How often should we pray? How many times should we be in prayer for a specific need or request? Is there a possibility of praying about something too much? Is that a sign of us having a lack of faith that God hears our request and that He will answer it or is it a demonstration of our faith that we are confident that He will come through following all our petitions? These are all common questions which typically come up about one of the most important aspects of our relationship with the Lord; our talking to Him in prayer. And, of course, they are not trivial matters at all but ones we certainly are concerned about as we want to properly pray and honor the Lord with our praying to Him. So, let’s look then at what the Bible says both of the timing of our prayers and the frequency of them.
First, how often should we pray? The Scriptures give us no set number of times to come before the Lord throughout our day to speak with Him. Instead, Paul instructs us to “pray without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. The idea is to be continually coming before our Father to express our thanksgiving, praise, and requests to Him. We are to, in essence, have an attitude of prayer, taking many moments to speak with Him as reasons and needs arise. With this said, it is also good to have a specific concentrated time set aside each day for prayer as well as we witness with Daniel and his going to his window three particular times every day (Daniel 6:10). A time when you intentionally say no to everything else to spend quality time talking with your Lord. A time that often is best coupled with the reading of God’s Word as it is in prayer we speak to God and through His Word that He speaks to us.
One thing that we notice with Jesus in His earthly ministry is His continual practice of prayer. He often would be found stepping away from the crowds to talk with His heavenly Father (Luke 5:15-16). He arose early in the morning to go out where He could be alone for the express purpose of praying (Mark 1:35). Every major event of His life while on earth was marked by prayer beforehand. The Lord was praying as He began His ministry after His baptism (Luke 3:21-22). He spent all night in prayer before choosing the 12 disciples (6:12). It was after praying that Jesus asked the critical question as to “Who do people say that He is” where Peter receives the revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of God (9:18). He was praying on the Mount of Transfiguration (9:28-29) and of course in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion (22:39-46). I’m struck by the fact that if the very sinless Son of God, who has the closest possible connection to the Father, spent so much time communing with Him in prayer, how much more do we need to? Certainly, we (remember that includes me too!) each could be praying much more than we do and should work with the aid of His grace to discipline ourselves to improve in our praying without ceasing.
Now, as to the amount of times we should bring up a specific request to the Lord, you may be surprised to discover that God basically tells us to pester Him with our needs. Not to pray for them each one time but to keep coming before Him with them. There is a sense where we are to not just come to the Lord in prayer without ceasing but also to pray about specific issues without ceasing as well. Jesus commands us to “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). The “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” commands given here are in the present tense of the Greek, indicating that we are to continually “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” regarding our needs before the Lord. It could be translated as “Keep asking,” “keep seeking,” and “keep knocking.” Don’t stop after one time but keep making the request of the Lord.
In order to teach His disciples “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart,” Jesus tells the parable of a judge who does not fear God or respect man and a widow who would not stop bothering him with her requests for justice. This parable is found in Luke 18:1-8. This widow just would not let up but kept coming to the judge. He finally gives in to her and grants her request basically to get her off his back and so that she would leave him alone. Jesus then makes the point that if that is the case with a judge who could care less about anyone, certainly the God who chose to make us His own will come to our aid and give us what we need. As Jesus put it, “will not God give justice to his elect, who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily” (vv. 7-8). This should encourage us to continually persist in our praying with the confidence that God is going to come through for us in His perfect timing as He sees fit. As I have heard it said, God will always answer our prayers and when the answer does not match up to our specific request, we can be sure that God answered the prayer the way we should have asked it had we known all that He does. But He will answer none the less and do what is best for us. We just need to keep coming to Him with the request and waiting with anticipation for the answer.
And don’t think that you will be annoying the Lord with this continual coming to Him with whatever needs you may have. A father doesn’t tire hearing from his children. And although we may find ourselves frustrated and annoyed by the constant repetitive requests made from our kids sometimes, especially when they are really little, keep in mind that God is perfectly patient with us. And He delights to take care of His children and meet their needs. It is another way that He is able to glorify Himself in showing His power in granting our requests and how He alone is able to meet our deepest and daily needs.
So, if you have found yourself praying for the umpteenth time for that wayward son or daughter, a strained relationship, that difficult marriage, or whatever else it may be, don’t give up coming to the Lord yet again for it. He wants you to continue bring the matter up to Him and trust Him to handle it. He will answer in His perfect timing and in accordance with His wonderful will. It very well could be that God intends to bring about the result after some more time spent on your knees before Him. Don’t lose heart but continue to persistent in prayer!
Love in Christ,