You should pray for a person once for any given circumstance, not the same circumstance over and over.
If you stop praying for them because of un-forgiveness, thats another matter. There are basically six types of prayer and this question falls into one or possibly two of categories, faith and intercession. Since intercession is more involved, I will expand on the prayer of faith.
Faith or Petition Prayer
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
The prayer of faith is also known as petition prayer. This is the most common form of prayer, asking God for stuff. The most common misconception is that the people praying to God actually believe that God exists.
Most people who say they believe in God, only say they do because of social pressures to do so. These same people, never pray to God during their day to day lives.
People are basically passive in their belief of God. They only pray to God when they are in trouble, but when they can handle things and life is good, God is scarcely part of their vocabulary.
In this aspect, you have to wonder do these types of people really believe in God or do they believe in the concept of God? Most people believe in the concept of God, they subscribe to the notion that if you are a good person you will go to Heaven.
This good person belief is based on an individual’s concept of right and wrong, good and evil. From the outset we know that this concept has nothing to do with God at all. The first requirement in praying to God, is that you have to believe in Him, not a concept of Him, which requires a relationship.
Santa Claus is a concept, he is not a real person, therefore, anyone can be Santa Claus. But there is only one God, who is not a concept. He is a Spirit, tangible, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient with Asiety and is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” John 4:24.
He is the creator of all things in Heaven and in Earth, from everlasting to everlasting, He is God.
“For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” Hebrews 11:6.
The second requirement is that you must know that God has given you faith in the first place, in order to be able to believe in Him.
“God has dealt to every man the measure of faith” Romans 12:3.
What is the measure of faith?
“if you have faith as a grain of a mustard seed”
A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds in the world. A grain of a seed that small is barely visible to the naked eye.
To put this in context, if you have ever had a job and went to work trusting that whoever it was, you were working for would pay you on payday, you have the measure of faith.
If you ever created a debt, believing you would be able to pay that debt because you had a job, like a car note, mortgage, utility bill and any other forms of service on credit, you have more than a grain of a mustard seed of faith.
You can believe God with no problem.
The moving of mountains Jesus refers to, is not a physical mountain but a physical circumstance that appears to be a mountain at the moment, its a metaphor.
The reason a person does not apply the faith they have in their paycheck, to the things of God or any spiritual aspect in their lives, is because they don’t truly believe in God. They believe in a concept of God.
They don’t believe in Christ, nor have they accepted Him. These are but a few reasons why a person’s faith does not grow. Other reasons for those who claim to know God and believe in Christ, yet they get no results, are that they are passive Christians.
They have un-confessed sin in their life, they have not forgiven people in their life for what they have done to them. All or some combination of these factors is why people have unanswered prayer in their lives.
Most people, instead of looking at the real reason for this lack of performance in their spiritual life, will use the mantra, “it is God’s will” or that “everything happens for a reason”. There is always a measure of truth to these disclaimers, but these mantra, as a practical matter of application in one’s life, occurs in most cases as the result of default. Being out of the Lord’s will and plainly not being in step with the way God has said to do a thing is the default, like thinking a prayer.
The most common reason for unanswered prayer outside of these mentioned, is simply not praying effectively, or correctly. Despite popular belief that there is no right and wrong way to pray, all the biblical evidence is to the contrary.
The next thing we must consider is that since we have faith to start out with, how do we grow that faith practically? It takes more faith to believe for a Cadillac than it does a Ford Tempo, more to be healed of cancer than a cold, more to believe for $10,000 dollars than $100.
The only way to grow your faith is by hearing the word of God.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17
The easiest way to grow your faith is to read the Bible out loud to yourself. That way you can grow as you see fit. It will quickly make a difference that you will see in a physical way. You will notice that God will talk to you more through the Holy Spirit. This will translate into peace of mind and better decision making on your part.
Faith is carnally defined as the ability to commit oneself to act based on self-experience, to warrant belief without absolute proof. In other words, faith is an act of the will. You “want” to believe.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1 - Faith is used to believe something initially. Hope fills in the gap during the time between what we believe God for and the manifestation of it.
Faith is the tangible aspect of the actions on our part, while we are in the process of believing. Faith is an action word. To have faith is to do something. Hope in the gap is often the thing that helps us see progress. Even minor advancements along the way can provide hope. But the progress, is not what we are using our faith for, nor is the progress answered prayer.
