What do you do when a big-time need gets worse and worse as you pray for years and years? Is there ever a time to stop asking God about it? Is it possible that God wants the fact that He hasn't answered "Yes" to such prayers to be understood as a "No" and that we should should stop asking Him further about it?
My short answer to that is: there sometimes are such times, but each person needs the Holy Spirit to make that very clear to them.
My longer answer is: the only verses in the Bible that I can think of in which someone is told to stop praying is God telling Jeremiah not to pray for a people whom God had already decided to judge for their sins (Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14). In those cases, God knew that His fatherly discipline was what was clearly needed in the situation and there was no point praying for an alternative approach. God made that very clear to Jeremiah (see short answer above).
But it's a big Bible, and I can't see that happening anywhere else in Scripture. What I see more of is God's call to keep on praying and to not give up!
I see Samuel saying, "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you" (1 Samuel 12:23).
I see David saying, "As for me, I will call upon God... Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice" (Psalm 55:16-17).
I see Jesus saying, "Keep on asking for something to be given and it shall be given to you" (Matthew 7:7, Kenneth Wuest's "Expanded Translation").
I see Paul saying, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And I see Paul giving us a wonderful glimpse in Colossians of his convictions regarding persistent prayer.
The overwhelming message of the Bible is that we must not give up asking, even if an answer is slow in coming. In fact, Jesus went out of His way to make sure that we knew what to do when answers didn't come quickly. Luke tells us that "He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1) and then proceeded to tell them a story about a widow who had to persist in prayer because an answer was slow in coming. Jesus was basically warning us, as if to say, "This happens sometimes, so don't give up when it does."
So until I get a clear word from God telling me otherwise, I've got to persist! No matter how I feel about the delays or the circumstances, I've got no other option except to pray and keep on praying when answers don't come. Giving up is not an option.
"And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him?" (Luke 18:7). That's something we can count on.
© 2014 by Ken Peters