I truly believe God answers every prayer by responding with one of three answers:
1. Yes (my personal favorite).
3. Hang on and I’ll get back to you (my least favorite).
Hearing God say “no” is hard, but I particularly dislike waiting for his answer. Paul asked God three times to remove the thorn in his flesh, and then God answered (2 Corinthians 12:8–9). That number of requests seems reasonable.
Oh, how I wish we’d always get answers after our third request.
Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow to illustrate that you and I “should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1 NIV) He draws the parable to a close with this leading question about the fruit of persistence. “Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke 18:7 NIV)
Um. Well. To be frank, sometimes I do feel put off.
My least favorite answer to prayer stems from my struggle to discern when the wait for a potential “yes” has ended with a definite “no”.
Do I keep asking, seeking, knocking? Or did God close the door? Far be it from me to try to change God’s mind. I’d be wrong to keep pushing for a yes when God responded with a decisive no. But how can I know if he’s already made up his mind?
The Fruit of Persistent Prayer
Every month I send a prayer letter to a dedicated group of prayer warriors who pray over my speaking/writing ministry. Way back in October, I sent them a request to pray for favor with a submission for a 10-day Reading Plan I’d made to the YouVersion Bible App. Due to their high volume of submissions, they send an auto-response to let you know you won’t hear from them unless they accept your plan. No news is definitely not good news.
I copied and pasted my request for favor into my prayer letter in November. Then again in December. And in January too.
February arrived and I started to lose hope. What if YouVersion had already passed on my plan? As I prepared my prayer letter that month, I copied and pasted my request for favor—even as I told God that I wasn’t sure I should keep asking.
I want to ask, seek, knock like the persistent widow. On the other hand, I don’t want to ignore God’s answer by continuing to ask him to open a door he chose to close.
I sensed God leading me to drop the Bible App request come March, and I knew my wait was over. Would God grant me my favorite answer? Or would I never hear from YouVersion and have to accept a “no” from God?
All I knew for certain was that God had already made up his mind. I would have my answer within 30 days.
God allowed me to hang on to the very end. I was in the process of preparing my March letter—with my months-long request deleted from the list—when I learned that my Reading Plan, Longing to Belong, had been accepted!
It’s easier to hang tight while waiting on God if we know he will answer us soon. I can endure almost anything “for a little while”.
If you’re waiting on God, I encourage you to hang in there, my friend. I’ve learned that God reveals himself when we persevere. The parable of the persistent widow ends with an even more thought-provoking question than the one mentioned above. The tail-end of Luke 18:8 says, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
God may not give you the “yes” you seek. But when you persevere, when you persist while waiting for answers and agree to stop knocking when God decisively closes the door, you prove the genuineness of your faith. So, hang on “for a little while” longer, my friend, and God will indeed find faith in you.