You find out a lot about yourself by how well and how long you persevere to attain what you desire. If God readily gave you what you seek in prayer, you would have no reason to persevere. That would also mean there would be no real development of your character and maturity.
In his parable of the “Widow and the Unjust Judge,” (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus instructs us to persevere in prayer and not to get discouraged when God does not seem to answer:
“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?
Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’”
This parable is what the rabbis called “from the lesser to the greater.” If it is the case that even this cynical judge caved in to constant appeal, how much more will God eventually respond to those who, like the widow, keep pleading for what they desire. (Of course, what you are praying has to be in God’s will for you.)
Paul persevered longer and suffered more than most any other early disciple of Jesus Christ. He described what he himself had learned the hard way:
“And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 3:3-5 NRSV).”
By your perseverance, you are showing God not only what you seek, but also who you really are. And only you can persevere. God will not do it for you. But if you choose to persevere, God will secretly reward you with the power to continue doing so.
(Contact Hal Green, Ph.D., at firstname.lastname@example.org.)