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Persistent Praying

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4/14/96

PERSISTENT PRAYING
LUKE 18:1-8


INTRODUCTION:
"I don't think I will ever pray again!"  These were the words of a precious woman who had just experienced a
great disappointment.  She had prayed for months that her marriage might be saved.  She had prayed
expectantly that her husband's heart might be changed and that they might be reconciled.  But the divorce
request had been granted.  At that moment God appeared to her more like the unjust magistrate in our parable
than the Heavenly Father about whom Jesus spoke.  It is experiences like this that keep many from a consistent
prayer life.  

It is to those of us who may have become discouraged about prayer that Jesus speaks this parable.  "He spake
a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint."  The force of these words is
that we are to persist in prayer.  It does not mean that we are to pray constantly, but rather that we are to be
persistent in prayer.  


This is one of the more challenging parables that Jesus gave.  The seeming indifference and callousness of the
unjust judge makes it a challenge to us.  We know that this characterization of the judge is not consistent with
what we know of God from the scriptures and especially from the life of Jesus.  However, a closer look at this
parable will indeed encourage us to persistent prayer because of the good things that happen to those who
pray.  

I.  PERSISTENT PRAYING OVERCOMES DISCOURAGEMENT.
Our Lord is preparing His disciples for the years ahead.  They are to be the first generation that will live
between the two comings.  He has been speaking of His second coming in the chapter before.  He has warned
His disciples that they will go through some difficult times before He returns to earth the second time.  They will
go through the kind of experiences that Noah knew when he lived in a generation doomed to be destroyed with
the flood, and their experience will not be unlike that of Lot who lived in Sodom in the days just before that city
was destroyed because of its wickedness.  The times ahead can be discouraging Jesus warns.

He gives us a feel for the discouragement by his presentation of the poor widow presenting her petition to the
unjust judge.  He presents this setting to help us understand that the way you overcome discouragement is by
persisting in prayer.  

1. The discouraging condition.

Jesus presents His people in the figure of the widow.  The widow in that first century world was plagued by a lack
of influence and helplessness.  Jesus knows that His disciples will feel that same helplessness as they face the
wrongs and the injustices of the world in which they live.  They will feel themselves to be utterly helpless to do
anything to affect the circumstances in which they live.  
What do you do when you feel yourself to be void of influence and utterly helpless in the midst of an unjust and
evil world?  You do what the widow did - you go to the One who has the power and the authority to make a
difference.  The unjust judge did have the power and the authority to make a difference.  There might be a
reluctance on the behalf of the widow, but there was no lack of power to act on behalf of the widow.  Instead of
lamenting your helplessness you pray.  

2.  The discouraging circumstances.
It is obvious that Jesus means for us to understand that the widow has been unjustly victimized.  Some
adversary has taken advantage of her helpless condition.  He has taken from her something that is rightfully
hers.  He has made her circumstances difficult and painful.  

The people of God have always had adversaries who have been ready to unjustly victimize them.  Their chief
adversary is the devil himself and he is constantly energizing and motivating others to take advantage of the
people of God.  What do you do when your adversaries have unjustly imposed their will upon you or unjustly
taken something that is yours or unjustly victimized you.  You do what the widow did - you go to someone who
has the authority and the power to make a difference.  In her case the one who had the power and authority to
make a difference was an unjust judge but in our case the one who had the power and the authority to make a
difference is a sovereign heavenly Father.  


Any time you face discouraging circumstances the Christian alternative is to persist in prayer.  In stead of
surrendering to your circumstances you seek the face of the One who can change your circumstances.  Our
heavenly Father has all authority in heaven and in earth.  He is able to do that which is right.  You overcome the
discouragement as you seek His face in prayer.  

Does this mean that God will always alter your circumstances in your favor?  No.  One saintly man was asked
shortly before his death how he handled the fact that God was allowing him to die despite his prayers and the
prayers of thousands for his healing.  His answer was this:  "When I am in the presence of God, it seems
uniquely unbecoming to demand anything."  As you seek the face of God in prayer, just the privilege of being in
His presence has a way of changing your perspective upon your circumstances.  Just being in the presence of
God builds in you the confident expectation that when history is finished God will have done what is right.  The
way you keep from fainting is that you keep on praying.

II.  PERSISTENT PRAYING RECEIVES AN ANSWER.
Jesus did not speak this parable so that we would learn to live with unanswered prayer.  Rather, He wants us to
rise above the discouragement that the seeming indifference of God might create in our hearts.  The real thrust
of the parable is that prayer will make a difference.  God does respond to the prayers of His people.  

1.  The divine pattern.

As we listen to our Lord's description of this unjust magistrate we are to see a contrast.  The unjust magistrate is
just the opposite of our sovereign God.  The only thing the two have in common is that they do have the power
and authority to make a difference.  The unjust magistrate had the power but had no inclination to make a
difference on behalf of the widow.  He finally consented to make a difference only when she had become a
nuance before him.  God is not like that.  God does not respond only when we have bothered Him so much that
He is uncomfortable.  There is in God always an inclination to respond to His people.  Listen to the application
that Jesus made,
"And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who crieth out to Him both day and night?  Will He
keep putting them off?"    It is interesting to notice that Jesus says our relationship to God is much different from
that of the widow to the judge.  Instead of being an unknown stranger before God we are His "chosen ones."  
We are those that He has personally called into relationship with Himself.  Surely He will not continue to put off
the appeal of His people that come to Him day and night.  

