“Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again…” (Mark 8:25)
This phrase is in this week’s appointed readings in the Daily Lectionary. It’s said almost in passing in the account of Jesus’ healing of the blind man of Bethsaida, but the point is an important one: Jesus prayed twice for his blindness.
That small incident, which is given no particular emphasis in the Gospel, nevertheless encourages me greatly. If Jesus prayed twice for someone’s healing (might we even say that he needed to pray twice?), then surely it is right for us to pray and pray and keep on praying.
There is a line of Christian teaching—an unbiblical one, I should hasten to add—that says, “If you really have faith, you’ll pray just once and then believe that God will do what you’ve asked.” Others take what is perhaps the opposite view, that you can try prayer once but if it “doesn’t work,” then forget it because it wasn’t God’s will.
Neither position is the one we see modeled for us in the Scriptures. Instead, we are shown God’s most faithful servants persevering in prayer—people like Abraham, who prayed repeatedly for the deliverance of Sodom (Genesis 18); David, who poured out his soul in prayer that God might vindicate him (Psalm 26 and others); Moses, who fasted and prayed for 40 days on Mount Sinai to hear God’s Word (Exodus 24 and 34); Hannah, who prayed with tears to be able to conceive (1 Samuel 1); Daniel, who prayed for three weeks for the Lord’s vision (Daniel 10); Paul, who did not cease to give thanks and pray (Ephesians 1); and Epaphras, who was always wrestling in prayer for God’s people (Colossians 4).
The examples go on and on. All demonstrate for us the principle of prayer which Jesus showed us and taught us, not least in Luke 18:1, where “he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
If we need to be told, “always to pray and not lose heart,” then obviously, in our sinfulness, we are inclined to do just the opposite. So often we give up on prayer far too quickly. Whether it’s for healing, for spiritual revival in our hearts or in our church, for a friend who doesn’t yet know the Lord, for the meeting of a financial need, for our congregation’s mission, or for persecuted believers across the globe, we must persevere in faithful prayer for the Lord to break through in power.
Lord, help us, that we would always pray and never lost heart.
The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey
Find Bishop Guernsey's article in PDF format online here.