Persistent but Not Nagging

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Question: Can we keep asking God for something until we get what we’re asking for? Yes and no. We can keep asking but it does not guarantee we will get exactly what we ask for.

On the other side of the coin, doesn’t God already know what we need before we ask? So do we need to pray then?

These two related questions have Biblical basis.

First, can we “nag” God into giving us what we ask for? Jesus told a parable after he taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus often used a simple story to illustrate a spiritual truth. Here is the story. Luke 11:5-8

Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Notice the motivation and the details behind the asking. ‘LEND’ me 3 loaves for my friend. I have nothing for him. I’d like to borrow bread from you. It’s for my friend. I have nothing to serve him.

This is unselfish, humble and honest asking. There is an urgent need. Key word in this asking is ‘persistence.’ So how did Jesus explain this parable and relate it to Ask and it will be given?

Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (vv.11-13)

The point of this persistent prayer is that God gives good gifts to his children just as earthly fathers (even though they are not as good as God) do. The object of praying persistently and it will be granted is to ask for the Holy Spirit. To be persistent in prayer is not about ‘nagging’ God into giving us what we want. To nag is to constantly harass someone into doing something until we get what we want. This leads us to the next parable that Jesus taught about prayer – the one about God knowing what we need before we ask.

Matthew 6:7-8

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

Meaningless repetition.. what does that mean? It’s assumption that prayers will be answered for their ‘many words?’ It means that we cannot ‘nag’ God into giving what we ask for. God knows our needs before we ask him. Yet we can pray to him without giving up when we pray unselfishly for the good gift that we know he gives to his children.

Lord, you know what I need even before I ask. Here is my concern… I present them to you. Please help me to overcome this anxiety over this need knowing that you will give me according to my needs.

To pray without giving up and without nagging God into what I ask for.. this is to pray with dual lens of “trust and obey.” We trust God that He will give us something good and he knows our needs. We obey and leave it to him to give us what we need. Pray without ceasing and without nagging.

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