Formations 09.27.2020: Persistence

Luke 18:1-8

Persistence is one of the key factors that underlies success. Think about the people you knew in high school. It’s likely you can think of somebody in your graduating class who got good grades but perhaps wasn’t terribly successful in life. At the same time, we can no doubt name average or even below-average students who did very well for themselves. Many times, persistence is what makes the difference.

What steps can we take to become more persistent? David L. Van Rooy, author of Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (AMACOM, 2014), suggests three things to keep in mind.

First, Van Rooy writes, get out of your own way. Research by the American Psychological Association indicates that lack of willpower is the number one barrier to success that people report. At the same time, this is something that 71% of respondents felt they could improve in this area. In other words, seven out of ten people believe that they can control the one area that most holds them back from reaching their goals.

Next, be realistic. Persistence is admirable, but blind persistence is not. Therefore, we have to be wise and pragmatic in our pursuits. This might involve setting attainable goals as well as thinking creatively about how to reach them. Persistence may call for reevaluation.

Finally, Van Rooy reminds us that persistence requires preparation. “When opportunity arises,” he writes, “you will become your own enemy if you have not prepared for it in advance. If you want something you must treat it as an eventuality. You must believe that it will happen.”

Persistence is at the heart of this week’s lesson. Jesus is teaching about prayer, specifically that the disciples “need to pray always and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). To drive this point home, he spins a scenario with a dishonorable judge who refuses to hear a widow’s case. Eventually, though, he gives in to her, not because of piety or compassion but because of annoyance. How much more will God—who is the foundation of all righteousness and mercy—grant justice to those who cry out for it?

Let’s be careful here. The point is not that in the kingdom of God the squeaky wheel gets the grease. God responds to the widow because God is even more interested in justice that she is. At the same time, God invites us to become partners in the work of the kingdom, and persistent prayer is part of that.

David L. Van Rooy, “Why Persistence Pays Off,” American Management Association, 24 Jan 2019 <>.


• Do you believe that you can grow in persistence? Why or why not?
• How do wisdom and pragmatism figure into the way you pray? How can we know when what we’re praying for is not the direction God intends to move?
• What is the difference between persistence and stubbornness?
• What steps can you take to get ready for answered prayer? How might taking these steps bear witness to your faith?
• What encouragement could you give to someone in danger of “losing heart” in prayer?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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