I recently read a story about a TV preacher who said that you should never ask God for something more than once. To pray for something even twice, he said, was proof of a lack of faith and meant that God wouldn’t respond positively to the request. When we ask God for something and he doesn’t answer right away, we tend to ask him again. So, is this okay? Or is this wrong?
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)
In this passage, Jesus uses a story to encourage us to pray and keep on praying. In his parable, he asks you to suppose that a friend visits you late at light. Since you have nothing to eat, you go next door and ask for food. This neighbor at first does not want to be bothered, but, Jesus says, if you keep on knocking, eventually you’ll get the food you need, thanks to your “shameless persistence.”
Jesus is not saying the Father is like the selfish friend who won’t get out of bed, but rather, he’s pointing out that even someone who is slow to respond will eventually give in if you are persistent.
The next verse provides a punch line for the parable: “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9). Rather than the traditional “ask, seek, knock,” the New Living Translation has a better grasp of the verbs.
Greek verbs have different imperative forms. The present imperative form, used in Luke 11:9, was used for repetitive or continual action. So, in fact, “Keep on asking… Keep on seeking… Keep on knocking” reflects the original words more precisely. Following this story of the shamelessly persistent friend, Jesus makes the application to our prayers crystal clear.
So, it is okay to persist in prayer. In fact, it’s not only acceptable, but it is exactly what Jesus commands. There are times when God will answer our prayers immediately, but there are other times when we will need to ask and seek and knock, and then ask and seek and knock, and then ask and seek and knock….
We may not be able to fully fathom the theological reasons for this, but Jesus couldn’t be clearer about the need for persistence in prayer. I personally believe that the persistence is for our benefit, it does something for us and in us, rather than changing God (who is immutable).