When life is on the line, we humans are urgent in our praying. Aren’t you insistent as you ask God’s help during illness or a sudden financial problem? Don’t you drag out your persuasive language skills? Perhaps, if the danger is great, you even revert to the old prayer language of “thee” and “thou knowest”! Urgency in prayer is usually reserved for dire circumstances.
According to the story of Jonah, when the prophet finally obeyed the Lord and went to Nineveh to warn the city of God’s impending judgment, its king declared to the people: “…let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (Jonah 3:8-9, NIV). The Ninevites’ prayers became urgent because God threatened to undo their lives.
In ordinary worship services, our prayers are tame, often reduced to writing and printed in a bulletin or projected on a screen. A genuine beseeching tone slips out of them. We sound halfhearted or trivial. When the pastor allows worshipers to speak personal concerns, the same requests flow in the same words from the same people as always, or the impromptu prayer is merely the speaking of a sick person’s name. No urgent request!
How often and when might you describe your prayer as a truly critical request for the Lord’s prompt response? How frequently do you plead with him? Do your appeals burn within you before you ask them? Do they flow with a pressing desire for an answer?
In The Purpose of Prayer, Edward M. Bounds explained, “We must be thoroughly in earnest, deeply concerned about the things for which we ask, for Jesus Christ made it very plain that the secret of prayer and its success lies in its urgency.”
After his parable of the friend at midnight, Jesus made clear how our petitions must be made. He said, “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need” (Lk. 11:8, NIV). The words “shameless audacity” might be translated “persistence.” Jesus knew that human requests of God ought to possess a vitality, an imperative tone. They should be urgent prayers, and if they aren’t, why should God listen to them?
Resolve now to develop a persuasive prayer discipline.