The Prayer of Persistence


The house was strangely quiet except for the sounds of a woman’s bitter weeping rising from downstairs. Elijah sat on the floor of the upstairs bedroom staring at the young boy—the dead boy—as his lifeless body rested upon the bed. Elijah, too, undoubtedly tasted the bitter herb of grief. “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” It was a bold but appropriate query, the question Why? threading Elijah’s words together.

After some time Elijah rose from the floor and stretched himself upon the child’s body, crying out again to his God. “Let this child’s life come into him again.” Then—nothing. One wonders how long Elijah stared at the widow’s son, awaiting some sign of new life. Then Elijah stretched himself out again upon the child. Again he prayed. Nothing.

Sitting on the floor and gazing still more at the dead boy, with eyes stung by heartache’s hot tears, Elijah pondered what to do next. “Lord—please!” he must assuredly have begged. And then with a tenacity rarely seen among even the best of us, Elijah rose a third time and spread his manly body across Death’s young victim. “O LORD my God,” he pleaded, “let this child’s life come into him again!”

The text of 1 Kings 17 offers a compelling portrait of the sovereign God being moved by the humble and persistent petitions of a broken man. “And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived” (v. 22). Did the boy’s revival catch Elijah off-guard? Did it frighten him? Did he jump up and stare in disbelief? Did he follow this stare with a gleeful shout? And think of the boy’s mother–wow!

Are you that persistent with the Lord? Many hurl a petition at the Lord of Heaven only to wonder if ever the petition were heard. The notion of persisting with God seems to escape such as these because doing so is too difficult or God is seen as little more than a divine vending machine in which one places a coin and out comes the answer of choice.

Let me urge you onward in some hard work. Stay the course in persistent prayer regarding the thing about which God burdens you. Methodical, regular, unrelenting petition, threaded together by humility and open-handedness and trust, is difficult duty but also a joyful privilege.

And God always—always—hears. And He always responds with the reply that is best.

Even if we think otherwise.


  1. Mike Perna says:

    So I go about hither and yon over the world of internet blogs and low and behold I stumble across one for Matthew St. John. How’s it going Matthew? I had heard you guys had moved out of Dallas, but hadn’t heard where. Fargo huh?

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