When You Can’t Stop Crying Out to God
But I keep praying to you, LORD, hoping this time you will show me favor. In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation.
Most of the teaching I have had throughout my life as a Christian have been trustworthy, based on an accurate interpretation of Scripture. But, every now and then, I have heard well-intentioned teachers get things wrong because they didn't allow their instruction to be shaped by the broad spectrum of biblical teaching.
Take prayer, for instance. I have heard some teachers insist that we should only ask God for something one time. To repeat a request is a sign of a lack of faith. So, we should ask once and believe. Period. No repetition, because we are believing God.
From a certain perspective, this teaching makes sense. The problem is, it contradicts what we find in Scripture when it comes to prayer. Take Psalm 69, for example. If you read only the suggested excerpt (verse 13), you won't get a sense of this psalm. So I'd encourage you to take a couple of minutes to read the whole thing. If you do, you'll see how much the psalmist repeats himself, how much he continues to pour out his heart to God, how often he asks for more or less the same thing.
Psalm 69 demonstrates what Jesus teaches in Luke 18:1-8. In this passage, Jesus told a story about an unjust judge who answered a woman's plea only because she kept on bugging him until he gave her what she wanted. Jesus is not saying that God is unjust, of course. But he is teaching us to be steadfast in prayer, even repetitious. Luke explains the story in this way: "One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up."
Psalm 69 models such persistence in prayer. It encourages us to pour out our hearts to God, without holding back. If it seems that God has not answered our prayer, we show our trust in him by freely laying our burdens at his feet. God urges us to be our true selves in his presence, without pretending or posturing. He invites us to come before him in freedom, saying whatever we need to say, asking whatever we need to ask.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Why do you think God is not dishonored by repetitive prayers? How does freedom in prayer lead us to worship? Are you holding back in your prayers? What would you really like to say to God today?
PRAYER: Thank you, dear Lord, for the freedom you give us in prayer. Thank you for the invitation to approach your throne of grace with confidence and boldness. Thank you for examples of such prayer in Scripture, including Psalm 69.
Help me, I pray, not to hold back as I communicate with you. May I tell you exactly what is on my mind and in my heart. May I speak honestly and freely, knowing that you have opened up such an opportunity through Christ.
All praise be to you, O God, because you are there when I need you! Amen.