Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, has said that “90% of success is just lasting.” There is indeed much to be said for persistence. Persistence more often than not is the determining factor between victory and defeat, between breakthrough and stalemate. This is always poignantly displayed in the back story of Olympic champions, business success stories and heroes of the faith.
I just finished watching the last of this weekend’s round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament taking teams to the Sweet Sixteen. As always I was impressed that the prevailing teams are those that exhibit the most persistent grit as the clock winds down and find a way to come out on top.
Why even little children know that persistence pays off. Grandpa finds it very difficult to say no to the unceasing, often plaintive cry of my two year old grandchild asking to see Clifford the Big Red Dog for the umpteenth time. The pressure of a persistent, never take “no” for an answer attitude, eventually finds and forces a way to prevail.
In the most complete yet compact teachings on prayer in the entire Bible, Luke 11:1-13, Jesus gives us the secret to prevailing prayer. It is a remarkable passage of scripture where Jesus begins with answering the disciple’s question about how to pray, but proceeds with His main discourse focused on the greater importance of how much to pray.
I read this passage several days ago in my daily devotional reading and noticed this for the first time. Jesus takes four verses to teach the quintessential outline of how to pray in what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer.” But He then proceeds in the next nine verses to emphasize the absolute necessity of persistence with how much to pray, ending with the classic challenge to unceasingly keep asking, seeking and knocking.
Jesus illustrates this point by inserting the story of the individual seeking bread in the midnight hour from a neighbor on behalf of a friend. The word to describe this desperate intercessor is often translated boldness or persistence but the Greek word here literally means “shameless insistence.” Real persistence is shameless.
Others might say “forget it, don’t bother, it’s not going to happen!” We might even be acknowledging “Yeh, what’s the use.” But shameless insistence keeps at it. Asking, seeking, knocking. “Grandpa, Grandpa, I want to watch Clifford, can I watch Clifford. . . Clifford, Clifford, Clifford . . .!?!?”
And eventually, the persistent asking, seeking, knocking wears Grandpa down. And finally he gets up and lumbers down the stairs and opens the tray to the DVD player and puts the disc in and pushes the play button. The little two year old has once again prevailed against her Goliath and it’s simply because of her persistence.
And that my friend is the secret to prevailing prayer -persistence!