Sunday, 25 November 2012
Attitudes of Prayer: Perseverance
Sunday 25th November 2012
Jesus told this parable to show that we should always pray and not give up. Prayer is worship, seeking to know God and developing our relationship with him but prayer is also petition.
The Lord’s Prayer asks God for a lot of things; for the kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven, for daily bread, for forgiveness, for protection and deliverance.
The widow in the story asks someone with power to bring about justice for her. When Jesus says we should always pray it seems he is also saying that we should continue to ask God to provide for our needs, to overturn injustice, to provide protection, to guide our lives and help us and others make the right decisions. Jesus says “and do not give up” to his explanation as he also wanted his followers to know that it would often feel very tempting to give up asking God to answer our petitions.
Reasons why we might give up praying.
1. We become complacent
In Bible times, widowhood for a woman often meant destitution and women had few legal rights. In this story the widow was also being unfairly exploited or persecuted by another person. She is desperate that this harassment should stop so goes to court. This was a desperate act as courts in those days were unruly and often a bribe was expected just to get your case heard.
When we or someone we love goes through a crisis we pray desperately but at other times our fervency is often weak. We are less likely to pray fervently if we still think we can manage a situation or if we refuse to recognise that something as serious. If we truly believed our last doctrine about the eternal destination of those who don’t accept Jesus as Saviour, would not our praying for the lost be just a little more passionate? If we really had the compassionate heart of the Saviour would we not our praying for the poor, the victims of abuse and those caught up in war be a bit more frequent?
Oswald Chambers speaking about prayer said that “We pray pious blether, our will is not in it and then we say God does not answer; we never really asked him for anything. Asking means that our wills are in what we ask.”
Mary Elizabeth Isleib wrote this, “When you put the iron down and the heat comes from the iron, the wrinkles come out. It’s a good example of effective fervent prayer. So what is fervency? It is turning the iron on. It’s getting some heat in your prayers
Many prayers we pray shouldn’t be answered because they are so shallow. God often looks for our persistence to help us deepen and develop our convictions and to help us to discover what we really want.
2. We are not sure what is the right thing to ask for
Is it really Ok to ask things for myself? Sometimes we question or own motives, “Am I really praying for people to get saved and join my church because I care about them or is that that I want my church to do better than the one down the road? Should we pray to get for instance, a particular job? How do we know it is the right job?
-It is always right to pray for justice.
The widow and asked ”Grant me justice.” God is a God of justice. It is always right to pray for justice. We cannot always pray that a person escapes the consequences of their actions but we can always pray that someone is treated fairly and honestly.
-It is always right to pray for mercy
The widow had done nothing wrong and because the judge was hard hearted she did not expect kindness. Jesus contrasts God with the mean judge. If someone as corrupt as him will respond to pressure how much more will God respond to those he loves. The next parable is the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector where Jesus highlights God’s willingness to respond to a prayer for mercy.
-It is always right to pray for healing
We might not always see physical healing but that should not stop us because prayer for healing is wider than the physical. God is often healing what we can’t see and complete healing is assured in heaven. One of God’s names is the God who heals.
- It is always right to pray for the lost to get saved.
I Timothy 2:4 tells us that God wants “all men are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”
3. We are disappointed with God
The widow is determined to get justice and didn’t back off at the first refusal. She did not let her disappointment with the judge’s inaction put her off, even though he was known for his hardness.
How much more then should we who have evidence that God is good should keep on praying. “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?”
We often jump to the conclusion that if God does not do as we have asked immediately then he is not good or prayer is a waste of time. Before we do that we should ask if there is a problem on our side. It may be the wrong request, or we may have un-confessed sin in our life.
Yet at times after we have done that and we know the prayer is right and we are in a right place with God still heaven seems unmoved. Jesus says, “I tell you he (that is God) will see that they get justice and quickly.” Yet God often seems very slow in answering our prayers.
In the Greek the word Jesus uses which is sometimes translated quickly could also be translated “suddenly.” And perhaps you have known that experience when your prayers may seem to be unanswered for months, and then BOOM suddenly God gives the answer.
But there will be times when we don’t know why God’s answers seem so delayed or denied.
Rob Parsons of Care for the Family advises that we need to guard against feeding young people with the idea that God always answers prayer instantly or in the way that meets their expectations or they will walk away from church disappointed with God. He also says that when we carry on praying, crying out to God and turning to him in the times when we don’t understand what he is doing, it is then that we show how much faith and love we really have for him. Jesus ends his parable by asking a question, When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
There will be times when we lack passion, when we are confused with what to pray for and when we don’t understand what God is doing. Persistence is always a valuable thing.
The most effective prayers in the Bible are those that were prayed persistently.
In Psalm 55:16-17, David wrote: “I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.”
Hannah desperately wanted a child. For many years she prayed and prayed to have a child. After her prayer was unanswered for years she didn’t say, “Well, it must not be God’s will for me to have a child.” She kept on praying for years, and eventually God gave her a son–Samuel, the mighty prophet.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “Father, take this cup from me–but not my will but yours be done!” again and again until His Father heard Him and gave Him the strength to face the cross.