Summary: The platitude, 'Just keep praying,' seldom helps us in our struggle to persist in prayer. What encourage does the parable of the unjust judge give?
Text: Luke 18:1-8
Theme: Keep Praying for Justice against Your Adversary
Season: Pentecost 22c
Date: October 24, 2010
Web page: http://hancocklutheran.org/sermons/Keep-Praying-for-Justice-against-Your-Adversary-Luke18_1-8.html
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit brings us to pray to our heavenly Father in Jesus' name is Luke 18.
"He told them a parable about how it's always necessary for them to keep praying and not grow weary: "There was a judge in a town who did not fear God or have regard for man. There was a widow in that town, and she kept coming to him saying, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' He wouldn't for a time. But after a while he said to himself, 'Even though I do not fear God and have no regard for man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that in the end she doesn't knock me out with her coming!'"
"The Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. Now will not God certainly bring justice for his elect who call out to him day and night? Does he delay it for them? I tell you that he will bring justice for them quickly. But will the Son of Man find faith on the earth when he comes?"
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
Keep on praying. Don't give up. Pray persistently. Persevere in your prayers. Keep pounding at God's throne room. It's not hard for us to see the moral in Jesus' parable. The first verse of the text gives it away, doesn't it?
Maybe I could say, "Amen," right here. Or, lest you think I was lazy this week, I could figure out a few more ways to say: Keep on praying, and then tell some inspiring stories -- true stories like Jacob wrestling all night with the Lord in prayer, as you heard in the First Lesson (Genesis 32:22-30). Church history also gives us examples, such as, Monica praying for the conversion of her son who was following the ways of the world. That son became Saint Augustine. And how many contemporary stories couldn't we find? Testimonials of people who prayed and prayed and the Lord finally answered. Or think of the fictional stories in movies like Facing the Giants or Fireproof. Persistence in prayer was an underlying theme.
1. How does the platitude, "Just keep praying," fall short of being helpful?
But I owe you better than that today. For the platitude, "Just keep praying," glosses over our real struggle and doesn't deeply ponder Jesus' words here.
"Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly" (Luke 18:7, 8 NIV). Quickly? Doesn't that word cause us to struggle? Maybe prayers are answered quickly in a two-hour movie, but in real life?
Sometimes God's answer is "Wait. Not yet." I think then we can understand that persistence in prayer is good. It trains us to keep on trusting as we place our hope in the Lord. But what if his answer is "No"? There are certain prayers we stop praying and should not persist in.
How long do you pray for someone to fall in love with you? How long should an infertile couple pray to be able to conceive? What about prayers for better grades or a more enjoyable job or a nicer home or friendly neighbors or a winning season? What about that pain or illness that keeps getting worse? How long do we persist in asking the Lord to take it away? Or do we only ask that he give us the strength to bear up under it? Do we ask him to cure our loved one or take him home to heaven?
The platitude, "Just keep praying," doesn't really address this struggle, does it? And even worse is the insinuated promise people often imply: "And if you're persistent enough, you'll get what you're praying for, at least if you're praying for something good." We don't need platitudes, dear friends; we do need to think more deeply about Jesus' words here.
2. Who is your adversary and why is he so bad?
What was the widow's plea? "Grant me justice against my adversary" (Luke 18:3 NIV). Who is your adversary? The 6th grade bully, that uncooperative neighbor, that selfish coworker, that obnoxious employee, the hard-nosed boss? Sometimes those closest to us, our own dear family members, cause us the most adversity. Or maybe you don't think of a person as your adversary but rather the hardness of this life, the tragedies and disasters that strike, or your own struggles with unhappiness, failure, or despair. "I'm my own worst enemy!"