Prayer 02: two parables – Luke 18:1-8

Why and how we pray: Two parables B – Luke 18:1-8

Last week we started a series of sermons about the why and how of prayer.  Jesus prayed to the Father because he knew that he could do nothing on his own, we need to pray because Jesus said, ‘apart from me you can do nothing’.  Our prayerlessness is indicative of how much faith we place in ourselves and how little we see ourselves as utterly dependent on God.

This week we are going to read a second parable from Luke 18:1-8.  And on the front end it looks like this parable could be misread as a bang-on-the-door-long-enough-and-it-will-open parable like Luke 11.

  1. The judge

There are two things we need to note about the judge: he did not fear God; he did not care about men.  So if you were going to court and you heard that this guy was going to be presiding over your case gave up hope, right?  This guy has struck out twice on the most important qualification for being a judge.  You can’t appeal cosmic justice because he doesn’t think he is accountable to God (or anyone else for that matter).  You can’t appeal to compassion because he is heartless – he could watch a thief steal bread from a hungry child living on the streets and not bat an eyelid.

  • The widow

If you were a widow in the first century your life was hard.  And this lady knows all about it – in fact she is fighting against an unnamed adversary who was taking advantage of her pathetic position.  A widow could not own property or vote – they were powerless without a male protector.  I’m reading between the lines, but probably some man, some relative had taken advantage of the property that belonged to her late husband, she was getting ripped off and could not provide for her family.

There were three ways she could pursue justice – (1) she could try to bribe the judge – but she doesn’t have money; (2) she could try to threaten the judge –but she is just a poor, powerless widow with not power or strength; (3) she could persist – muster up the courage, persevere through the shame and embarrassment and keep plodding forward in the hope of one day…

  • Compare or contrast

In many parables there is a clear comparison between a character in the story and God, here it is a contrast:

Luke 18:4-5 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'”

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, week 1, week 2, month 1, month 2, month 3…. He finally gives in saying “Okay, I give in. I relent – not because I fear god or care about you, but just to get to SHUT UP and GO AWAY”.  So, is prayer a war of attrition?

            If a judge how has no sense of justice or compassion or mercy or kindness will give in to a request, HOW MUCH MORE will God respond to his children out of his love, goodness, grace and perfect justice!

More than that, we are not like the widow.  She is nameless, ignored, forgotten, and hopeless.  We are sons and daughters of God, chosen, known, loved, redeemed and created in his own image.

Persistence in prayer

Now, Jesus declared his intention in telling this parable: “that they should always pray and not give up” (18:1).  I know in my life that I have persisted and not gotten the answer to my persistent prayer.  Most, if not all, of us can relate to that experience – praying for an unsaved friend or family member, praying for a job, a child, a victory over a besetting sin, or to overcome a painful experience in this life.  I am still waiting!  So what is it about persistence and prayer?

  1. Firstly, this is the pattern in scripture:
  • In Acts 11 the church prayed all night for the release of Peter who was in jail.  They didn’t just hold hands, pray once and break for tea and chat about the quarter final win over Japan.  They refused to give up.
  • In Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1+2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy and Philemon Paul explicitly says that he is ALWAYS thanking God and praying for those congregations and individuals.  Paul was persistent in prayer.  From those letters we know that most of the churches had some kind of protracted trouble.  Paul didn’t say one prayer and heeeeyyyy presto it was all sorted.  No it was: ‘have not stopped’, ‘every time’, ‘always’, ‘continually’, ‘night and day I constantly’.  Sounds like the persistent widow.

So we too should strive to follow this pattern of prayer from the Bible – don’t stop and don’t give up

  • Secondly, God’s ‘at the right time’ provision keeps us dependent on him and brings glory to his name.

When you refuse to give up in prayer it shows that we are looking to God and his good provision in our lives – and when he answers he is the one who gets the glory.  When we have laboured in prayer then we are then convinced that God is the one who has made the provision or change or move at just the fight time.