Let’s say you are hungry and you have asked for a meal. You have faith and believe that you will get the meal you asked for. The sound of pots and pans rustling in the kitchen, the smell of food cooking, gives you hope and even anticipation that what you asked for is coming to pass.
But the smells are not the meal it is only hope towards the impending meal.
When the food is done cooking and the plate of food is before you and it’s time to eat, your faith is complete, you have the manifestation of the meal.
You must use your faith beyond the hope and all the way to actually being able to eat.
To unlock the prayer of faith we look to the keys.
“What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and you shall have them” Mark 11:24
The key is “WHEN YOU PRAY”. When asking God for anything, you should first be sure that He can hear you by cleaning the slate. Repent of any sins you have committed, ask for what you want, but be very specific. Be certain that what you are asking for is in God’s will. Not something outside of His will, like winning the lottery, killing your enemies, covering up a lie for you or asking for someone else’s wife or husband, stuff like that.
Whatever it is that you are asking for, you have to believe for it in the moment that you are praying to God. Not before or after, the key is in the moment of prayer. When we pray is the spiritual equivalent of being before God in the moment, this is why you have to believe in the moment that God is actually hearing you.
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
Once you have prayed for whatever you are asking of God, you cannot ask for it again.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Religious teaching suggests that you should ask God over and over again as though God is hard of hearing.
“But when you pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they shall be heard for the much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him” Matthew 6:7-8
“Ask in faith, nothing wavering”
God is not hard of hearing and He is omniscient, meaning He knows everything. As Jesus points out, He knows even before you ask. So to ask over and over is not to ask in faith, but in doubt. As a practical matter it is wavering.
Jesus offered two parables with respect to answered prayer. “because of his importunity” Luke 11:5-13
Here Jesus makes the spiritual contrast that God is not like a man, that because you wear Him down he will respond to you. He is saying instead,
“ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone that asks receiveth” Matthew 7:7-8, 21:21-22; John 16:23-24
The unjust judge is a contrast as well. God is a just judge and if this earthly judge would avenge this woman, how much more would God do for His children (Luke 18:1-8).
“for from the first day that thou didest set thine heart to understand and to chasten thy self before thy God, thy words were heard and I am come for thy words” Daniel 10:12-13
The “FIRST DAY” his prayer was answered. Now in verse two of this account, Daniel says he mourned three full weeks. But it does not say he prayed over and over again for the same thing during this time.
It is true that the scripture also does not say that Daniel didn’t pray over and over again for the same thing. But in cases like this, we look for precedence and other scripture that would support the claim. Subsequent scriptures, and all supporting evidence suggest that repetitive prayer, in the form of the original petition is not done, nor is it required by God. All scripture suggests the contrary is true.
Once you pray for something, the next thing to do is to pray a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord and believe you receive your answered prayer.
Example: “Father I thank you and praise you that I believe I receive my sandwich in Jesus name”.
This is all you say. You don’t ask for the sandwich again. If you pray believing that God has heard you, then to pray for it again is to say you don’t believe that God heard you.
This is a prayer of faith, asking again kills your prayer. God is a God of order, we can’t ignore these details, God does not. We can thank God all day long and as often as we want, God even likes that. You can praise the Lord for what He is doing on your behalf. All that is fine and what we should do, but to ask amiss is to get into the repetition (James 4:3).
The final key is to never accept substitutes as answered prayer.
In both accounts of Matthew and Luke, Jesus is saying that God will do more for us than a heathen would do for his own.
“If a son asked bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? If you then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” Matthew 7:9-11; Luke 11:11-13
The Holy Spirit is the key to answered prayer. He knows you and God intimately. He knows God’s will for us. When we pray in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit acts as a mediator in our prayers between us and God. There is a caveat when praying in the spirit or in tongues, since tongues is the prayer of Angels manifested by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is praying to God for you directly, so the caveat is that you don’t pray in the spirit Jesus name, because the Holy Spirit is praying not you per-say.
Jesus says God gives the Holy Spirit to him that ask Him.
“for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” 1 Corinthians 2:10
Finally, we must believe that God’s will for us is greater than our own will is for ourselves.
“Eyes have not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him”
1 Corinthians 2:9