Bobby went into a drugstore to buy 3 boxes of chocolate: …… small, medium, and large. When the pharmacist asked him about the three boxes, he said, “Well, I am going over to my new girlfriend’s house tonight for supper. Then we are going out for the evening. If she only lets me hold her hand, then I’ll give her the small box. If she lets me kiss her on the cheek, then I’ll give her the medium box. But if she really lets me smooch seriously, I’ll give her the large box.” He made his purchase and left.
That evening as he sat down for dinner with his girlfriend’s family, he asked if he could say the prayer before the meal.
He began to pray, and he prayed a most earnest, and intense prayer that lasted for almost five minutes.
When he finished his new girlfriend said, “You never told me you were such a religious person.”
He said, “And you never told ME your dad was the pharmacist!”
While we all might get a chuckle out of that joke, it leads right into the topic for today – it is essential to pray whatever your circumstances. Luke said in the first verse of our Gospel lesson for today “…Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1
Jesus told His disciples they need to pray, and He told them when and how often, didn’t He? …. Jesus says ALWAYS…. Day and Night.
And God must have been a marine because he adds – never give up!
So, what do Americans think about prayer in general? According to a recent survey prayer is still important to most Americans.
74 percent say they pray.
70 percent say they believe in God.
It is interesting to note that more people pray than claim to believe in God? Topic for another day.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus focuses on prayer …… using the parable of the Unjust Judge to encourage us to persevere in our prayer life and to never give up.
So, what do you think our prayers look like to God? How important are they? Here’s what the Apostle John thought when he wrote in Revelation…
“Another angel … was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Rev 8:3-4
Our prayers are EQUATED with incense offered to God at the altar in Heaven. I would conclude that makes them very special
For today’s message, it is important that we focus on the right role model in this Parable of the Unjust Judge.
For example, we will not look at the judge since Jesus is definitely NOT SAYING that God is as tightfisted in answering prayer as the unjust judge was frugal in dispensing justice.
In fact, back in Jesus day, Judges were notoriously corrupt in Israel. And when someone from back then heard this parable, the implication in the parable would be that some rich person had bribed the judge to not to give the widow justice.
So, to figure out what Jesus is teaching us in this parable, let’s focus on the widow. What Jesus is trying to tell us is this … if the Unjust Judge in this parable gives justice to the woman … because she was persistent … then God, who is just and who seeks our prayers, will most certainly give us justice.
It seems to me, there are three basic lessons from this passage. God is calling His people to…
1. Be persistent in prayer.
2. Be changed through prayer, and
3. Build a relationship with Him through prayer.
First, God wants us to be Persistent in Prayer
Jews in the first century limited prayer to three times a day … it was just their adopted practice … their tradition. They would pray no more, no less.
But Jesus taught quite the opposite. Many, many times Jesus indicated that God rejoices in our praise and our prayers at any time.
But I’m afraid that the real danger today in one’s prayer-life is that WE run out of energy, or WE abandon our commitment, or WE simply give up praying.
It is worth noting that the woman came to the judge because she expected to win. And when she didn’t, she became persistent … she came back again, and again and again … each time with an expectation to win.
I meet far too many people who often do NOT EXPECT God to answer their prayers, which appears to indicate a genuine skepticism … it is as if they doubt God cares for them or that God even exists.
And then, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we don’t expect an answer, we will not listen for an answer, and so we may not ever get an answer.
Some of you here today may find the act of praying to be very difficult, since you are not sure your prayers ever get an answer. But, perhaps the reason you do not seem to get anywhere is due to the fact that your motivation is suspect. So, let’s ask a very basic question “Why do we pray?”
Sometimes we pray … to appease an angry God, or try for a type of divine insurance policy, such as please don’t send the Hurricane my way!
Sometimes we pray out of religious duty … God wants me to pray, so I must do it, even if I am not convinced it really works.
Or, sometimes we may pray expecting a reward so that we can feel happy … God, give me that raise, or God, give me a good grade on a test.
Sometimes, we pray to get through a situation – just last week I prayed to God for safe travel home from Colorado.
We just need to recognize the fact that God calls his people to be persistent in prayer. Now my second point is that God is calling his people to be changed through prayer. As we pray, He wants us to be changed … be more Christ-like.
And we should recognize that God is ALWAYS listening to us. When we say those things that we SHOULD say, He is listening. And when we say those things that we SHOULD NOT say, he is still listening to us. That is what “listening all of the time” means.
We also recognize that God always answers our prays. We never know if He will answer them tomorrow, next week, on your death bed, or after we die.
You might not see the results of your prayers for a long time, or perhaps you will not see the results of your prayers at all. But we accept the Scriptural fact that God answers all of our prayer, but He only answers them inside the boundaries of His will, and in his time.
Now, let’s think back to our lesson from Genesis, “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:7
From Genesis we read that the Lord told Abram (and Sarai) “To Your Offspring I will give this Land”.
Abram was 75 when the Lord told him “I will give this land to your offspring”. Do you think God did not know that Abram and Sarai had no kids? It would be another 25 years before Isaac was born, but God made His promise in the beginning. He answered Abrams prayer right at the beginning.
God is both calling his people to be persistent in prayer, and to be changed through prayer. But, God is also calling us into a relationship with Him through prayer.
Prayer is meant to have fellowship with God. It is meant to be an open communication between God and you … just like talking to a friend. This is how the author of Hebrews described Jesus’ fellowship with God the Father, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7
That is a model for our prayer life, isn’t it? But I wonder, when WE pray, do we come to the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, to be in fellowship … to hear His Voice? Or, do we pray to let God know what we are not happy with or what we need?
Remember Jesus’ promise “My Sheep hear my voice”.
Some look at praying like tuning a guitar … where we use prayers to get in tune with God. What I mean is that the more we pray, the more in tune to God’s will we become.
As we live in this world, and are corrupted by sin, we get out of tune with God. We need to continually get back in tune with God’s will for our lives.
Conversations need to be two-ways. We pray to God and He answers our prayers … in His time and in His way. The key is that He promises to always hear and always answer.
He desires a relationship with us. And we should desire a relationship with Him. It is helpful when we can arrange to have some private or personal time with God.
The world and Satan are out to keep us from God … to get and keep us SO busy … that we overlook our time with God. So, how can we remedy that? Here is some guidance from Jesus, “…when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
This is clear direction from our Lord … go into your room, close the door, and pray. Talk to God, and then take time to listen to him. (Pause)
Jesus would often go away, even from his closest disciples to pray quietly and alone. This is one instance from the Gospel of Mark, “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.” Mark 1:35
This was Jesus way of “going to his room, closing the door, and praying”. And if Jesus needed time alone with the Father, it seems to me that you and I need time alone with the Father even more?
When children are young, and they ask their parents a question, they do so with an expectation that they would get an answer. But it might not always be the one they want to hear.
But if the parent did not give them an answer at all, they would ask it again, and again, and again … just like the widow in court!
If we expect to hear from God, then we need to learn to listen. We cannot receive an answer, if we do not take time to listen. Here is a technique from Psalm 46, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
I am convinced that nothing of eternal significance is ever accomplished apart from prayer. Today, we heard that God is calling every one of you to be persistent in prayer, changed through prayer, and have a relationship with Him through prayer.
Perhaps this is a simpler way to state the same ideas…
- Seek God
- “Go Into your Room, Close The Door and Pray.”
- Be Still and Listen. AMEN