How do you pray for things? Is it possible to pray enough that the hand of God is twisted to the point of concession? Seriously, does that please him? Does he expect it? Does he require it?

Twisting the hand of God is probably a bad way to put it. But what does he expect? I am specifically talking about when we have a request. An important request. You know, one of those things that are “emergencies.” It can be a remedy for difficult present circumstances (cancer, wayward child, financial difficulties) or hope for some future blessing (saved souls during church service, prayer for safe travels, a successful outreach). Or, speaking of what Sam and I are talking about with regard to spiritual gifts, maybe it is praying for the gift of tongues or prophecy.

It often confuses me. I know we are to pray without ceasing, but that does not mean pray for the same thing without ceasing, does it?

I know about the pestering lady seeking justice from the judge (Luke 8:5). But this means just the opposite, doesn’t it? God is not like the judge. God answers quickly.

When people say they have prayed all day for something, does that mean they simply repeat the same prayer over and over? Doesn’t that get impersonal? Doesn’t it show more trust just to pray and be done with it?

I don’t know. I don’t even know if my question makes any sense. But I would enjoy your thoughts. And, from the time of this writing until tomorrow, I will pray for your edification. Well…sometime between now and then I will pray for it, and then leave it in his hands 🙂

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    31 replies to "Praying Over and Over and Over and Over . . ."

    • Aarn Farmer

      Many years ago, what we thought was a pregnancy turned out to be a Hydatidiform Mole, a type of cancer that mimics pregnancy. I learned a lot about prayer going through that, the primary things being that praying without ceasing is very doable and constantly making petitions to God can be a normal part of life. My wife’s health was the first thing on my mind when I woke up and whenever I wasn’t doing anything else, instead of my brain going into “idle” I was constantly snapped back into prayer. The one thing I took from all that is weightier your needs are, the easier prayer comes. Since then, when my prayer life goes slack, instead of asking God to give me a “heart of prayer” or whatever, I ask Him to help me feel the weight of needs. When something is urgently needed and only God can provide it, constant prayer is easy.

    • Walker Plagge

      Great question! I’d like to second that question. I would like to know if prayer is supposed to simply give us a peace in the midst of turmoil (Philippians 4:6-7), or if it affects God’s decision (Exodus 32:9-14), or is it to conform our will to His? Why would James tell us to call the elders and pray so the sick would be raised up (James 5:14-15) without doubt (unlike Peter walking on water) but some easily write off an unsuccessful prayer for healing as “not being God’s will”, or worse accuse the afflicted of some terrible sin?

      I simply pray for protection of my family and our openness to apply ourselves where God would have us. I am timid to pray for much else as I want to stay in His will, but desire to see His miraculous response to impossible circumstances.

      If you find the answer and incorporate it into TTP, sign me up. (I would come to Credo House, but I have a hard time crossing the TX/OK border…but I’ll pray about that!)

    • Ed Kratz

      Okay. But pray only once. God does not like Longhorns and cannot put up with ur voice more than once.

    • Ellen Jervis

      Aarn Farmer. That was beautifully said. Asking God to feel the “weight” of something. That is so true. I find that when I go to God with a specific request that the weight of it is what keeps coming back to me, to my mind. So in a sense the importance of it doesn’t let me go and I keep going to God until I feel I can pray no more. Why no more – well maybe it’s because his answer was no, or maybe it was yes, or maybe it was wait. Like CS Lewis said he didn’t pray to God to change God he prayed so that God might change him. After all it’s not like God doesn’t see our need before we have need to go to him about it. He knows all about it before we do. So don’t you think the whole pray without ceasing directive is about shaping us during a time when we feel so helpless and want assurance that God is there.

      Of course I am speaking to praying a lot about a particular thing. About something that just doesn’t let me go. But in all honestly shouldn’t our lives be one big…

    • Ben Thorp

      I’m currently reading Paul Miller’s book on prayer (A Praying Life) and found out very encouraging (and challenging) in this area. Sometimes we need to be a little more childlike in this area.

