Prayer Is Like Demolition Mining
The 20th century Norwegian pastor Ole Hallesby likens prayer to mining as he knew it in Norway. Demolition to create mine shafts took two basic kinds of actions. There are long periods of time, he writes, “when the deep holes are being bored with great effort into the hard rock.” To bore the holes deeply enough into the most strategic spots for removing the main body of rock was work that took patience, steadiness, and a great deal of skill. Once the holes were finished, however, the “shot” was inserted and connected to a fuse. “To light the fuse and fire the shot is not only easy but also very interesting… One sees ‘results.’ … Shots resound, and pieces fly in every direction.” He concludes that while the more painstaking work takes both skill and patient strength of character, “anyone can light a fuse.”
Pastor Tim Keller comments: “This helpful illustration warns us against doing only ‘fuse-lighting’ prayers, the kind that we soon drop if we do not get immediate results. If we believe both in the power of prayer and in the wisdom of God, we will have a patient prayer life of ‘hole-boring.’ Mature believers know that handling the tedium is part of what makes for effective prayers. We must avoid extremes—of either not asking God for things or of thinking we can bend God’s will to ours. We must combine tenacious importunity, a ‘striving with God,’ with deep acceptance of God’s wise will, whatever it is.”
As I look back on my life, there have been many experiences that have shaped and defined who I am. One of those was being diagnosed with prostate cancer. I never thought the “cancer” label would ever be attached to me—a relatively young guy in excellent health with energy to spare. And yet, it was.
I made it through surgery without incident, but recovery nearly did me in. I was exhausted. I was fearful. I was despondent. I was weak. Was I ever going to get better? Were my best days now long gone?
For many months I prayed to God for help, and for healing, and for hope. Week after week, I crawled into the pulpit to deliver my prepared talk, sustained only by the prayerful persistence that connected my heart to God’s.
Though I was wobbly and wounded on nearly every front, the more I pursued interaction with my Father, the more divine strength I sensed in my life. The more I knocked on the doors of heaven, asking for rest to invade my tired days, the more I found God ready and willing to carry the burden I bore.
Yes, my knuckles may have become bruised from all that knocking, but my soul was refreshed, revived, and healed. Healed from despair… healed from anxiety… healed from suffering… healed from grief. Every ounce of healing I desperately needed was found by way of earnest prayer.
I’ve always been intrigued by a particular parable Jesus told in Luke 11 that has to do with this idea of persisting in prayer. Here, Jesus sets the stage for how His followers are to make their requests known to God.
In the story, a man has the nerve to show up unannounced at his friend’s house—and at midnight, no less—to borrow not a smidgen of food, but three large loaves of bread (a day’s worth of meals in those times). The friend essentially blows him off: “Get lost! I’m trying to get some sleep in here!” But the man will not be dissuaded from making known his desperate request. After all, he has an empty cupboard and a hungry houseguest waiting back at home. What is he supposed to do? Show up empty-handed? And so the man keeps knocking. And eventually, the loaves are his.
Jesus taught us in Matthew 7 that when we ask, it will be given to us. When we seek, we will find. When we knock, the door will be opened to us. This is the tantalizing trifecta He conveyed to His disciples, and it’s the same offer He extends to us. Let the truth of it seep deep into your bones, because God promises that it is so!
So don’t pray fleeting, infrequent prayers, but passionate, persistent prayers. As you’re faithful to knock, you’ll find the provision you need is there in your hands.
One day George Muller began praying for five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Muller persevered in prayer until his death for the fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up hoping that he would accept Christ! His faith was rewarded, for soon after Muller’s funeral the last one was saved.
We are meant to be persistent in our prayer lives. That means being tenacious, determined to pray, praying regularly, and continuing to pray in faith even if we don’t receive the answer quickly. … We are to come boldly before the Lord in 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. 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) The asking, seeking, and knocking in these verses can be seen as meaning that they go on doing these things. The petitioners are faithful to bring their requests before God on a regular basis.
At the same time, Jesus cautioned His disciples to not be like Gentiles who “heap up empty phrases” and “think that they will be heard for their many words,” (Matthew 6:7) or like the scribes, who “for a pretense make long prayers.” (Mark 12:40) Jesus is not seeking lengthy prayers or repetitious prayers. What is important is that our prayers are heartfelt communication with our Father who loves us.
The idea of persistence in prayer isn’t that we are to try to wear God out with our asking over and over. We are to bring our requests before Him with faith and trust, knowing that He loves us like a father loves his child, and will give us what we ask for when it is good for us and within His will to do so. That being said, it should be understood that being persistent in prayer will not always result in God answering the way that we are asking.
We shouldn’t lose faith if our prayers aren’t answered immediately. We’re told to not lose heart. Jesus instructs us to carry on in faith and confidence, knowing that God is a fair and generous judge, a loving father, who will answer according to His will and in His time.
And perhaps most important of all to remember, God loves each of us as His children. He cares for us. He has our best interests at heart. We can and should come to Him in prayer with faith, trust, humility, and love for the one who loves us with His everlasting love.
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