2.  The divine promise.
After His word of application of the parable Jesus gave a promise.  "I tell you, He will see that they will get justice
and quickly."   In the context our Lord is describing the response of His people to the oppression and injustices
they encounter in the world.  Every generation has felt the oppressive hand of the world upon it.  The recourse
for the people of God in such circumstances is prayer.  The promise is that in His time and in His wise way God
will vindicate His people.  God will see that which is right is done.  And when ever the time is right, He will do it
"quickly."  It will not take God a thousand years to straighten things out when He decides in His wisdom that it is
time to do it.  He can do it "quickly."  

In ways that even go beyond our understanding, the prayers of God's humble chosen ones affect the flow and
the outcome of history.  All history is under God's authority and God's power.  When ever we address a petition
to Him, we are presenting it before the one who had the power and authority to make things right.  We can do
so with the confidence that He will in His own way and in His own time do what is right.  

This is a tremendous encouragement to persistence in our prayers.  Good things do happen when God's
people keep on praying.  

III.  PERSISTENT PRAYING SUSTAINS FAITH.

The final word of our Lord in His application of this parable is extremely helpful. He said, "However, when the
Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"  This question puts the whole passage into context.  We are
living in the time between the comings. We are anticipating the second coming of Jesus Christ our Lord in the
consummation of the purpose of God.  The question is will Jesus find faith when He comes back the second
time.  It is probably better to understand the question like this, "Will the Son of Man find this kind of faith on the
earth?"  Will He find the kind of faith exhibited by widow in her persistent petitions to the unjust judge?  Will He
find the kind of faith that persists in prayer regardless of the circumstances it faces?  Our Lord is making an
obvious correlation between faith and prayer.  The two do go together.   Augustine, the early church father
recognized this correlation when he wrote, "When faith fails, prayer dies.  In order to pray, then we must have
faith; and that our faith fail not, we must pray.  Faith pours forth prayer; and the pouring forth of the heart in
prayer gives steadfastness to faith."   A little reflection will help us understand how this is true.  

1.  Prayer leads to an enlarged understanding of God.  
As you and I persist in prayer we discover that God is not like the unjust judge.  We will discover that many of
the ideas that we have had about God are misguided and inadequate.  As we spend time before Him in prayer
and persist through what ever happens in our prayer life, our knowledge of Him will grow greater and greater.  
As our knowledge of Him grows greater, our faith grows greater in the same moment.  As our faith grows
greater, then our prayer life becomes richer and more effective.  

2.  Prayer maintains fellowship with God.  
A consistent, persistent prayer life is an absolute essential in staying in fellowship with God.  Neglect of prayer
will lead to a loss of the sense of the immediacy of God in your life.  It will lead to the loss of communion with
God.  Moment to moment communion with God is maintained only as we persist in prayer.  If you allow some
great hurt or disappointment to kill your prayer life, you will lose more than you can afford to lose.  You cannot
afford to lose fellowship with God.  The only alternative is to pray your way through your hurt and through your
disappointment.  This is the only way that you can stay in fellowship with God.  


Being in fellowship with God through prayer makes faith possible.  There is no growing active faith apart from
the blessed experience of fellowship with God.  It is obvious that these two go together.  One of the good things
that come out of persistence in prayer is strength of faith.  The question is will Jesus find a people when He
comes the second time who are still looking to Him as the one that has the power and the authority to make
things right.

What if He came this morning?  Would He find such faith in us?  Are we looking to God in persistent prayer?  
Are we acting as though it is our confidence that He is the one who has the right and the authority to make all
things right?  Or have we begun to take matters into our own hands?  Or, have we begun to look to a political
process?  It is likely that when the Son of Man comes He will find a generation that has focused their
expectations upon man instead of God.  

Only you can answer the question of Jesus.  If Jesus comes during our lifetime, you have the power to answer
His question affirmatively.  If you are still persisting in prayer when He comes, then the answer is yes.  What will
it take to be persistent in your prayer life so that when the Son of Man comes He may find this kind of faith?

Let me make three quick suggestions:  First, prayer needs to be a part of the daily schedule of your life.  You
need to make prayer a part of your life daily at all cost.  Whatever changes you have to make in your life in
order to enable you to spend time with God in prayer every day needs to be done.  


Second, you will greatly enhance your own prayer life if you will become a part of a prayer ministry like that of
First Baptist Church.  Commit yourself to at least one hour in the Prayer Room every week.  During that time the
burden of your prayers will not be your own personal interest but the needs of others.  This can be a
tremendous step forward in your prayer life.  

Thirdly, commit yourself to either read one good book on prayer this year, or to listen to a good set of tapes on
prayer.  You need to do something to encourage and to build your own commitment to prayer.  

According to Jesus persistence in prayer must be a priority of all of the people of God.  Let's make what ever
changes we need to make to implement our Lord's priority in our lives.     

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