    • Michael Robinson

      (Reposted from Facebook) I have often wondered about this one, Michael. If we make our requests known to God, surely you only have to do it once. Although Paul did pray about his thorn three times before he got an answer. I recall Calvin saying something about seriousness in prayer reflected in how we pray – perhaps persistence is an expression of seriousness. Certainly a flip request halfheartedly shot off just once doesn’t seem terribly sincere, serious or based on faith. I look forward to what others have to say.

    • Josh

      Paul himself prayed to God three times concerning an important human need, and Paul considered his request denied – but his prayer was not unanswered (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). I think we pray until we get an answer, or something changes.

      “Why Revival Tarries” by Leonard Ravenhill is an interesting collection of short articles that, among other things, highlights the fact that the modern church has forsaken dedicated, soul-sweating prayer – we don’t wrestle with God in our prayers anymore, at least as the Western church. One of his answers to the question, “Why does revival tarry?” is precisely that: our prayer life is lacking.

    • Anne Coates

      I think part of the process and mystery of prayer is relationship with the One who hears every prayer. I must not try to reduce this to a formula that prays for certain types of problems a certain number of times on certain days, etc. I must pray until “I feel I can pray no more,” as was well-stated above. Relationship leads in this…and sometimes releases, for reasons known only to Father. If I’m in tune with Him, I know. Somehow I know. And praying “in the Spirit” helps here. Don’t understand how, but it helps.

    • Walker Plagge

      Christ does give us a pattern when he shared the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13). What can we figure out about prayer by what Jesus prays about and what He does not pray about?

      Jews have used repetitive prayer as a daily practice from the Shema ( Deut 6:4-5) to the rest of the morning Amidah. Wasn’t this practice enacted after the Babylonian captivity? And wouldn’t Jesus have performed the same morning ritual, being Jewish? (I really am just asking. Please correct any assumptions I have made out of context)

      Perhaps the difference, just like Jesus pointed about the law (Matt 5:21-22), is intent. Could it be if you say repetitive prayer from the heart and make it your own, it is acceptable, but vain and empty prayers are a joke (Matt 6:7)? Could this also mean that God purposefully leaves room in His plan for our prayers to affect His course of action?

    • Jim Zeirke

      I’m with Michael on this one. I have no idea. I’ve struggled with this, read book upon book on prayer and listened to countless sermons on the subject of prayer and frankly now feel like I know less on the entire subject of prayer than before I started my pursuit. Indeed, now I know so much about prayer that I’m almost hamstrung when it comes to praying. Hopefully folks here will at least offer some breakthrough on the subject of persistence in prayer.

    • Stan Ewert

      I’ve often wondered about the same subject. There are examples from Scripture where persistence in prayer is illustrated. I would be interested in your thoughts on the passage from Luke 11:5 ff and other similar examples where persistence seems to be urged.

      One other thought–or question. What is the purpose of prayer? I certainly can’t be to inform God of our need as He already knows our needs better than we ourselves. Therefore prayer must have some benefit for ourselves and if that is so, then might persistence also be of benefit?

    • KWilson

      “Well…Sometime between now and then I will pray for it and then leave it in His hands” Exactly! Since he already knows our needs AND His plan, we are demonstrating dependence and trust.

      That said, this does not cancel the encouragement to pore out of our heart to him completely. David demonstrated that repeated and was a model. But that is different from repetition that implies that He didn’t hear the first time, doesn’t know unless you tell Him, or that you cam change His over arching will.

      You might say that it is all in the intent, and in our acceptance of His will as the right thing, despite ourselves.

      And by the way, i never mentioned the word ‘easy’ 🙂

    • Janice

      Gave C. Michael Patton and accidental thumbs up!
      I think God loves our voices! God hears each prayer but I pray more than once for myself as well. It keeps my mind focused on my concern and the God who is concerned for me.

