Will God Ever Lead Us to Stop Praying?

Contributing Writer
Will God Ever Lead Us to Stop Praying?

Every Christian knows we should pray. We pray at meals and church services. Authors dedicate devotionals and Bible studies to prayer. Scripture teaches us to bring our concerns to God in prayer. And we should intercede on behalf of others, both Christians and the unsaved. 

Several passages instruct us in the persistence of prayer. We get tired and worn down continually bringing the same requests to God without a direct answer or seeing real change. Does that excuse us from praying? Is there a time when we can cease praying?

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Capuski

Jesus, the Intercessor

Jesus bending down to feed sheep

The New Testament emphasizes Jesus as our high priest, who perpetually intercedes for us with the Father and defends us against the accuser, the devil. 

Hebrews 4:14-16 proclaims, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Since Jesus lived as a human, both his empathy and sinlessness qualify him to represent humanity before God. 

Further, Hebrews 7:24-25 highlights Jesus’ unending priesthood: “But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Unlike the Levitical priests, whose service ended with death, Jesus’ priesthood is eternal. He continually intercedes for believers, ensuring their salvation. 

Jesus’ intercession is also depicted in Romans 8:34, which states, “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Here, Paul reassures believers that no condemnation can prevail against them because Jesus, who overcame death, advocates for them at God’s right hand. 

Scripture describes the Devil as both a liar (John 8:44) and an accuser of the brethren, Christians (Revelation 12:10-11). The Devil accuses Jesus followers before God (Job 1), and he accuses God before us (Genesis 3:1-6). In every situation, Satan accuses. And he designs his temptations to condemn to death and destruction. At the same time, all his accusations are lies. 

Therefore, after the resurrection, Jesus now stands at the right hand of God before the throne and intercedes on our behalf. As the Son, he appeals to the Father for our salvation and good, and he defends us from the Satan’s accusations. Christ continually and eternally intercedes for us, combating the enemy’s lies with the truth, since he is the Truth. 

Followers of Jesus also join him in this prayer.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/artplus

What the Bible Says about Persistent Prayer

Two people praying

The Bible also teaches how Christians sit at the right hand of the Father, within Christ. Therefore, Scripture emphasizes the importance of persistent prayer, urging believers to maintain a continuous and fervent prayer life. 

In the Old Testament, the practice of constant ministry before the Holy of Holies illustrates the principle of persistent prayer. The priests performed their duties in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple, offering sacrifices and incense daily. Exodus 30:7-8 describes this continual practice: “Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come.” This daily ritual symbolizes the perpetual offering of prayers and the unceasing devotion expected of God’s people.

Transitioning to the New Testament, the call for persistent prayer becomes more explicit. Paul’s exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is direct and unequivocal: “Pray without ceasing.” This command encourages believers to maintain a constant dialogue with God, integrating prayer into every aspect of their lives, modeling the reality of heaven and Christ’s intercession. Paul reinforces this in Romans 12:12, urging believers to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” 

While on earth, Jesus modeled persistent prayer. Mark 1:35 recounts, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” He regularly and often prayed, withdrawing to solitary places (Luke 5:16). From his example, his disciples asked him how they should pray.  

Jesus taught on prayer and often highlighted persistence, as in the Parable of the Persistent widow (Luke 18:1-18). “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. In the story, a widow repeatedly approaches a judge, seeking justice. Despite his initial reluctance, the judge eventually grants her request due to her persistence. Jesus concludes the parable by affirming that God, unlike the unjust judge, will surely respond to the persistent prayers of his people.

A second parable about persistence comes from Luke 11:5-13, where Jesus tells the Parable of the Friend at Midnight, in which a man persistently knocks on his friend’s door at midnight to ask for bread. Though initially refused, the man's persistence eventually secures him what he needs. Jesus uses this story to encourage his followers to persist in their prayers, saying, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).

These two parables share the two objects of persistent prayer. First, Christians pray for their own needs, for strength and endurance, understanding their weakness. Second, Jesus’ followers intercede for others, for the people they care about, for blessing and salvation and more. 

This all seems clear. Christians should never stop praying. But are there times believers should stop praying?

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/nd3000

When the Bible Says to Stop Praying

Stop sign at sunset

The Bible strongly emphasizes how Christians should pray without ceasing. Yet God desires for believers to intercede with him and in submission to his will, not out of religious duty apart from relationship. James writes to the church how people can pray wrong, out of a selfish desire instead of aligning with God’s will (James 4:3). Christians should stop praying to please their own desires or for their own fame. In this case, believers shouldn’t cease praying altogether but to learn to pray correctly, adjusting our motivation and returning to prayer in submissive relationship with the Father. 

