February 6, 2020 • Life for Leaders
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
If we’re going to pray in the trenches—that is, in the tough challenges of real life—then we need to pray “with all perseverance.” That’s a literal translation of the Greek that lies underneath the NIV phrase, “always keep on praying” (Ephesians 6:18). What the NIV says is true, of course. We “always keep on praying.” But this translation misses the nuance of pray “with all perseverance.”
The Greek noun proskarteresis, meaning “perseverance, patience, or persistence,” appears only here in the New Testament. But a related verb, proskartereo, is often linked with prayer in other biblical texts. Acts 1:14, for example, says the disciples of Jesus “joined together constantly in prayer.” Romans 12:12 urges us to be “faithful in prayer.” What is assumed in these passages is that prayer takes serious effort. It demands endurance. We need to hang in there in our prayers when we are tired, discouraged, or feel like we’re “all prayed out.”
Most Christians who pray know this “all prayed out” feeling. We know what it’s like to have asked God for something a hundred times without receiving the answer we desire. We pray for a loved one to be healed but that person just gets worse. We pray for a marriage to be mended but see only further division. We pray for God’s justice to fill our world but watch as injustice prevails. Though we know we’re supposed to keep on praying, we want to give up.
In times like these, how can we persevere in prayer? Some folks have what I would call a gift of persistence. They are faithful in prayer no matter what. I admire those people but am not often like them. Others of us are not so gifted. We don’t find within ourselves the strength to persist. So, when we’re tempted to stop praying, we must remember that we are not meant only to pray alone. Prayer is both an individual and a corporate activity. When I am discouraged and defeated, when I’m not sure if I can pray anymore, I have brothers and sisters to pray with me and for me, to hold me up, to be strong when I am weak.
Remember that Ephesians 6:18 is not written to you as an isolated believer. Yes, it speaks to you personally. But it also speaks to you as a member of Christ’s body. Praying with perseverance comes as we pray together. It’s no accident that, in Acts 1:14, the disciples persevered in prayer because they “all joined together.” Their togetherness empowered their perseverance.
And so it will be with us. If you’re struggling to keep going in prayer, reach out to someone else, or to a small group. Let others stand with you as come before the Lord.
Something to Think About:
Would you say that you persevere in prayer? If so, why? If not, why not?
When do you find it hardest to keep on praying?
Who are the people in your life who will support you in prayer, helping you to be persistent even in the face of discouragement?
Something to Do:
If you are finding it difficult to persevere in prayer in some segment of your life, get help. Ask a trusted sister or brother, or your small group, to pray with you and for you.
Gracious God, there are times when I pray faithfully. And then there are other times, times when I’m discouraged, when I wonder if you’re even listening to me. I know I should persevere in prayer, even in those times, but sometimes I just can’t keep on going. Forgive me, Lord, by your grace.
And help me to persist in prayer. Give me the strength to keep on communicating with you, opening my heart and my ears.
Thank you for the gift of partners in prayer. Thank you for those who pray with me and for me. Help me to draw strength from them, so that we might together pray with all perseverance. Amen.
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Introduction to Hebrews
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.