to pray, expecting the rain to come.
“‘Go look toward the sea,’ he told his servant. And he went up and looked. ‘There is nothing there,’ he said” (v. 43).
Elijah prayed and the servant looked. Elijah prayed again, and again the servant looked. Seven times they did this, until finally the servant returned with a new answer: “‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea’” (v. 44).
This was more than enough for Elijah, and he had one last thing to say to his servant: “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you’” (v. 44).
Finally, as God had promised and as Elijah had prayed, it began to rain.
Our Powerful Prayers
James 5:17, 18 says, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”
Elijah was no different than you or me. He prayed persistently, and his prayers had power. Our persistent prayers have power as well.
Diana had been praying that she and her husband would be able to start a family, but after multiple tests and procedures, she was told there was little chance they would be able to have children. “They told me they are never supposed to tell anyone never, but I was as close to never as you could get.” During this time, she went to a conference and a woman who was praying for her began to laugh out loud. She told Diana, “I don’t know what you’ve been praying for, but you’re going to get it.”
Diana’s doctor prescribed a hormone, but she didn’t get the chance to take a single dose before discovering she was pregnant. Diana gave birth to a son, followed by two more sons and a daughter. Recently she celebrated the birth of her first grandchild, a boy. Now she says, “God has such a sense of humor. I worried I would never get a baby. I have four kids, a daughter-in-law, and a grandbaby. What a gracious God we serve.”
Carol has been praying for her adult son, David, for years—that he would see the truth of God and leave behind the destructive lifestyle he had been living. In 2009, Carol learned that David had been admitted to the hospital with cirrhosis of the liver and jaundice. The alcohol had been taking its toll on his body.
“I knew he had been drinking for years and that he would have to hit a horrible bottom before he stopped,” Carol says. “I prayed, ‘God, this must be the hard bottom we talked about before. Please hear the cry of my heart now and spare his life that he may be a witness and a testimony to you.’” David’s kidneys shut down, but Carol and others continued praying. Over time, David’s kidney function began to return. A recent test showed it had been restored to 68 percent, and all expectation is for further improvement. He was baptized on Independence Day, less than a year from when he was admitted to the hospital. Carol says, “God is preserving him and blessing him—and me—with answered prayers. It continues to this day, and only God knows what the future will hold for him, but he is a living testimony of what God can and will do in our lives.”
Sometimes when we pray we receive an immediate answer. At other times we feel like we’re in limbo, waiting for an answer that does not seem to be coming. When that happens, remember to pray like the prophets. God has given us examples to follow in Scripture, such as Daniel and Elijah. He also provides examples through the people in our lives. Pray against any obstructions that might keep you from receiving your answers, and put your faith in the God who delights in your prayers.
Kirra Antrobus is a freelance writer in Abilene, Texas.
Power for Your Prayer Life
The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears
by Mark Batterson (Zondervan, 2011)
Praying in the Messiness of Life: 7 Ways to Renew Your Relationship with God
by Linda Douty (Upper Room, 2011)
Too Busy Not to Pray
by Bill Hybels (Inter-varsity Press, 2008)
Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus’ Name
by Bryan Chapell (Baker, 2005)
Praying from the Gut: An Honest Prayer Journal for Teens
by Steven James (Standard Publishing, 2004)
The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer
by E.M. Bounds (Baker, 2004)