Jonathan Edwards: The Perseverance of Prayer

“the state of the church has appeared most dark, just before some remarkable deliverance and advancement.”

Answers to prayer often do not come immediately. Sometimes there are years between when we start asking for God to work and when He answers. What keeps Christians persevering in the discipline of prayer? How can we fortify our affections against the discouragement of unanswered prayers? Edwards’ insights into these questions in An Humble Attempt help bolster our resolve to be consistent in our prayer lives.

As we seek and pursue the face of God and as we ask to see the Spirit move in a marvelous way, we can be sure that God delights to answer these requests. Edwards writes, “With what confidence may we go before God and pray for that, of which we have so many exceeding precious and glorious promises to plead.” The basis for our continuing to pray and to expect God to work and answer the request to move in a mighty way is the promises of God revealed in the Bible. God has given promises in the Bible and on that foundation our prayers must continue to be made to God. Edwards helps us realize that “what God abundantly makes the subject of his promises; God’s people should abundantly make the subject of their prayers.” To put it more succinctly, Christians need to pray the promises of the Bible.

We may agree that we need to pray the promises of the Bible, but when we look around us, we see the shambles the church is in or our personal lives are a train wreck. The desperate state that the world is in causes us to nearly throw our hands in the air and give up hope for God working in our days. Listen to how Edwards responded to the apparent godlessness in his day: “We know that God will never desert the cause of truth and holiness, nor suffer the gates of hell to prevail against the church, and that usually, from the beginning of the world, the state of the church has appeared most dark, just before some remarkable deliverance and advancement.” Just when things seem the darkest, God works in marvelous ways to restore, redeem, and deliver His people. The Church must not give up praying for the work of God in their (our) day.

God never abandons His people or His church. When we pray and seek God to do the work that only He can do, He will work on their behalf. Edwards continues, “God does not only forbear to destroy us, notwithstanding all our provocations, but he has wrought great things for us, wherein his hand has been most visible, and his arm made bare.” There is no other spiritual discipline that so readily reveals what we believe about God and His work than prayer. God has called us to seek His face, to pray for laborers, to pray without ceasing. How the church responds to these calls shows if we believe God will answer these requests and will work on behalf of the His Church.

The shallowness of our prayers highlights the joy we take in the comfort of our sin.

How we persevere in praying for God’s work exposes our true desires for the church and for our lives. In other words, if God moves in our midst, the sin that lies in our hearts must be confessed, repented of, and forsaken. The Bible that has not been picked up in weeks must be read, memorized, and enjoyed. Our local church must not be abandoned or visited as a country club. The shallowness of our prayers highlights the joy we take in the comfort of our sin. Let us be consistent to pray for God’s work in our day. Let us be humble to remove sin as God visits us in our prayer closet.


Article by Caleb Nedimyer

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