When to Stop Praying

15 05 2013

“To every thing there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time to petition God for an answer to prayer; there is a time to cease praying for a particular request. “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice” (II Corinthians 12:8). These were not 3 quick prayers, but 3 distinct seasons of prayer. He “besought” the Lord. It may or may not have involved fasting but for sure it involved passion. After his 3rd season of prayer, he ceased asking God to remove his “thorn in the flesh”. This does not prove that 3 is an established limit for our requests. It does prove that a request would sometimes have a limit.

So how do we know when enough is enough? Let me answer that generally and then get more specific. Psalm 37:4 tells us to, “Delight thyself also in the Lord and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart”. The verse contains a condition and a promise. The condition: “Delight thyself also in the Lord”. In other words, make Him your priority, your motivation and your joy. The promise: “He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” If we truly delight ourselves in the Lord, His desires will become our desires. If the Lord can turn the king’s heart “whithersoever He will” (Proverbs 21:1), surely He will also turn the desires of the one who delights in Him. Many times we begin praying for a request with great desire, but in time the desire evaporates. If we are walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and delighting in the Lord (Psalm 37:4), there may be a number of reasons why we no longer sense the need to pray for the request. First of all, it may have been a request to “consume it upon our own lusts” (James 4:3). Secondly, it may not have been “in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). In other words, our prayer was not motivated by the Holy Spirit, but by the flesh. We were not walking in step with Him. We did not know how to pray as we ought (Romans 8:26), so the Holy Spirit directed the request:”according to the will of God”. Thirdly, because God removed the desire so that we would cease praying for the request. If the desire continues, He wants us to keep praying and waiting on His timing. If the request is Biblical (like praying for wisdom, daily bread, or Holy Spirit fullness), keep praying!

Like Paul’s thorn in the flesh, perhaps God would rather leave us weak so that we could have His strength. If we are delighting in the Lord, we will rejoice even in weakness, because we find it to be best. It’s not easy, but necessary. There comes a point in the process of a loved one dying that we may sense more of a desire to pray for a peaceful passing than for healing. You are not giving up on them, God changed your desire. His will is to take your loved one home.

When we delight in the Lord, then He will give us the desires within our heart. When our desire to pray for a certain request runs out of gas, maybe it’s because God has a better answer on the way!

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