As our Lord, and in relationship, God can also tell Christians to stop praying for a person or situation. Two Old Testament narratives reveal times God tells someone to stop their intercession. 

Samuel, a prophet and judge of Israel, had a deep relationship with God. When the Israelites demanded a king, God instructed Samuel to anoint Saul. Initially, Saul showed promise, but he disobeyed and failed to follow God’s commands. Saul’s first major failure occurred when he offered a burnt offering, a duty reserved for priests, showing impatience and lack of trust in God's timing (1 Samuel 13:8-14). In his second failure, God had instructed Saul to kill King Agag and all the animals of the Amalekites, which Saul disobeyed (1 Samuel 15:9).

Saul’s disobedience distressed Samuel, and he prayed earnestly for Saul. However, God tells Samuel to stop mourning and praying for Saul, since God had rejected him as king and had chosen another to supplant him (1 Samuel 16:1). While the Bible tells us to pray continually, exceptional circumstances may exist, when in relationship God tells people to stop. In this particular situation, God redirected Samuel to anoint a new king, David, a man after God’s heart. God rejected Saul but still worked for Israel’s redemption. 

In the Joshua, chapter 7, we encounter a critical moment for the Israelites. After their victorious entry into the Promised Land, they faced a shocking defeat at Ai. Joshua, their leader, was distressed and sought God in fervent prayer, falling facedown before the Ark of the Covenant. Joshua questioned why God had allowed them to suffer such a setback, expressing fear for the survival of his people and concern over God's reputation among the nations.

God’s response to Joshua was swift and direct. He commanded Joshua to get up, revealing that Israel had sinned by violating the covenant. The defeat was not due to military strategy but because of disobedience. Specifically, Achan had taken forbidden items from the conquered city of Jericho, items that were supposed to be devoted to God. This hidden sin brought God’s wrath upon the entire community. God led Joshua to consecrate the people and root out the sin. 

Again, praying continually shouldn’t become a religious reason to keep from acting when God leads and speaks. God gave Joshua an answer and command. Continuing in prayer would have been disobedient.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Anwaar Ali

What Can We Learn Today from Biblically Persistent Prayer?

Three young women praying together

Persistent prayer is a vital aspect of the Christian faith, reflecting our ongoing relationship with God. It embodies trust, faith, and a deep desire to align our lives with God's will. However, discerning when to persist and when to cease can be challenging. 

First, we look to the example of Jesus, our continual intercessor. Hebrews tells us he “always lives to intercede” for us. He always advocates on our behalf before the throng of God. Christ committed to prayer both when he lived on the earth and now in heaven with the Father. His persistent prayers for us highlight the importance of steadfastness in our own prayer lives. 

Second, we should be honest about the clear command to “pray without ceasing.” Most of us — both individuals and churches — don’t pray enough, and we give up easily in persistent prayer. We can’t endure in prayer in our own strength. We require the Spirit’s help and guidance to pray like the Son to the Father. 

Third, persistent prayer must be rooted in a genuine relationship with God and obedience to his will. Prayer is not merely a ritualistic activity but an intimate dialogue with our Creator. Our prayers should align with God's purposes rather than our selfish desires (James 4:3). In this, we will invariably pray more than we have before, since we follow the eternal and continual Intercessor, Jesus. When our prayers stem from a place of obedience and relationship, they become more powerful and effective. 

To further understand, we are children of God and will inherit our Father’s Kingdom as sons and daughters, ruling and reigning with him. In prayer, Christ seeks to teach us what it means to intercede as children of God and heirs, and the Son is the only one who can. This discipleship has both immediate and eternal results. Joining Christ in intercession, we become more intimate with him in his work. And we are being trained to be stewards of the Kingdom. 

Fourth, in submitted relationship, praying with Christ in heaven, God may tell us to stop praying for something or someone. He is Lord, and he knows best. If he redirects our prayers, specifically telling us to cease in some way, our loving Father has a reason and still seeks good from our prayers. Looking at the examples of Samuel and Joshua, we see at least two possibilities. 

For Samuel, God told him to stop praying for Saul as king because the decision had been made. God’s will no longer applied to Saul as king, so praying for the man as Israel’s leader would have been a waste of time. Our wonderful God led Samuel to anoint a new and better leader, revealing to us how God’s rejection of one plan means he has a better one in mind. 

For Joshua, God met him in prayer and provided important insight. The correct response to that insight wasn’t more prayer but surgical action to root out the sin in the camp. Joshua did the right thing to bring the issue to God and obeyed when God answered. 

Photo credit: Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez

Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.