Summary: Praying to God as His sons and daughters is an honor. We should beat down the doors to heaven and seek God's will.
Do you wonder what some of Jesus’ parables mean? Do you ever feel like Jesus’ message is obscure and obtuse? “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God have been given to you, but to them, I speak in parables” (Lk. 8:10). Well, there is not room for misunderstanding in today’s Gospel. In fact, Luke so much wants us to get the point that Jesus is making, that he tells us the punch line, even before we hear the story. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Lk. 18:1). So what does Jesus want us to do? First, “always pray”, and second, “not give up.” Got it? “Always pray” and “not give up.” At the end of my sermon, I’ll give you a quiz. What were those two things again? Always pray, and not give up. Well, Bishop, I think they’ve got it, let’s move on!
What? Wasn’t that enough? Okay, but you asked for it. What two things are we going to talk about? “Always pray” and “not give up.”
We should pray.
We should pray because it’s a privilege and honor to be able to pray, to have access to the Father. Every human being under the sun can cry out to God. If you’ve been following the readings in the Daily Office, we read from Jonah. And when he prophesied the coming judgment on Nineveh, all the people, from least to greatest fasted and “called urgently on God... When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3:8,10). So God heard the pagan inhabitants of Nineveh when they cried out to Him. God didn’t say, “Sorry, but you’re not Israelites, you’re not circumcised, not My children.” No. He looked to their hearts and had compassion because all men, not just the elect, can be His children; the difference is that we’ve answered the call to return to Him. But God’s heart yearns for the lost to come back, to repent, to draw close to Him.
But it’s our privilege to speak to Him as sons and daughters. When we call upon God, we speak with a spirit of sonship. The Spirit of God that is in us cries out, “Abba, Father.” We make requests not as slaves or strangers, but as God’s own people, His treasured possession. And we make petitions not only for our own needs, but also for the needs of others. Even as Jesus, while He suffered upon the cross, asked the Father to “forgive them”—to forgive all those who throughout history would crucify, revile, and despise him—, so too we who are members, limbs, of the Body of Christ should pray for the needs of those around us, especially those in most need of God’s mercy.
Prayer is our duty. We are all God’s priestly people, and a priest has three major duties: to sacrifice, to bless, and to pray. Now does Fr. Joe, or Fr. Larry, or Bishop Lipka, when the Sunday service is over, simply go home and do nothing at all from noon on Sunday until 9:30 AM the following Sunday? No. What is the one thing that you, the priestly people of God, expect your priests to do when we’re all done here? Pray. You expect a priest to pray. Prayer is one of the duties of a priest. It’s part of what sets a priest apart. It’s part of what a priest is set apart, consecrated, to do. A priest has special access to God. And that’s what makes Christianity so special: that we all have special access to the Father.
If we neglect to pray, we will misuse our faith. Not praying isn’t an option. When we fail to pray to the one true God, we end up praying to other gods. We will invariably put our faith in someone or something. It seems impossible for man to live without some kind of faith. Whether one puts faith in science, prosperity, family, or God, there is always faith—a trust and confidence in things that we do not see or understand or have control over. We all trust—have faith—that the sun will rise tomorrow. I trust that God will orchestrate it; another has faith that gravity, inertia, and momentum will cause it. We both have faith. Even the scientist who best understands the laws of physics, when brought down to the most fundamental questions, “How do these laws operate,” and “Why are they there,” must shrug and confess, ‘I don’t know. They just are.” They just are.
We should always pray.
We mustn’t grow weary of praying. Why do we get discouraged when we pray, and why do we give up? Sometimes—most of the time, for me—God doesn’t answer our prayers as we see fit and in the time we think necessary. Jesus tells us that God is not putting us off. If we persistently pray to Him, will He not be more ready to answer our prayers than the unjust judge? As Peter writes, “With the Lord a day is like thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pe. 3:8,9). When God delays answering a prayer, it is for His good purpose. When He does not grant what we ask, it is in His wisdom. And when He gives something different, it is because He knows it to be even better than what we sought.