            Again the Bible is full of this kind of testimony:

  • Israel at the Red Sea
  • Feeding of the Israelites in the desert – just enough for the day
  • The widow of Zaraphath – oil and flour enough for each day
  • Jesus calms the storm just before the boat is about to capsize

            History is full of examples of God answering in response to persistent prayer: DL Moody (evangelist, establish Moody Church, Moody Bible institute, and Moody Publishers) prayed daily for 100 of his friends to come to know Christ. During his life, 96 of those friends gave their lives to Christ and at his funeral the final 4 gave their lives.  The same is true of George Muller (cared for 10000 orphans and started 117 schools in his life time) who prayed for 5 young men to come to Christ – 52 years later all were saved and the last two a few years after his death.

  • Thirdly, it is God’s gracious way of keeping us close

Prayer is certainly the primary means y which we communicate with God.  But God is also graciously at work ministering to up in our times of prayer.  Often it can be a reminder of a scripture or of a prompting in a certain area of your life, or a call back in a area of life that has grown cold.

            Again, think of the Psalms.  They are spiritual songs.  And spiritual songs are just prayers put to music.  The Psalmist will start with a problem, a concern, a feeling of desertion and you see through the Psalm he wrestles through the matter and comes out in praise to God. Read Ps 102

            It is for this reason that I put before you again the idea of writing out your prayers.  It is a powerful thing.

  • Fourthly, we can trust God

…because sometimes the answer is ‘wait’ or even ‘no’.  We saw in the second half of the passage from last week that, even though human fathers (parents) are flawed and feeble at times, they still know that good parenting giving good things to your children.  But that also means it may be good to say wait or no.  No good parent just says yes to EVERY request, especially when it is not in the best interests of the child.  God who is infinite in wisdom, knowledge, and love will sometimes say ‘no’ or ‘later’.

            There are some games on that Xbox that we have said ‘wait until you’re this old then you can play’.   That is tough on the younger one who has to wait what feels like longer to get there!  There are some games that I will never say ‘yes’ to in my home – it doesn’t matter how much my boys beg or plead or mope.

We all know that if our parents had said ‘yes’ to our requests it would not have been in our best interests.  The same is true of God – if he simply said yes to all your prayer it would not be for your best. 

Also remember that, if God doesn’t answer your prayer in the way that you want, you are in good Biblical company.  Jesus prayed, ‘take this cup from my lips’ and that prayer was answer with a “no”.  Remember he also prayer, “not my will but Your be done”.  Paul prayed ‘take this thorn from my flesh’ and God said “no”.

Conclusion

Listen to Psalm 84:11 “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is walk uprightly.”  Paul will say the same thing, but through the lens of the cross.  If you EVER doubted God’s goodness to you, know this: he gave his best for you.  Close your eyes and think of that struggle you are having in prayer, where have you given up? Where have you run out of trust?  Where you need strength to persevere.

Romans 8:31-32, 35-, 37-39 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Questions

Read Luke 11:1-8

  1. Have you ever prayer persistently and gotten an answer?
    1. Have you ever prayed persistently and not gotten an answer?
    1. Why do you think this is?
  2. Read Romans 1:8-10, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:15-18, Philippians 1:3-6, Colossians1:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, 2 Thessalonians1:3, 2 Timothy 1:3-4 and Philemon 1:4-6
    1. What are the key words that Paul uses that would tell us he persisted in prayer?
    1. What does this repeated theme tell us about prayer (esp. in relation to the challenges Paul faced in the churches)?
  3. Consider how God often give just what we need just in time.
    1. Where do you see this in the Bible?
    1. Why do you think it is so?
    1. How does it realter to prayer?
  4. Read psalm 102.  How does the Psalmists attitude and approach to God change through the psalm?
    1. Has this ever happened to you?
  5. Read Luke 11:11-13
    1. What does the picture of fatherhood teach us about God and his answers to prayer?
  6. Share in you group about struggles and success you have had or are having in prayer.  Spend some time praying for each other

Perhaps some in the group (of even as a group together) would like to commit to making a list of people who need salvation in Christ – ad then pray on a daily or weekly basis.