Summary: What Is the Proper Way to Pray? 1) Persistently 2) Confidently
Some people hold their hands up to heaven when engaged in this activity. Others get down on their knees. Most fold their hands and close their eyes. Yes, I’m talking about prayer. While prayer has many postures there is only one proper way to pray. Let’s find out from Jesus what the proper way to pray is.
In the verses before our text Jesus told his disciples how life will be tough for believers before the coming of Judgment Day. To encourage us not to give up hope, Jesus told a parable about a widow who persistently went before an unjust judge until she received the treatment she deserved. The widow is the picture of what a believer’s prayer-life should be. We’re first of all reminded that genuine prayers (those prayers heard by God) are only those prayers addressed to the Triune God of the Bible. Think in terms of the widow in the parable. She never would have gotten justice had she gone to the town baker instead of to the magistrate every day to plead her case. The baker certainly could have listened to the widow’s complaint but since he was not the judge, he would have been powerless to give the widow justice. And so it’s only the God of the Bible who hears prayers and has the power to answer them. If you want to speak with God, be sure you’re dialing the right number. We can only connect to God through faith in his Son, Jesus. You won’t be able to connect with God by praying through the Virgin Mary, Mohammad, or any other religious figure. Only Jesus has won access to God’s throne room through his life, death, and resurrection.
But perhaps you have been praying to the Triune God your whole life and it doesn’t seem as if he has really ever answered your prayers. Accordingly Lenin once mocked: “Electricity will replace God. The peasants should pray to it. In any case they will feel its effects long before they feel any effect from on high.” The widow in our text seemed to be the kind of person Lenin had in mind when he made his remarks. Indeed, I wonder if the widow’s own family and neighbours didn’t think she was a bit nuts to keep going before that judge. Everybody knew that judge didn’t care about anyone except himself. The widow wasn’t going to get help from him. She might as well be speaking to a brick wall!
What are we to think when we pray to God and don’t receive an answer – especially when Jesus said at the end of the parable: “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? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:7, 8a). That last verse is a tough one for earth-bound, sinful nature-toting people like you and me to believe. God’s answer to our prayers most often seems to be anything but quick. Let’s start at the beginning. First of all does God really answer all of our prayers? Sure he does. That’s what he’s promised to do. Sometimes God’s answer is “Yes,” other times it’s “Wait,” and still other times the answer is “No.” Unfortunately we’re like a child who won’t take no for an answer and so when God says “No” to our request for a raise, better looks, better health, we accuse him of not listening to us.
A “No” from God, however, doesn’t mean that we should give up presenting that request to him. For with this parable Jesus urges us to be persistent in our prayers just as the widow was persistent in going before that judge. Being persistent, however, is not the same thing as being stubborn. When we bring our requests before God we do so trusting that he knows what’s best for us. God is not a used car salesman whom we’re trying to win over to our asking price; he is the wiser partner in the relationship and we want to come in line with his will (Philip Yancey). So go ahead, pray boldly and specifically, but also pray humbly remembering that nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which is outside the will of God. And trust that God’s will is for our best. In fact if God always answered our prayers the way we wanted him to, he would in effect be handing over the running of the world to us. The sad thing is we often think that we can do better than God (as illustrated in the Jim Carrey movie: Bruce Almighty). After all everyone believes: “There is a God…and I am it.” Don’t think that, Brothers and Sisters. God knows what is best for us and will answer our prayers accordingly.