Summary: Parables of Christian Living, Pt. 6
THE CRY OF MY HEART (LUKE 18:1-8)
Prayer is a way of life and inseparable from life for most people.
A Newsweek poll several years ago (“Is God Listening?” Newsweek 3/31/97) indicated that 54% of those the magazine surveyed prayed on a daily basis - 25% said they pray to God once a day and 29% more than once a day. 87% believed that God answers their prayers at least some of the time. Even so, unanswered prayers did not deter them from praying. 85% insisted that they could accept God’s failure to grant their prayers. Only 13 percent declared they have lost faith because their prayers went unanswered. 82% answered they did not turn away from God even when their prayers went unanswered. 54% said that when God did not answer their prayers, it means it wasn’t God’s will to answer.
The things people pray for include health, safety, jobs, and even success, valid or not. 82% said they ask for health or success for a child or family member when they pray. 82% believed that God does not play favorites in answering prayers. 79% said God answers prayer for healing someone with an incurable disease. 75% asked for strength to overcome personal weakness. 73% answered that prayers for help in finding a job are answered. On the lighter side, 51% agreed that God doesn’t answer prayers to win sporting events. 36% never prayed for financial or career success.
Jesus used a unique expression to urge believers to take prayer seriously. The phrases “should always” and “always pray” are one-time Greek expressions in the Bible. Jesus lived a life of prayer. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He would get up, leave the house and go off to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35-36). It was not uncommon for him to go up a mountain to pray by himself (Mark 6:46, Matt 14:23).
In this parable, Jesus reveals that troubles have the opposite effect, not an adverse effect, on God’s children. Believers have a friend in Jesus. They can take their troubles to Jesus, unload their troubles to Him, and leave their troubles to Him.
Know When to Act
18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ’Grant me justice against my adversary.’
The cartoon strip ’’Peanuts,’’ which reached readers in 75 countries, 2,600 papers and 21 languages every day, was perfect in every way except one in its near 50 years of publication to many of its readers and fans. When Charles Schultz started drawing Charlie Brown, he was astonished at the number of people who wrote to him saying, “Why can’t you create happy stories for us? Why does Charlie Brown always have to lose? Why can’t you let him kick the football?” It did not help that his biggest tormentor, Lucy, was the one yanking the ball from his feet as he was about to kick, sending him tumbling in the air and landing on his back.
Schulz responded: “Well, there’s nothing funny about the person who gets to kick the football. Drama and humor come from trouble and sadness, and mankind’s astounding ability to survive life’s unhappiness.” Shultz continued, “Charlie Brown’s daily life is a struggle, and we can empathize with him, since he is the person that everything bad seems to happen to. He is likable, however, and would probably make a good friend. He’s decent and kind. He never gives up trying to fly his kite, win a baseball game or kick a football…Even after his worst days, though, in a way, he triumphs over adversity. He realizes, like the rest of us, that it is amazing how rapidly things can turn around, from good to bad” (Shultz, Charles M. “Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Me,” Doubelday, 1980, pp. 36-37, 55).
The widow could have called it quits, folded it up, or cursed her misfortune. Instead she took that as an opportunity and a challenge to do what she had never thought of: to make an appointment with the judge. Troubles did not faze her. Unlike most people, she had nothing to lose, nothing to fear, nothing to apologize for and to be ashamed of. Troubles made her more courageous, not lose courage; more vocal, not vulnerable; and more resourceful in her thinking, not resigned to the fact. She did not retreat into her shell, play the pity game and second-guessed her widow status.
If the widow had confided in others her plan, they would surely say to her, “Forget about it,” “Perish the thought,” or “Die the heart,” as the Chinese say. She was at the bottom of the class society and he was at its top. The chance of the two meeting, if not for her misfortune, was slim, if not remote or hopeless. People were unlikely to stick their neck out for her, especially knowing the reputation of the judge. His very name (v 2) raised concerns, inspired fear, and melted resolve. Most people dared not cross swords with him, play games with him, or risk offending or angering the man. They certainly did not want him judging their case if they have the misfortune of being taken to court, and they most certainly did not envy the person who ended up in his court or the attorneys who misbehaved in his presence and the prosecutors or defendants with weaknesses in their case, bribes in their hands, or stakes that were high.