Persistence in Prayer Has Its Reward
“With one accord all these were persisting in prayer.”—Acts 1:14
1. What does having persistence or perseverance in something mean?
“TO PERSIST” or “persevere” in something means to pursue a certain course steadily and constantly until the goal is attained. These verbs include the thought of overcoming difficulties and opposition before success is achieved.
2. For what reasons was it appropriate for Jesus’ disciples to be “persisting in prayer”?
2 Appropriately, at Acts 1:14, concerning the little band of Jesus’ true followers, it says that “with one accord all these were persisting in prayer.” They knew that Jesus had risen from the dead and they had just witnessed his ascension heavenward, but there was much that they did not understand. The promised holy spirit with power had not yet come upon them. (Acts 1:8) They did not yet fully appreciate why God had permitted their beloved Leader to be impaled on that terrible torture stake. The men responsible for doing this were still in power and there was no sign of any change in their attitude. They had been persistent in their relentless opposition. So Jesus’ followers, conscious of their need, persisted in prayer to the One in whom they had faith.
3. (a) When were their prayers answered, and how did this affect their priorities? (b) What extensive witness was given in those early days?
3 Beginning with the day of Pentecost, their prayers of faith were surely answered beyond their anticipations. They began to appreciate Jesus’ final words to them before his ascension. Instead of their first priority centering around a date, as implied in their question “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” their attention was now focused on their assignment of being “witnesses of [Jesus] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8) What a bold and thorough witness Peter gave on that day of Pentecost, including his declaration “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses”!—Acts 2:32; see also Acts 2:40; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32.
4. How do Jesus’ followers today see the need to be persistent in prayer?
4 Similarly today, Jesus’ true followers need to be persistent in their prayers “to the one who can, according to his power which is operating in us, do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive.” (Eph. 3:20) Though greatly enlightened respecting Jehovah’s purpose and its outworking, there is still much of which they do not know the detail, as to both the exact timing of events yet future and just how the many scriptures will be fulfilled concerning the complete end of Satan’s system of things. These include prophetic references to Jehovah’s people, such as the one found at Isaiah 26:20: “Go, my people . . . Hide yourself for but a moment until the denunciation passes over.”
5. (a) What two vital things are required of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) God’s kingdom message has produced what results in the world, and how was this foretold?
5 Of more immediate importance, Jehovah’s servants realize that meanwhile there is a great work to be done and a stand to be maintained, as is seen in their God-given name, Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Isa. 43:10-12) This work and their stand require persistence or perseverance. The message of God’s kingdom calls for the destruction of the worldly nations and kingdoms. (Jer. 25:15-30) God’s kingdom “will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms.” That message is not popular with present-day rulers who display the spirit of nationalism. Their combined opposition is becoming increasingly manifest. They “have massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one [the installed King, Christ Jesus].”—Ps. 2:2-6; Dan. 2:44.
6. (a) What qualities are required today? (b) How should every situation be viewed, and how has our need been supplied regarding this?
6 For God’s servants today to say as did the apostles of the first century: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men,” takes much courage. (Acts 5:29) Such courage and boldness are not dependent on our own resources and temperament, about which few of us have anything to boast. The exercise of these qualities requires a clear understanding and discernment of God’s purpose, also of the righteous standards and principles set forth in God’s Word. Among mankind, never has there been such a wholesale abandonment to selfishness, violence, corruption and uncleanness of all sorts. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) There are many and various pressures to contend with in these “last days.” This means that we must learn how to view every situation and problem from God’s viewpoint. It is only by looking to him that we can get true enlightenment through his Word and with the aid of his spirit and organization. (Ps. 36:9) Hence, the need for persistence in prayer and the need to build a true and strong faith, a victorious faith. Knowing our needs, Jehovah, in his Word, has kindly given us much timely encouragement, counsel and warning on these vital matters. First, there is the question as to who may pray and under what terms or conditions, if any.
JEHOVAH—THE “HEARER OF PRAYER”
7. (a) Who is the “Hearer of prayer,” and why was David often in need in this regard? (b) What fine guideline is provided for those feeling unworthy? (Ps. 103:8-14)
7 Jehovah inspired his servant David to write: “O Hearer of prayer, even to you people of all flesh will come.” (Ps. 65:2) David himself often experienced the need for persistence in prayer, as expressed in many of the psalms that he wrote. Sometimes the need was urgent because of the relentless pressure from his enemies, as is shown at Psalm 70:1-5. At other times the need arose on account of his own weakness and errors, some of which were serious. If you yourself happen to feel unworthy to approach God in prayer on this account, thinking that he will not hear you, we recommend that you read and reread Psalm 51:1-12. Those words recorded at Ps 51 verses 9 through 11 could well form the basis of your own prayer.
“Conceal your face from my sins, and wipe out even all my errors. Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one. Do not throw me away from before your face; and your holy spirit O do not take away from me.”
8. In approaching Jehovah, with whom does the choice really rest, and under what conditions?
8 Does the expression concerning the coming of “people of all flesh” to the “Hearer of prayer” mean that anyone is free to do this at any time he may choose? No. It actually works out the opposite way. As stated later in that same psalm: “Happy is the one you [that is, Jehovah] choose and cause to approach, that he may reside in your courtyards.” (Ps. 65:4) Though the invitation is open to all, the approach must be made in all sincerity. Though your faith may not be strong to begin with, it must be true. “Jehovah is near . . . to all those who call upon him in trueness.”—Ps. 145:18.
