Summary: God will answer our prayers. Jesus will return - but both often seem to be taking such a long time! This short talk encourages us not to give up on prayer, nor to give up on the return of Jesus.
On 10th May 2003, through the post I received six letters concerning my claim for Tax Credits - much to my annoyance, since I made my application quite some time before. Back in 2003 the Tax Credit Office were singled out for a lot of criticism, and every day there seemed to be a story of a family, or a single parent who were disillusioned with the Tax Credits Office, because they were not receiving their expected money every month. For many people, forms were filled out and posted off, in good faith, months before. Come April 2003 it was expected that people would begin to receive their money, on time, and as expected - but that was not been the case. Telephone lines to the Tax Credits Office were always engaged - and for many people disillusionment had turned to despair.
I wonder if for some of you the experience of prayer has become a bit like my experience of filling in a Tax Credits form in 2003 and waiting for a result. Perhaps you feel disillusioned by prayer. Well, Jesus spoke to his disciples, knowing that sometimes prayer can seem to be really tough.
Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray and not to give up.
When it comes to reading books I’ve never been a prolific reader. For that matter, when it comes to prayer, I’ve never been a prolific prayer. Some books I find easy to read, especially short books - but even some long books I manage to get through - sometimes because I enjoy them, but sometimes because I just persevere through to the end. However, there are one or two books on my shelf which have a bookmark sticking out at about the half way mark - and these are usually books with I have found tough, and perhaps discouraging. But these unfinished books do not mean that I give up on reading. I press on with reading, despite the occasional discouragement. And this has been a reflection of my experience of prayer. Prayer does not come easy to me. I much prefer to pray in a group. Some prayers seem to be answered very quickly. For example one Friday morning I had quite a severe Migraine. My two sons prayed with me and within three minutes I was saying, “Thank You Lord.” My head was completely clear. Some prayers seem to be answered after much persistence, or not at all.
Some prayers are a bit like those books with the book marker stuck at the half way point. The book is not yet finished. The prayer is not yet answered. But Jesus wants us, His disciples, to always pray - and not to give up.
Have you given up on prayer? God is encouraging us to keep on praying, and not to give up.
Jesus used a parable to illustrate his message. And it’s one of those parables where clearly the judge is not representative of God. Rather, the judge neither fears God nor cares about people, so when someone of zero influence in society comes to him, he ignores her plea. The widow asks for justice and she gets none. But, she persists, and eventually the unjust judge decides to budge because he is fed up of her persistence. But let’s not be fooled. God is NOT like the unjust judge. He does not give us what we ask because he gets fed up with our persistence. No, that is NOT the answer. Jesus was saying consider this: If an unjust judge can even grant justice, how much more, and with what perfection will God, our heavenly Father, grant ultimate justice to his children.
God responds to the persistence of His people. He is not influenced by persistence, and persistence does not change his mind, but nonetheless, God will respond to the persistence of His people. And we read in Verse 8 that God’s people will “get justice, and quickly.” But what does quickly mean? Well, it means that on the future day of God’s justice, it will be issued quickly. When the Lord Jesus returns - and he has promised that he will return - his justice will be issued quickly. In the meantime, God calls us to keep praying, and to pray for God’s justice.
There’s a story from the 1800’s of a young couple, William & Elizabeth, madly in love, and engaged to be married. Elizabeth enjoys planning for their future. William on the other hand knows that it’s only a matter of time before he is called away to sea to fight various enemies in far-off lands. Indeed, he tries to prepare Elizabeth for the distinct possibility that one day he will have to leave - but Elizabeth doesn’t really take too much notice. However, one day the call comes. William is to set sail on Saturday, and so he prepares to leave.