Summary: This is a message on the importance and purpose of prayer.
INTRO: Jesus wants His church to grow. If a church is to grow, it must prepare to grow. This preparation begins with prayer. Persistent prayer is the foundation of all Christian growth.
Church growth expert, George Barna found that prayer was the foundational ministry of rapidly growing churches in America. He wrote: “The call to prayer [in these churches] was the battle cry of the congregation: it rallied the troops. These people understood the power of prayer. They actively and consistently included prayer in their services, in their events, their meetings and their personal ministries.” Barna also said in Little Rock at a church growth conference that, “culture reinvents itself every 5 to 8 years, while the church reinvents itself ever 35 to 40 years. Therefore the church is at least 75 to 80 years behind culture all the time.”
Prayer is indisputably one of the greatest—and most under utilized—wea-pons we have at our disposal. Jesus knew this. That’s why He told His disciples about a certain widow who persisted in prayer. We learn from this story three essential elements of persistent prayer.
I. PERSISTENT PRAYER IS PERSISTENT.
Verse 3 states that “a widow...kept coming.” This story has two primary characters, the widow and the judge. The judge was heartless, fearing neither God nor man. A poor widow came to the judge seeking justice. She had no clout, no powerful lawyer, and no money to grease the wheels of justice. She seemed completely helpless against her adversary. She could not count on a fair ruling from this unjust judge. The only weapon at her disposal was persistence.
God wants us to persist in prayer. The band of Jesus’ followers praying in the upper room at Pentecost kept praying until God’s power came. The widow would not have gotten justice if she had not persisted. We must persist in prayer.
ILLUS: A man distributed tracts for many years on a street corner. Finally, seeing no visible results, he gave up. When he returned to the same spot two years later, he saw another individual handing out Gospel leaflets as he had done. Striking up a conversation, he discovered that the man had become a Christian through a salvation tract given him on that corner about two years before. The convert added, “Many times I’ve come back here to find that earnest worker and thank him, but he never returned. I decided he must have died, and so I’ve taken his place!” The first man suddenly realized that his work had not been in vain. Much encouraged he went back to giving out tracts the very next day.
II. PERSISTENT PRAYER IS INSISTENT.
Verse 3 also says that the widow kept coming to him with this plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” This scene was different than the orderly courtroom of today. It was unruly and noisy, with a mass of people pushing and shoving. Everyone tried to outshout the others to get the judge’s attention. The widow was so insistent and persistent that the judge granted her plea.
We must keep our prayers going up to God with this same determination. God rejoices in our insistence. He wants us to pray and not to give up. This is one of His ways of releasing His power in our lives.
ILLUS: The Associated Press carried an interesting story about a group of post office customers who succeeded in speeding up some slow-moving service. One man said, “It was like watching grass grow.” There were 26 patrons jammed into two lines. They realized they weren’t getting enough attention, so a 73-year-old man organized the group. In an uncommon show of unity, the 26 shouted together, “We want service!” Two minutes later, another clerk ambled out and without cracking a smile said, “Next?” Well, the 26 knew they were on to something, so they tried it again. You guessed it, one more clerk appeared. An amused customer summed up the situation like this: “I got through that line in 4 minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it!” In some ways this is a modern version of our parable.
III. PERSISTENT PRAYER IS CONSISTENT.
Verse 5 says: “this widow...will...eventually wear me out with her coming. The widow kept coming every day—repeatedly, consistently coming. The judge’s apparent unwillingness to hear her spurred the widow on even more. Finally, the judge relented, only because the widow had become an unbearable nuisance.
ILLUS: A young woman dreamed she died and went to Heaven. As one of the angels was showing her around a room of the Glorious City she saw a stack of boxes in one corner. Finding her name on them, she asked the angel what it meant. “Well,” she said, “You know, I remember praying for these things when I was on earth.” The angel replied, “Yes. When any of God’s children make requests to him, preparations are made to give the answer. But the angels are told that if the petitioner is not waiting for the answer they are to return with it and store it in the room.” An old prayer proverb says, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a prayer knot and hang on.”