In life, there are moments when we feel completely overwhelmed and helpless. At times, we encounter challenges that appear impossible to overcome, leaving us feeling powerless and thinking there’s nothing we can do. How do we respond when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, when joblessness knocks at our door, or when we desperately need God to show up in our broken world? In those moments, we need to learn the power of persistent prayer.
The church in Acts 12 can relate. One of their leaders had already been killed, and another was set to meet the same fate within a week, putting them in a dire predicament. The Roman government seemed invincible, making their situation seem impossible. The church found itself in a place where nothing they could do would bring about deliverance. But in the face of the impossible, the church made a remarkable choice. They turned to the one thing they could always rely on – prayer.
Prayer was not their last resort; prayer was their first response!
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.Acts 12:5
Prayer: The First and Best Response
Luke, the writer of Acts, wants to make sure we don’t miss this point. When Herod attacked the church with the sword, their countermove was to pray. They did not go out and protest or make plans for Peter’s escape. No, their immediate response was to pray! They understood that prayer was not a sign of giving up or weakness; it was their most powerful weapon.
Acts 12 unveils a truth we often overlook: Prayer was not the church’s last resort; it was their first response. When faced with an impossible situation, they chose to counter Herod’s sword with fervent prayer. For seven days and nights, they prayed earnestly, fervently, and without ceasing. In their darkest hour, they didn’t plot or scheme; they prayed.
Do we resort to planning and strategy as our initial reaction in our lives, saving prayer for when all else fails? When we face the impossible in our lives, prayer should always be our first and best response. Prayer may not be the only thing God calls us to do, but it ought to be the first thing we are compelled to do. Just like the church in Acts 12, prayer should be our first response, not our last resort.
The Power of Persistent Prayer
Luke is the author of both The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. He invites us to observe how the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel are put into practice by the church in the book of Acts. So, let’s go back to Luke’s Gospel to learn a crucial lesson that Jesus taught His disciples about prayer.
In Luke 11:1, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. Jesus taught them the Lord’s Prayer and then shared an unusual parable about an unexpected late-night visitor. In this parable of the persistent friend, Jesus highlights the power of persistence in prayer.
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.Luke 11:5–8
A neighbor shows up at midnight asking for three loaves of bread. This was enough food to feed an entire family for a week! The man makes an excessive request at an inopportune time. Yet Jesus says, “Because of his persistence, he will give him whatever he needs.” Persistence in prayer implies that prayer is a continuous action, not a one-time request. This shows us that prayer is a continual conversation with God.
Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking
Central to Jesus’ teaching on prayer is the powerful triad of ‘ask, seek, and knock.’ These three verbs hold profound significance, reinforcing the concept of persistent and continuous prayer.
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.Luke 11:9–10
When Jesus encourages us to ‘ask,’ He invites us into a posture of humble dependence. Asking implies a recognition of our neediness before God. It’s an admission that we cannot navigate life’s challenges on our own. This act of asking is an ongoing dialogue, demonstrating our constant reliance on God’s wisdom, provision, and guidance.
‘Seek’ amplifies the dynamic nature of prayer. It’s not a passive act but an active pursuit. Seeking is rooted in a yearning for deeper understanding, a quest for God’s will, and a search for His presence in every facet of life. Jesus’ teachings urge us to continually seek Him with diligence and have an insatiable desire to develop a closer relationship with Him.
Then comes ‘knock,’ a verb that embodies persistence. When we knock, we don’t merely tap gently and wait. We knock with intention and consistency, confident that the door will open. This persistence mirrors the attitude of the man in Jesus’ parable in Luke 11:5-8, who continued knocking until his request was met. Jesus uses ‘knock’ to teach us that prayer isn’t a one-time occurrence but a continuous conversation involving perseverance.
These three verbs form a rhythm of engagement with God: asking, seeking, and knocking. They signify a proactive and unceasing approach to communication with our Heavenly Father. Prayer isn’t a static monologue; it’s an ongoing conversation with God marked by the intention to hear, the eagerness to understand, and the tenacity to persist.
Persistent Prayer Unleashes God’s Power
As we consider the principles from Acts 12 and the teachings of Jesus in Luke 11, we find the thread that ties them together: persistent prayer. Acts 12 shows us that God answers prayer, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The story of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison reveals the astounding results of persistent prayer and obedience.
We are encouraged not to underestimate the power of persistent prayer. Like the early church, we too can experience God’s power and peace through our persistent prayers and obedience. We are encouraged in Philippians 4:6-7 to make our requests known to God in everything through prayer and supplication. No prayer is too big or too small for God.
Through persistent prayer, we learn to trust in His sovereignty and not give up asking, seeking, and knocking. Just as God answered the prayers of the early Church, He hears our prayers and is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
So, when the world seems overwhelming, and challenges appear insurmountable, let us remember Acts 12 and Luke 11. Let prayer be our first and best response, the force that aligns us with God’s will and unleashes His power in our lives. Through persistent prayer, we can find hope, strength, and guidance, no matter how dire our circumstances may seem.