9. Why must our prayers to Jehovah always be in the name of Jesus?
9 Additionally, our prayers to Jehovah must always be in the name of Christ Jesus, the sole channel appointed by God. (John 14:13, 14) We gratefully recognize Christ’s redemptive work on behalf of all mankind, and that he now serves as God’s high priest, through whom we can “approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”—1 Tim. 2:4-6; Heb. 2:9; 4:14-16.
10. How does Psalm 15 provide further helpful guidance respecting this?
10 For further information as to the kind of person whom God chooses, we suggest that you read, at Psalm 15, the inspired answer to the question: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain?” The principles outlined therein must be acknowledged as righteous by us; and we must aim for them, even though at times we may fall short in actual performance.
11. (a) The Holy Scriptures were written for whose benefit primarily? (b) What encouragement can be found in Solomon’s prayer at 1 Kings 8:41-43?
11 Perhaps you say, and rightly so, that the Holy Scriptures, including those already mentioned, center around God’s people and apply to them, especially the Christian congregation that constitutes spiritual Israel, “the Israel of God.” (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11; Gal. 6:16) In comparison with such, you perhaps consider yourself an outsider or a foreigner, so to speak, because of your previous way of life and total lack of interest in religion. Many are in such a position today. Do not quickly give up, however. Keep in mind that among the many petitions that Solomon presented to Jehovah at the dedication of the temple, he prayed for “the foreigner, who is no part of your people Israel and who actually comes from a distant land by reason of your name.” He prayed that “you [Jehovah] must do according to all that for which the foreigner calls to you; in order that all the peoples of the earth may get to know your name so as to fear you the same as your people Israel do.”—1 Ki. 8:41-43.
12, 13. (a) How was Isaiah inspired to write about “foreigners”? (b) For whose benefit and in what way can these expressions be applied?
12 Additional insight and encouragement for these “foreigners” is given at Isaiah 56:6-8:
“And the foreigners that have joined themselves to Jehovah to minister to him and to love the name of Jehovah, in order to become servants to him, all those keeping the sabbath in order not to profane it and laying hold of my covenant, I will also bring them to my holy mountain and make them rejoice inside my house of prayer. Their whole burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be for acceptance upon my altar. For my own house will be called even a house of prayer for all the peoples.”
13 What an inviting description! These “foreigners” are not regimented, but gladly join themselves to Jehovah out of love for his name and all for which it stands. Their whole life (not just one day in seven) becomes one of ‘sabbath keeping,’ one being dedicated to Jehovah; thereby they enter into His rest, as Paul explains at Hebrews 4:1-10. The apostle Paul also shows how the ‘whole burnt offerings and sacrifices’ have a practical application for dedicated Christians, when he writes:
“Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name. Moreover, do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Heb. 13:15, 16.
14. What was the “house of prayer” in Isaiah’s day, and what did it symbolize?
14 In Isaiah’s day, Jehovah’s “house of prayer” was, of course, the temple that Solomon built. This temple was a symbol of God’s great spiritual temple. God’s personal presence is up in the heavenly Most Holy of this spiritual temple. In the Holy compartment of this temple the spirit-begotten followers of Jesus Christ yet on earth find themselves. They are also pictured as being in the earthly courtyard reserved for the priests in this spiritual temple.
15. (a) How is a “great crowd” identified at Revelation 7:9-17? (b) How does this apply to Jehovah’s Witnesses today?
15 Nicely corresponding with the foregoing, and after reading at Revelation 7:1-8 about the Christian congregation’s making up spiritual Israel, totaling 144,000, we next read of a “great crowd” who also enjoy God’s favor; and in proof of their dedication to him they are “rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.” (Rev. 7:15) This beautiful vision presents the international “great crowd” as serving Jehovah in his temple, that is, in the earthly courtyards reserved for those who are not spiritual Israelites, as it were in the “courtyard of the Gentiles.” Today, the great majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses identify themselves as being of the “great crowd,” with hope of everlasting life in God’s kingdom on a paradise earth. Jesus spoke of these latter ones as his “other sheep, which are not of this fold.” As Jesus continued, all his true sheep today “become one flock, [under] one shepherd.”—Luke 12:32; John 10:16.a
16. What rewarding prospects are set before those earnestly seeking Jehovah?
16 You are welcome to join in fellowship with this closely knit band of true worshipers of Jehovah. You will find this to be a most happy experience. It will prove to be of practical assistance to you and a great encouragement in your developing persistence in prayer in true faith. This yields results, for Jehovah “becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) This matter of persistence in prayer, linked with faith, is highlighted in a most interesting way in Luke’s Gospel.
17. How does Jacob’s experience with the angel provide a fine example of persistence?
17 At this point we wish to remind you of an extraordinary example of persistence and how it was richly rewarded. We refer to the time when Jacob found himself grappling all night with an angel who had materialized. Even though the socket of Jacob’s thigh joint was put out of place by the angel, Jacob would not let him go until, as he said: “You first bless me.” The angel then said something that would have lasting significance: “Your name will no longer be called Jacob but Israel, for you have contended with God and with men so that you at last prevailed.” He also finally blessed Jacob. Jacob surely went far beyond pursuing a certain course steadily and constantly. He literally had to grapple and keep at it in a crippled state until he got what he sought. He was wonderfully blessed, as he said: “I have seen God face to face and yet my soul was delivered.” What a fine example of persistence in prayer!—Gen. 32:24-30.
a See the article “The Gathering of All Nations to One Temple to Worship,” in the December 1, 1972, issue of The Watchtower; also Paradise Restored to Mankind—By Theocracy!, p. 80, pars. 14, 15.