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Persevering Prayer

Sunday, June 21, 2009 • Steve Hogan • Prayer
Luke 18:1-8
Luke 18:1- 8   Jesus tells this parable to His disciples, and He gives them and us the lesson of this parable right up front. And the lesson is that God wants us to be ones who are praying at all times, and who are persevering in prayer, not giving up and not losing heart.

- But what is prayer? Prayer is talking to God, and is the means by which we praise Him, thank Him, and confess our sin. It's the means by which we are open with God, pour out our hearts to Him, and tell Him our concerns, worries, fears, and our problems. Psalm 55:22. And prayer is the way by which we ask God for our own needs and the needs of others.

- Indeed, prayer is a wonderful gift from God, that we can actually talk to God, the living God, is an amazing and miraculous thing.
   
Now we're to pray at all times. 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Romans 12:12, Colossians 4:2. Now this "praying at all times" doesn't mean that we are to be literally talking to God every second of every day. That really is impossible. But what does it mean?

- It means we have this relationship with God, and we are abiding and remaining in Him. It means that we are spiritually connected to God, and are intimate with Him.

- It means we love the Lord more than anyone else, and that we love to talk to God, and we want to talk to God - we want to be in constant communication with Him. Cell Phone to God.

- It means we're aware of the presence of God, and of the availability of God, and we know we can to talk to Him whenever we want, and we do talk to Him whenever we want. 

- It means that the communication lines between us and God are always open. It means that whenever there's a need to pray, we can pray and we do pray. Nehemiah 2:4

- It means that we are devoted to prayer, and that we are talking to God on a consistent basis.

Of course, Christ is the best example of one who was praying at all times. Then there's Paul, and he was another example of one who was continually praying. 2 Timothy 1:3.

- Now to be praying at all times we need to be humble; we need to know that we need God all the time. And we need to have a holy heart, a heart cleansed from sin. Being holy enables the communication lines to not clog up, but to stay open. Hebrews 12:14

JC Ryle says this about prayer, "Prayer is the very life breath of true Christianity." You cannot truly live the life of a Christian without prayer. Just as you need air to physically live, so you have to pray to spiritually live. You find a Christian who isn't praying much, and you'll find a weak and discouraged Christian. But a Christian who's praying, and particularly a Christian who's persevering in prayer, is a strong and encouraged Christian, and is doing the work of the Lord.

Prayer is vital for our lives but oftentimes we don't pray that much; or we pray hurriedly; or we pray once or twice for something and than stop praying. Or we're too busy too pray; and if we're too busy to pray, then we're just too busy, and our priorities are wrong. And all of us to different degrees are guilty of these kinds of lacks in our prayer life. But Jesus instructs us to pray at all times, to persevere in prayer, and to keep having faith day after day, year after year, until we die or the Lord returns.

But here we read that we're to pray and not faint, not give up. Jesus tells us this because He knows we have this problem of praying for something and then losing heart, and getting discouraged, and getting tired of praying for the same thing over and over again.

- We're praying for some situation to change, or for some person to get saved, or for a particular need in our own life; and we may be praying for a day, a week or a month. And we don't see any change; we don't see any progress; we don't get any answer. And so we then don't pray as much for that situation, or we may even stop praying. We just give up, we quit asking God; we just lose heart; and so God gives us this parable to instruct us, to help us so we don't lose heart as we pray. Galatians 6:9

Luke 18:2   The story is about this bad judge; of course we all know about bad judges, bad officials in office. And so here this particular judge was a bad judge. He was an unbeliever - He didn't fear God, He didn't love people. And here's this woman, this widow. Now women back then didn't have the opportunities afforded women today - the rights, the privileges, the education, the jobs. It was rough back then being a woman, but even rougher being a widow.

For a widow wouldn't have a husband to help her, to speak up for her, to pay the bills, to love her. She was all alone in the world, and had to make it on her own. And in a sense she was powerless, particularly back then in that chauvinistic, male dominated culture. And so life was hard for this widow, but now she has an opponent, someone who was against her. 1 Peter 5:8. Now we don't know the particular situation, but maybe there was theft, or extortion, or some kind of false accusations. But it couldn't have been just a little problem, for why otherwise would she have gone to this judge for help?  

This woman, this widow, then wants some kind of legal protection or help. Now these words,  "legal protection" in the Greek literally means "from justice." And so this phrase can also be  translated as give me justice, or vindicate me. That is, this woman was right, and her opponent was wrong and unrighteous. This woman had a good reason, a righteous reason, a just cause in coming to this judge.

And so this woman goes to this judge, for she knows that he has the authority and power to do something about her situation; and so she asks for help, but the judge doesn't listen to her. He just ignores her; he just turns his back on her; he really doesn't care about this woman. But the woman perseveres and keeps asking the judge for help. And the judge keeps saying no, for it says "for a while he was unwilling." But this widow has no one else to turn to. Indeed, she's helpless; and so she keeps going to the judge and keeps asking him to judge righteously on her behalf against her opponent. She doesn't give up; she doesn't tire of asking this judge for his help. She perseveres.

And so after awhile, the judge gives in, and decides to help this woman in her fight against this opponent. But he doesn't do it because it's the right thing to do, or because he's following the laws of God or the laws of the land; he doesn't do it because he cares for this woman and is concerned about her. In fact, he has no empathy or compassion for her. 

