Summary: Three keys to prayer in hopeless times
A. Opening illustration: JD Greear being woken up in the middle of the night for an emergency, “Prayer is our most formidable weapon, but the one in which we are the least skilled, the most averse to its use.” E. M. Bounds
B. Background to passage: Jesus is still ministering around Galilee, and in one of the cities (Decapolis) there was a leper. Explain leprosy. His fame as a miracle worker is growing. Disciples and would-be disciples are following him. Crowds are clamoring after him in every town. Luke chronicles with precise detail about an incident with this leper that again showed Jesus power and authority, but I want to focus on the leper in relation to Jesus. I think it gives some keys to our prayer lives. This account is also found in Mark 1:40-45.
C. Main thought: Three keys to prayer in hopeless times
1) Intensity (v. 12)
a. As Luke does, he notes that this man was covered with leprosy. First, it was totally inappropriate for a leper to approach anyone, let alone a rabbi. This man was without hope, without shame, without dignity, shunned by society, and determined. He fell on his face and begged. On the ground, picture it in your head. Translated “he, himself, begged,” adds intensity to the Greek construct.
b. In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. -Heb 5:7, Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. -Heb 4:16,
c. Illustration: I remember the prayer at Bell Ave rising to a chorus of pleas toward God. The Sons of Jubal and Judd Greer, Min of Music at FBC Thomaston, “Prayer is not a passive, calm, quiet practice.” -Keller
d. Think about the last time you prayed with this kind of intensity. Think about your prayers in general. Do you pray determined to receive an answer? Do you pray with weeping and loud voices? Do you ever fast to strengthen your resolve in prayer? Maybe if life is on the line? Maybe if catastrophe just invaded your world? I believe we pray far too little, but further less intense. I believe we have become comfortable with prayer. I believe we approach it too casually. Yes, pray in the car, in the shower, over your lunch, but not with irreverent routine or boredom. Jesus was our example in the garden, teacher in John 17, and I sure wish we could have heard him pray. The gospel of Christ is the satisfaction of our souls and those of the whole world, and if Christ truly tastes so good, why to we plead for him so apathetically? Christ opened the door to the holy of holies, you have access to the throne, you have a straight path to the God of every good thing, why not pursue him with tenacity in prayer!
2) Humility (v. 12)
a. This man realizes that Jesus may or may not heal him. So, in great humility, he acknowledged “if you will” in his request. He understood his position and Jesus’s position. He was not doubting Jesus’s character, but deferring to his prerogative.
b. Luke 22:42,
c. Illustration: Paul had a right to a trial before Caesar because of his citizenship, but he didn’t have a right not to be beheaded after the trial.
d. We live in an entitled society. We believe that we have rights that we are intrinsically born with. Rights keep expanding to areas that are not rights. Then there’s the question: what rights are we really entitled to as believers and who determines that? What about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Can we define these a little? What about rights to an education, to healthcare, property rights, water rights, equal pay, equal protection, equal justice, right to bear arms, freedom of speech, assembly, the press, religion, right to remain silent, right not to self-incriminate, right to vote, and on and on. US gov says we have a lot of these, but what about God? What about believers in closed countries, hostile to the Christian faith? We have been bought with a price. You are not your own. You belong to Christ. You have no inherent rights, only those granted to you by the government under which you live. Realize that God doesn’t owe you anything. He can take away those most precious, basic necessities, liberty, or life itself. It’s not that he doesn’t care, in fact one of the other gospel writers includes the compassion that Jesus had for the man, it’s only that he may not will in a certain instance a prayer to be answered like you would have it to be answered. Again, Jesus demonstrates humility in the garden for us, then again on the cross as he willingly receives the punishment for the world. As hopeless, helpless, totally dependent, men and women, humility blankets our prayers and our relationships.