Sometimes it’s hard to know how much to pray about a given request. How much is too much? How much is not enough? Do I have to pray different things each time so I don’t use “vain repetition”? Should I pray all day? Should I pray all night?
There are so many Bible stories about prayer that seem to send conflicting messages: there’s the Phoenician woman who came to Jesus and begged Him for the crumbs of healing for her daughter, there’s the woman with the flow of blood who reached out and touched His garment, there’s the Centurion who simply asked in faith and his servant was healed. In the Old Testament, we find the story of Elijah praying five times for rain, but once for God to rain down fire on the sacrifice. I’m sure you could list many other stories of answered prayers throughout Scripture.
A story that has always stood out to me is the story in 2 Kings 13 where Elisha tells King Jehoash to strike the ground with a handful of arrows and then gets angry at him for not striking it enough. It was terrifying to me that God could be willing to offer me something and I not pray enough and miss out. Throughout my life, when I needed/wanted God to act in a specific way I would live in fear that I had not prayed enough about it. If the prayer wasn’t answered in the way that I wanted, I assumed, at least partially, that it could have been because I didn’t pray enough.
It wasn’t until a recent conversation with my therapist that I realized something: praying out of fear is not an act of faith.
Let me say it again: praying excessively because you are afraid God won’t answer unless you pray enough is not an act of faith.
Maybe there are different approaches to prayer shown in Scripture because we are different people and even in different scenarios or phases in our lives. At some level I think we all realize this. For me, praying more and more and obsessing about it is not an act of faith. Praying about it until I have said all I need to and then choosing to leave it in God’s hands is more an act of faith for me than keeping on praying.
For some people, choosing to ask multiple times might be the act of faith they need. Whatever reminds us that we are not the ones who are making this answer to prayer happen is probably the best method for each. While prayer moves the hand of faith, it doesn’t mean that more prayer is always the answer.
Prayer is an act of faith, so what is more an act of faith for you? More prayer or more letting go and letting God?