Summary: Based on the Parable of the Persistent widow, this sermon encourages people to pray and pray and pray again. We preached these sermons in conjunction with the Pray 21 project that brings youth and adults together to pray for 21 days.
BELIEVE AND PRAY!
Believe and pray! This may sound backwards. Should we not pray believing that God will answer our prayers? Yes, but this simple little exercise of semantics puts the foundation of faith before the act of prayer. Many of us pray but few of us believe that our prayers will be answered. In some cases we leave our time of prayer not having asked anything of God at all. I know I have been conscious of this myself.
If we believe God we know that we can ask him for anything in prayer. That is a better platform for praying than to gamble with the uncertainty of skeptical prayer. Part of our skepticism comes from what we understand the answer to our prayers to be.
A pastor had a five year old daughter. This little girl noticed that every time her dad stood behind the pulpit and was getting ready to preach he would bow his head for a moment before he began his sermon. The very attentive little girl watched her dad do this each Sunday.
One day after the service the little girl went to her dad and asked him, “Why do you bow your head right before you preach your sermon?”
“Well honey,” the preacher answered, “I’m asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon.”
The little girl looked up at her father and asked, “Then how come he doesn’t do it?”
Now that’s a matter of opinion. The preacher, God bless him, was persistent in praying every Sunday for an effective sermon. What we don’t know is whether he believed God would answer him or if he prayed out of desperation because he only finished his sermon at 8:30 this morning.
Jesus teaches us once again about prayer in the parable of the persistent widow. It is a story that encourages believers to seek God even when he seems far away and the answer we seek unattainable. Keep praying, Jesus says, and he tells us why persistence is important in prayer.
1. The Parable on Persistent Prayer
Couched in the context of the coming of the Kingdom of God, Jesus makes a link between faithful believers and prayer. We read, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (v. 1).
There is more to that phrase “not give up” than we see. We could add “not grow weary” or “lose heart,” but the phrase means more like “don’t be filled with bad thoughts.” Always pray and don’t let the bad thoughts overwhelm you. Bad thoughts undoubtedly are filled with fear and fear paralyzes us all. “Here a simple piety expressed in trusting prayer is commanded as a simple solution to the fear that robs the believer of his tranquility and the will to endure” (K. Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes).
The widow in Jesus’ story is dealing with a corrupt judge. In fact, Jesus says, “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men” (v. 2). This judge may have purchased his seat as the municipal justice. He will have been a man of some wealth who catered to those who could afford his services. It was well known that to gain an audience with the judge you could bribe his assistants to speed the hearing of your case.