Summary: PENTECOST 20, YEAR C - Prayer is about God, not us.
One morning at the gathering of a local men’s fellowship breakfast there was a heated discussion over the issue of how best to pray. "The proper way for man to pray," said Deacon Lemuel Keyes; "is down upon his knees." "Nay, I should say the way to pray," said Reverend Doctor Wise, "Is standing straight with outstretched arms with rapt and upturned eyes." "Oh, no, no, no," said Elder Snow, "such posture is too proud. A man should pray with eyes fast-closed and head contritely bowed. It seems to me,” said Reverend Doctor Blunt, “one’s hands should be austerely clasped in front with both thumbs pointing to the ground," But then all fell silent when Cyril Brown declared, "Last year I fell in Hodgkin’s well headfirst, With both my heels a-stickin’ up, my head a-pointing’ down; And I done prayed right then and there; best prayer I ever said, The prayin’est prayer I ever prayed, a-standin’ on my head." Prayer is one of those topic upon which so much has been written I could preach to the end of the year without repeating myself. And yet we still remain ignorant to it’s true meaning and power. Here are but a few of the things that people have said about prayer.
He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.
The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.
What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use men of prayer, men mighty in prayer.
I fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.
Mary, Queen of Scotland
In the 18th chapter of the gospel of Luke Jesus tells a parable, to motivate those who were listening to always to pray and not lose heart. Now remember that for Jesus parables were the way by which he taught his followers about God and living in the kingdom of God. Jesus tells the story of a forsaken widow who tirelessly pleads to a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; Have you ever felt like that woman? Have you ever wondered in the midst of praying whether God was truly listening? Whether God really cared? You have prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more, but no answer comes. You scratch your head and begin to wonder is anyone up there listening? Believe me it is all too common. In fact it is so common that it seems Jesus has to encourage us to kept at it. We see Jesus holding up the widow as an example of perseverance and dogged determination. She was relentless in her pursuit of justice, and in her pursuit of the judge. She cried for vindication so much that simply by her persistence she wore him down, annoying him into giving her her due. Is this what it takes to get God’s attention? Do we need to shake our fists and badger God until finally He gives up and gives us what we ask for? NO, says Jesus, “Will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?” Of course not I tell you, Jesus insists he will vindicate them speedily. Jesus is saying that if a corrupt and uncaring judge will respond to persistent pleas, then certainly a holy and loving God will do the same and more! God does not to be brow beaten to answer our prayers, in fact God not only knows what we need He knows it even before we know it and before we ask.
Dr. Helen Roseveare, missionary to Zaire, told the following story. “A mother at our mission station died after giving birth to a premature baby. We tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot water bottle we had was beyond repair. So we asked the children to pray for the baby and for her sister. One of the girls responded with the boldness only a child can have. ’Dear God, please send a hot water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won’t feel so lonely.’ The missionary doubted very much that anything would come they were miles from any city, and in four years she had never received a package from home. That afternoon a large package arrived from her home church in England. The children watched eagerly as we opened it. Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so earnestly started to dig deeper, exclaiming, ’If God sent that, I’m sure He also sent the doll!’ And she was right! The heavenly Father knew in advance of that child’s sincere requests, and 5 months earlier He had led a ladies’ group to include both of those specific articles.” God not only knows before we do He also cared long before we even knew our need for Him. The parable Jesus tells us in Luke Chapter 18 is not about a faithless God but it is about faithfulness in prayer. In this parable Jesus tells us God is Not an indifferent Judge, God is anything but callus in His compassion towards us. But he also encourage us to be like the widow. Because we are anything but persistent in our intent to seek Him. We are more prone not to pray than to pray with any discipline or commitment.