Should we only ask God for something once?

Question: My husband and I got into a theological discussion last night on prayer. The question was – after you have prayed about something, should you continue to repeatedly pray about the same thing throughout the day, or is just the initial prayer sufficient?

Answer: This is such an excellent question and the Scriptures give seemingly opposing advice.

There is that line of Scriptural teaching that seems to say, “Pray once and no more.” Jesus taught, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7,8). However, the NIV Study Bible note on this says, “They used long lists of the names of their gods in their prayers, hoping that by constantly repeating them they would call on the name of the god that could help them. Jesus is not necessarily condemning all long prayers, but meaningless verbiage in praying.” So this admonition is not necessarily against repeating the same request, either. But we might consider what a friend would feel if after we asked him for something we kept on asking him over and over until he answered. Would he feel we didn’t trust him?

On the other hand, Jesus also gives us the example of the persistent widow in Luke 18. He says that she “kept coming” to the town judge pleading for justice and he kept refusing, but finally gave in for peace of mind. Are we supposed to bother God until he answers? Jesus says, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:7,8). Jesus is saying that we may have to cry out day and night, but that from the Father’s perspective He is not an unwilling judge. Rather, our Father will answer us “quickly.”

Paul says, “Pray continually” (NIV, 1 Thessalonians 5:17). This doesn’t mean, necessarily, that we pray the same request over and over, but that we not give up on prayer as our lifeline with God.

Paul himself prayed three times that God would remove the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8), and God then told him He would not remove it. I think this gives us our pattern for repetition of our requests. We may pray for a specific request continually as long as God doesn’t say no. This means we must be listening to how God is responding to our requests. If He gives us a sense that they are going to be answered, there is no need to continually keep asking. If we get no sense either way, then we keep on asking as a symbol of our faith that He is the only one who can meet our need. If we get the sense that He is not going to grant our request, we also cease asking for it, and learn instead what it is we need to ask for (in Paul’s case, grace and strength to go on with the thorn in his flesh).

Randall Johnson

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4 thoughts on “Should we only ask God for something once?

  1. HELLO,
    I WANTED TO KNOW HOW SHOULD U PRAY TO GOD AND ASK HIM FOR SOMTHING THAT YOU THINK YOU NEED AND IS IT POSSIBLE FOR GOD TO TALKE TO YOU THROUGH DREAMS AND GIVE YOU SIGHNS

    • When you think you need something you should talk to God as to a loving Father who knows what you need before you even ask but who delights to hear from you and to see you expressing your needs to Him because you trust Him and know He can meet your needs. Ask in plain words and even explain why you think you need what you are asking for. Then listen in your heart for how He might communicate to you. He may choose to use dreams or signs, or He may just be pleased to answer your request or help you explore your need a little more than you expected to. His ultimate goal is to make you like Christ in your character, so that will be task number one. And if you need what you have asked for, He will provide it. He may provide it in a way you did not expect, because He knows what you really need. Remember to say thanks.

  2. I understand that there are different types of prayer and that they are appropriate at different times I believe that when we understand that prayer is supposed to change us as we submit to God and approach him with humility. I think that we need to be careful not to say that it is wrong and somehow doubting God if we pray for something more than once. If we only ever prayed about an issue once and no more our communication with the Father would be much less than it is. I believe that it is the way that we approach God that is more important than anything else rather than any legality. I pray to God because I realise that I need and want to be totally dependant on him, I want to feel his presence and I want him to speak to me. I pray for my unsaved godchildren and nephews and neices but I don’t believe that because I pray for them more than once that I am wrong and doubt God. It is very easy to babble and just talk for the sake of talking when we pray and that is what I believe Jesus spoke against.

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