- He says she's going to wear him out. He's just plain tired of her continued persistence, her bugging him, her bothering him, or as it literally says, causing him trouble. This widow was a pain, and he didn't like it. And so finally, he helps her; he finally does what is right, not out of a right motive, but out of a wrong and selfish motive.

Luke 18:6-7   Now what do we learn from this unrighteous judge. Well, we have this extreme comparison, and by this comparison we learn a lesson. The lesson is that if this unrighteous, uncaring, unloving judge grants justice to this woman, then how much more will a righteous, caring, and loving God grant justice for His elect, for the believers He chose before the foundation of the world, the ones He eternally loved, the ones He bought with the blood of His very own Son. 

Certainly then, God in His mercy, compassion and grace, will answer our prayers. Surely God hears us and longs to meet all our needs. Surely he desires to answer our supplications on the behalf of others.

- This parable then is instructive, helping us to see the importance of persevering prayer, and helping us to see the relationship between persevering prayer and knowing God's character. You need to know and believe that God loves you and wants to do you good, and wants to bless you, and therefore wants to answer your prayers. Any good father listens to his children and loves to answer his children's requests, if they are good and righteous requests. How much more so does God listen to us and answer our good and righteous requests. Matthew 7:7-11

Now we read that we are to cry to God day and night. Psalm 57:2-3, 61:1, 86:6. This word cry speaks of an intense and very desperate prayer. I think of how babies cry; and when babies are crying, they're crying out for help. And they're not faking it. Little babies are sincere and are desperate. They want something; they need something; and they usually keep crying until they get it.

But here we read that the elect are crying day and night. This prayer isn't just a one time prayer, but a determined, persevering, steadfast, day and night prayer. Psalm 86:3

- And this is what God wants for us, to be determined, persevering and desperate in our prayers. God wants us to keep coming to Him and asking Him for our needs and the needs of others. And this perseverance shows that we're truly sincere, that we're looking to Him for help, that we have faith, and that we're believing that only He can answer our prayers.

- For God then to answer our prayers, we need to learn to persevere in our prayers; we need to cry out to Him day and night. 1 Samuel 1:15; Nehemiah 1:4; Luke 2:37; Colossians 1:9; James 5:1-18.

Now this last phrase of verse 7 is a difficult one to translate. And as I looked at the Greek and at different translations and commentaries, I discovered two basic thoughts. The first thought is best conveyed by the KJ translation - "shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry out day and night unto him, even though he bear long with them?"

- Now both the NIV and NAS translations make you think God won't delay, that God won't keep putting the believer off as he's praying to him, but I believe as the KJ says, that God often does delay. JC Ryle says, quoting a Mr Pearce, "this signifies the delaying to help a good man." The point I believe is this: God doesn't always answer our prayers right away. You see, God's timing is different than our timing. Remember when Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to come and heal their brother Lazarus. But Jesus let Lazarus die, and then he raised him from the dead, which was a much greater miracle than just healing him. John 11

And so when we pray for what is good and right, for what is Biblical, God doesn't always answer us right away. His ways and timing of doing things is much higher and different and better than our ways and timing of doing things.

- We can't see the big picture, and all that God is doing, all the different pieces He is putting in place. We ask God to do one thing, and God knows that that one piece is important, but that there are other many other pieces of the puzzle that are important too, and that have to be put in place first. God indeed is sovereign over all things, and that means our prayers too.

- Realize then that when you're praying for something particular, that many others are also praying for something particular; and all this praying, your prayers and the prayers of others, are working in conjunction and in coordination with God's sovereign and overall will and purpose. Think of our own church here, how many of us are praying, and God is working all our prayers.

But prayer is also delayed because of spiritual and heavenly warfare. Daniel 10:10-14. Now the devil doesn't ever thwart God, for God is God and He does whatever He wants to do and no one will stop Him. But we have to know that the devil's work and our prayers are part of God's sovereign and overall purposes and plans. 1 Thessalonians 2:18, 5:17, Proverbs 21:30

- God also delays answering us because He's building our character, our faith, our dependence on Him through this process of persevering prayer. Romans 4:18-21, 5:1-5.
 
Now the phrase "delay long" or "bear long" can also signify to delay punishing a bad man, to delay bringing justice. 2 Peter 3:9, 14. Romans 2:4. And it's true in this context that justice was being delayed for this woman. But she eventually received it. Right?

- And in this context about the end times, this makes sense. We understand from Luke 17 and other passages that the days before the return of Christ are going to be very difficult days - there'll be great lawlessness & great persecution & great apostasy.

- But the Christians alive at that time need to be patient with the wicked, and patient with God, believing that He'll bring justice. Yes, we can rightly desire and pray for Christ to come and punish the bad people, our persecutors. But, yet, God wants us to be patient with them, for He is patient with them, for He wants to save some of them. James 5:7-11

Luke 18:8   Now in this entire context, from the beginning of Luke 17 through this verse, we read about faith, and we read about the 2nd coming of Christ. And putting it all together, in this church age, in this time period between the 1st and 2nd comings of Christ, and particularly as we get closer to the 2nd coming of Christ, we need to have faith, persevering faith. We need to be trusting God and keep trusting God. We need to cry out to Him, and believe He'll be saving people clear up to the end of this age; and that when He comes, He'll bring justice to this earth, and He'll bring it quickly. Revelation 6:9-11, 8:3-4; Matthew 6:9-10

Tags: Prayer

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

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