    • Aaron Walton

      In regards to the widow in Luke 18, Jesus still describes God’s chosen people as “crying out day and night”, and that they should be answered speedily. So I think one could say that Jesus does attest to and bless the practice of crying out. In fact, his own prayer is described as being with “loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). (To reference an earlier post) Jesus, himself also praying three times as Paul did.

      We also have a tendency to simplify things: Christ in Luke 18 says “speedily” but honestly, he was to return quickly. Our idea is not quite the same as his. And what of Daniel and Zachariah? Daniel’s prayer was heard the first day, but because of the “Prince of Persia” was not effectively answered for 21 days (Daniel 10:10-13). Zachariah is told his prayer was heard later than it seems reasonable that he was still praying regarding a son (I don’t know, maybe he was) (Luke 1:7-13).

      My points: 1) it is complicated, 2) our prayer may still be “day and night” and…

    • Don Sartain

      I think much of the frequency of prayer over a certain topic has to be ruled by two things: The commands in Scripture, and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

      In the case of tongues, what the the Bible say about asking for it?

      In cases such as praying for a spouse (as in you want to get married), I don’t know that there is anything Scriptural that says “Only pray that you’ll get married three times, ten times, 100 times…” So, with that I would say pray consistently until you feel the Spirit telling you to stop. However, if that’s all you pray about all day long, then there’s probably deeper issues that need to be resolved.

    • Richard R

      ” pray only once. God does not Longhorns and cannot put up with ur voice more than once.”

      This is such a slander on God’s character — He asks us to come as little children; no? Jesus told stories about persisting in prayer.

      You need to rethink this statement back, Mr. Patton.

    • Ed Kratz

      Richard, not sure if you were serious. But in case you were, please know that my statement was a joke. Although I left out the word “like”. It was a Texas Longhorn/Sooners thing.

    • Richard R

      Didn’t get the joke — can you clarify? Thank you.

    • Ed Kratz

      It’s the Red River rivalry in College Football. My joke was supposed to be the God does not want to hear from Texas Longhorns, especially over and over. It was dumb. Did not got a single lol.

    • Richard R

      I get it, lol!

      You know, I do pray everday for a particular need, and I just don’t believe God minds hearing from us for the same thing; we ask for the same daily needs, for example.

      I’ll keep praying for this concern in my life; I’d appreciate it if you prayed for me too. God bless you, Michael.

    • Ed Kratz

      You bet my brother.

    • John From Down Under

      And what about “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16 King Jimmy)? What does THAT mean? Pray louder, cry while you’re praying, agony of heart?

      I also think CMP is teasing us. He KNOWS the answers to his own questions, he’s a professional theologian!

      Like Jim Z above (#10), I was given a book by Myles Munroe on ”Understanding The Purpose & Power Of Prayer” and I’m none the wiser. I got more despondent on the subject in the end.

    • James S

      Why would you say “I don’t even know if my question makes any sense”. Be logical. That’s why God gave you logic. Of course it makes perfect sense! Do you really believe that your question just might actually make no sense? I think if you answer this correctly, you are half way to your answer.
      The thing which makes no sense here is asking if this question makes any sense.

      Of course God wants you to pray without ceasing. Of course He doesn’t mean about the same thing continually. You pretty much answer all your own questions.

    • Ed Kratz

      I’ve certainly lived this the past few years – earnest prayer delivered often and repetitively. Some have yet to be answered and not always understood, such as praying for a male mentor for my almost 14 year old son. I’ve practically beat down the door of heaven with that one for 3 years now and still every effort was thwarted and doors remain closed.

      What I have discovered is that if we limit prayer to petition, that is needing God to do something, we’ve missed the point. Prayer without ceasing is not so much about bringing it up to remind God, but bringing it before God to bring resolution and sometimes that is with us. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution but a perspective that whatever alignment is needed involves a continual consultation with God. Philippians 4:7 indicates bringing petitions AND supplications so it’s not asking over and over to fix or do something. I believe continual approaches demonstrate a reliance on God that he will work it out.

