Tuesday March 26
How easy do you find it to persist in prayer? When faced with a challenge or a circumstance, it can be easy to bring it to God the first time, in deep desperation. But what if, after you’ve prayed, things haven’t changed? You’re still unhappy, confused, uncertain. Do you return to God again? Or do you decide prayer isn’t the right option?
Today’s passage is a well-known one. Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before he is betrayed, tortured and killed. He is praying in simple, heart-rending words: "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”
We don’t know what Jesus was feeling as he prayed these words.
We can imagine, of course – fear, trepidation, dread, terror. "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me." Have you ever prayed words like these? Through uncontrollable unknowns, deep disappointments, dark nights of the soul? Have you ever found yourself in a situation that seemed so completely unbearable, so completely god-forsaken, that you have turned to the Lord and asked him to intervene? Jesus prays these honest, human words.
We don’t know how long he waited there before he uttered the next sentence. It could have been seconds; it could have been minutes. It could even have been hours.
But utter the next sentence he does: "Yet not as I will, but as you will."
And then he gets up and returns to his disciples.
But he’s not finished. After speaking with his disciples – rebuking them, in fact, for falling asleep – he goes away a second time.
He has prayed once before, but he prays again: "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
And then Jesus returns to his disciples, to find them sleeping once again.
So, he returns to pray.
Three times, Jesus comes to the Father and prays about the same thing.
Jesus persisted in prayer. He continued to bring the situation and his pain and his fear and his reluctance to the Father in prayer. Three times Jesus prayed. And if Jesus – fully God, fully human – had to pray more than once for something, why are we so reluctant to persist in prayer ourselves?
Faced with difficult situations, painful circumstances and a broken and hurting world, we do not need to be ashamed to return to the Father time and time again in prayer. Jesus did it and God longs for us to come and be with him in prayer as well. Whether three times or three thousand times, God wants to hear the cry of our hearts and be with us as we learn to give him our ‘not my will, but yours’.
Anna’s story (below) reminds us that often, it takes longer than we’d like for circumstances to change and justice to be delivered – even when we know we’re praying and hoping for something God cares deeply about.
Similarly, it can be difficult to persist in prayer when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems and overwhelming statistics – such as the number of people trapped in slavery today. But this passage shows us that persisting in prayer is an act of faithful obedience and will change situations, even if it is in ways we don’t expect.
Where do you find it hard to persist in prayer? What seemingly impossible thing, person or issue have you given up talking to God about? What might it look like, this coming season, to continue returning to God about issues which you long to see changed?
Begin your time of prayer today by asking for forgiveness for giving up on praying about the issue you just reflected on. Take some time to acknowledge God’s forgiveness and mercy washing over you and then pray a prayer of commitment to persist in prayer. There is a prayer below to help you.
I am sorry for the times when I have given up seeking your intervention in difficult situations, especially _______________. Please forgive me.
Thank you for Jesus’ example of persistent prayer. Thank you that you never tire of hearing my prayers, and that you are at work in the world even when I can’t see or understand it.
Today, I commit to praying regularly for issues of injustice like _______________. Please help me to be faithful in my prayers today and in the coming weeks and months. Align my heart and my prayers with your purposes, for your kingdom and your glory.
Persisting in Prayer - Anna's Story
*Please note that this story contains descriptions of sexual violence.
Anna* knows that justice doesn’t often happen overnight and the importance of not giving up – even in the face of disappointment.
After 13 years pursuing justice, Anna recently saw the man who sexually abused her sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Anna was a young teenager when she was raped by her principal– a man she trusted and respected.
When IJM staff learned what had happened to Anna, they began to support her to heal from her trauma and pursue justice.
In 2011, the man was found guilty and sentenced to prison. Anna, who’d bravely testified against the man, thought justice had been served. But the perpetrator appealed the court's decision and in 2014 a re-trial was ordered.
Despite this devastating decision, the setback did not stop Anna and IJM's pursuit of justice. The case began for a second time and thanks to another powerful testimony from Anna, the persistent prayers of staff and supporters and the tireless work of IJM’s lawyers, the perpetrator was sentenced in 2022.
"It has been a long journey, 13 years seeking justice for Anna, but we are happy that justice has finally been served," said IJM lawyer Julius Nyaga.
Take a moment now to follow IJM Canada on social media and find out how you can help more children, women, and men in their pursuit of justice – @ijmcanada
Was this devotional shared with you by a friend? Sign up to receive the rest of the Holy Week Devotionals straight to your inbox.