I have shared several strategies about prayer throughout this series (you can read them here, here, here, and here). One danger in putting these steps into practice in our life is what I would call one-and-done. We do it once and think we’ve done all we need to do.
Scientists tell us at a minimum it takes 21 days in a row to make a habit. Jesus went even farther than that in talking about prayer in Matthew 7:7. When we look at the three aspects of the verbs ask, seek, and knock in this verse, it would be better stated like this—
You need to keep on asking, and keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. This is not good advice or a helpful suggestion, but it is vital for your spiritual life. So after you have asked, sought, and knocked, then do it again, and again, and AGAIN.
Matthew Henry said it this way: “Here is a precept in three words to the same purport, Ask, Seek, Knock; that is, in one word, ‘Pray; pray often; pray with sincerity and seriousness; pray, and pray again; make conscience of prayer, and be constant in it; make a business of prayer, and be earnest in it.’”
In the English language the dictionary has a word for this: importunity. This means being urgent and persistent, sometimes annoyingly so!
I believe importunity requires these four characteristics:
- Trust. Remember Jesus taught us to begin our prayer with, “Our Father.” We have to come to Him again and again and again trusting that He loves us, that He alone is the Source of our help, and that He wants to help us. We also have to trust that our Father wants to give us the very best (Matthew 6:8, 7:7-11).
- Perseverance. I love the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-5. This determined lady kept coming back again and again. Henry Ward Beecher said, “The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is, that one often comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.”
- Creativity. One of my favorite New Testament stories is about a mother who is not only as persistent as the widow in Luke 18, but she is creative in her prayer as well (Mark 7:24-30). This lady bantered with Jesus in a way that I believe caused Christ to throw back His head and laugh! This is not bargaining with God, as Oswald Chambers wrote, “Repetition in intercessory importunity is not bargaining, but the joyous insistence of prayer.”
- Action. Paul was looking for an open door to preach the Gospel, but he didn’t sit still while he waited for God to say “yes” (Acts 16:6-10).
Keep these in mind as you make importunity a key part of your prayer life. And check out the full video of my message on importunity in prayer.