Summary: Jesus’ 4 thoughts on prayer: 1) we should pray constantly, persistently and fervently 2) but prayer is hard work 3) yet prayer taps into God’s power 4) so prayer is a reflection of our faith.
Luke 18:1-8 – If Something is Worth Doing…
Dear God, So far today I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, I haven’t lost my temper, I haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or over-indulgent. I’m very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot of help. Amen.
The honesty before God in that prayer is wonderful. Today we will be thinking about prayer for a few minutes. Not because I am an expert in the field, most certainly not. I’ve said before, I’m just a pilgrim going into the same uncharted territory as you. I have not yet “arrived” at the prayer life I should have, but I’m on my way. I’m growing, even if no-one else sees it. But I also have the words of Jesus here, and I need to share them with you today. Let’s read Luke 18:1-8.
Jesus talked about prayer fairly often, and He prayed even more often. So of course, He wanted to teach His followers how to pray, how to talk to the Father. In Luke 11, His disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” At that point He taught them what we call the Lord’s prayer. But as wonderful as that prayer is, obviously Jesus wanted to take them further in their prayer life, 7 chapters later.
I have a hunch that Jesus would like each of us to grow in our prayer lives. I know that it’s awful easy to get comfortable in what we do and don’t do – I understand. It easier to stay where we are than progress and move on. It’s easier to remain unchanged than it is to step out in faith. Yet can you call it a spiritual walk if you’re not moving anywhere? Can you say you’re following Him if you’re sitting still and doing nothing? Sometimes Jesus calls us to get off our seats and go somewhere new. So today I challenge you to hear His words and if He is leading you to somewhere new in your prayer life, don’t resist Him. Don’t argue with Him. Just obey Him.
So let’s look at these words about prayer, and I hope to glean 4 truths about prayer from them. Now, in v1, Jesus says we ought to pray. This is, we should pray. Prayer is what God wants for us. This is probably no surprise to anyone. As we wrap up the sermon series “The Why’s of our Worship” – why we do what we do – we come at last to prayer. Why do we pray in church? Why do we have in invocation – that is, the prayer to invoke God’s presence here? Why do we pray over the offering? Why do we have a pastoral prayer? Why do we close in prayer? There are many reasons, but the main one is that God wants His people to talk to Him.
But this lesson on prayer is not just that we should pray. Jesus went on to describe how we should pray. He said we should always pray, that is, constant prayer. Keeping up our conversation with Him all day long, whispering prayers, breathing prayers on and off all day long. That is constant prayer, and it is a possibility. I’m just starting to see that. You and I can talk to Him on and off all day long.
Jesus also said that we are to pray and not give up. That’s persistent prayer. Don’t give up praying. This one is hard. To keep praying for something and not stopping. It makes you wonder sometimes why God doesn’t just answer our prayers right away. Are we asking for the wrong things? Are our motives wrong? You know, what’s wrong that God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I want? And so we are tempted to give up. But Jesus says, keep praying and something will eventually happen. We need to pray persistently.
And as the story progresses, in v7, Jesus gives us another clue as to the nature of our prayers. God answers the prayers of those who “cry out”. There seems to be a fervent nature about their prayers. Fervent: passionate, burning, eager, enthusiastic. They had some heart in them. The people praying seemed to understand the life-or-death nature of what they were praying. They really meant what they prayed. They were serious about their prayers. Maybe that’s where we fall short. We don’t seem to take things seriously enough. So Jesus indicated the kind of prayers we should have: constant, persistent and fervent.
But let’s be honest. This type of praying is hard work. Why do you suppose that Jesus told us to pray like this? Because it doesn’t come easy. I think of the old country song that talks about relationships, but it describes our attitude of prayer. It says: “If it don’t come easy, you better let it go. ‘Cause when it don’t come easy, there’s no natural flow. Don’t make it hard on your heart; you might be better off alone. If it don’t come easy you’d better let it go.” So we do. We let it go. We leave the praying to others. We hope someone else prays for the pastor, the church, the town, the Sunday school, the special events. It’s too hard to pray like Jesus wants us to.