    • GoldCityDance

      I’m with Michael on this one (in the sense I have the same questions). When I first became a believer, it was so much easier to pray. Whenever I had a need or something to share with the Lord, I just prayed. Sometimes I prayed the same prayer unceasingly, sometimes I just prayed it once. It’s funny that as I’ve grown in my faith and started asking questions about how prayer works, it can be harder to pray. It’s just so hard to wrap your mind around how an infinite God works through our temporal prayers and what sort of prayers he expects from us.

      I think having questions is important for growing in maturity, but perhaps sometimes we just need to have a child-like faith, and just do it.

    • Annie

      It all depends. Are you looking for an instant answer to your request, an immediate relieve from stress. Are you whining as a child to have things your way or His will be done?
      There are many things we do not understand but the Bible do command us to pray without ceasing (I The 5:17). We rejoice when God answers our prayer, but it takes even greater faith to continue praying when nothing seems to be happening. God is glorified through our prayers when we chose to come before God by faith and obedience to follow his command, continually put our request before God; trusting in His goodness and admit over and over again that He is God and we are just his finite created being as instruments for his good work.
      When we keep pray and our prayers are not answered, we are walking by faith and not by sight trusting that God still listens and answers prayer. We trust that prayer is our spiritual worship, offering and service to further His will.
      We do pray with expectation that God will

    • Rong

      Michael, I know I’m late to this question and I hope that I’m not putting you on the spot in asking you this… I would have to imagine that you did a great deal of praying, what would seem to be the same prayer(s) when your sister was still alive. Given the outcome and now the years you’ve had to reflect on the matter, what is your take when you look back on this? I can’t imagine how difficult the discussions you’ve had with God over this have been, but have you had any personal resolution? And I’m not necessarily looking for some incredibly theological treatise. I just want to know how Michael Patton, loving brother finds rest on this matter.
      Again sorry to put you on the spot. Maybe you need to follow up on this post with one where you explain your own experience of long unanswered prayer.

      I love you and your ministry. Peace to you brother.

    • […] C. Michael Patton knows how to kick off a discussion and he’s got enough readers that he gets a response.  Be sure to read all the comments on this discussion about praying over and over and over and over again. […]

    • J Scott

      I think on the one hand I think someone can “pray over something” repetitively in way that in their heart they are expressing their submission to God’s will. Just as Jesus wrestled for at least an hour in part asking “If there be any other way, yet not my will but yours be done” * (disclaimer – perhaps I should not have put quotations on that as it was my paraphrase from memory and not intended as an exact quote).

      Praying over my rickety car asking God to hold it and its mechanical innards in at least a functional condition before a trip at least acknowledges; God is all powerful, I am not, I have faith that God has my best interest and protection at heart even though I go through unpleasant trials and inconveniences.

      On the other hand another can pray about something repetitively with 100% of their focus being on getting what they want from God with little room for submission to any other alternative regardless how divine it may be. Don’t ask me how I know this LOL because regretfully I spend too much time doing exactly that.

      And on the other other hand the phrase “praying over something” has always for me at least been directly associated with the act of seeking God’s will. Sometimes this is done while expressing a particular request or personal preference while other times depending on context of what is being “prayed over” the praying over exercise is 100% seeking God’s will for His direction without any personal preference other than to follow Him in submission and/or avoid going astray from His will.

    • Katarina Djordjevic

      Please, pray:
      That Our Lord God strength the relationship between Dejan M. and me!
      That any barriers between us will be removed permanently and that we may have a lifetime of happpiness and love together!
      That all weapons formed against our relationship shall not prosper, in the name of Jesus!
      Thank you for all your prayers
      May God bless you always!
      Katarina from Belgrade in Serbia

    • Johnny

      Daddy, daddy, can I please have a cat please please please,well he did say come as little children didnt he.

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