Why is it that God does not give to us the very first time we ask Him, the things that we ask of Him? The answer is plain: God would do more for us, and better for us, than to merely give us that thing. He would do us the far greater good of training us into persistent faith. The things that we get by our other forms of effort than prayer to God, do not always become ours the first time we make an effort to get them. For our own good God compels us to be persistent in our effort, and just so God does not always give us what we ask in prayer the first time we pray. Just as He would train us to be strong men and women along the other lines of effort, so also He would train us to be and make us to be strong men and women of prayer by compelling us to pray hard for the best things. He compels us to “Pray through.”
Many people in these days tell us that we ought not to pray for the same thing a second time. Sometimes they tell us that the way to pray is to ask God for a thing and then “take it” by faith the first time we ask. That is true oftentimes. When we find a thing definitely promised in the Word we ought to rest upon the naked Word of God, and when we have prayed, know that we have asked something according to God’s will and therefore that the prayer is heard and that we have received, and resting there ask no more but claim the thing as ours.
But that is only one side of the truth. The other side of the truth is that there are times when it is not made clear the first time, nor the second time, nor the third time, that the thing we ask is according to His will and that therefore the prayer is heard and the thing asked granted, and in such a case we ought to pray on and on and on.
While doubtless there are times when we are able through faith in the Word, or through the clear leading of the Holy Spirit, to claim a thing the first time that which we have asked it of God, nevertheless, beyond a question there are other times when we must pray again and again and again for the same thing before we get our answer. Those who claim that they have gotten beyond praying twice for the same thing have either gotten beyond our Master, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or else they have not gotten up to Him, for we are told distinctly regarding Him in Matthew 26:44, “And He left them again, and went away, and prayed a third time, saying again the same wont.” The truth is, they have not yet gotten up to the Master, not that they have gotten beyond Him.
There are those, and there are many of them, who, when they pray for a thing once or twice and do not get it, stop praying, and they call it “submission to the will of God” to pray no longer when God does not grant their request at the first or second asking, and they say, “Well, perhaps it is not God’s will.” They call that submission to the will of God.
But as a rule this is not submission to the will of God: it is spiritual laziness and lack of determination in that most all-important of all human lines of effort, prayer. None of us ever think of calling it submission to the will of God when we give up after one or two efforts to obtain things by our other efforts than prayer. In those cases we call it lack of strength of character. When the strong man of action starts out to accomplish a thing, if he does not accomplish it the first, or the second, or the hundredth time, he keeps hammering away until he does accomplish it, and just so the strong man of prayer, when he starts to pray for a thing, keeps on praying until he prays it through and obtains what he seeks.
How fond we are of calling bad things in our conduct by good names, calling our spiritual inertia and laziness and indifference “submission to the will of God.” We should be very careful about what we ask from God, but when we do begin to pray for a thing we should never give up praying for it until we get it, or until God definitely makes it very clear to us that it is not His will to give it.
I am glad that God does not always give us the first time we ask, the things that we seek from Him. There is no more blessed training in prayer than that which comes through being compelled to ask again and again and again, even through a long period of years, before one obtains that which he seeks from God. Then when it does come what a sense we have that God really is, and that God really answers prayer. – R.A. Torrey
Excerpt from “The Power of Prayer, and the Prayer of Power”