Summary: We should persist in prayer because God’s justice is certain, but our faith is in question.
“Why Bother To Keep On Praying?”
INTRODUCTION: Do you ever feel as though your prayers are being returned unopened? Does it ever feel like you’re just getting heaven’s voice mail? Like you’re just getting a runaround and you wonder, “Is there anybody else up there I could speak to?” Maybe you’ve been praying for something for a long time, very regularly, and with great fervor. It’s hard to persist in prayer when no answer seems forthcoming. You know the kind of situation I mean--God hasn’t granted our request, but He hasn’t obviously closed the door on it either, and what we pray for certainly seems to us like it’s a good thing He would want to give us. I’m thinking of prayers for the salvation of a close friend or family member, for example.
>> Jesus tells a story in Luke 18 that suggests that when we find ourselves in that situation, we are simply to keep at it. Jesus wants us to understand how critical it is that we persist in prayer. [READ Luke 18:1-8]
I. Jesus tells us it’s important to persist in prayer (1-5)
A. To “persist” is to refuse to give up, especially when faced with opposition or difficulty; to continue insistently, like the widow in this story. The widow who needs help represents a person helpless in that society, whose only appeal for justice comes from the authority of the judge.
1. Though we probably think of her as an older woman, in the ancient world it was not uncommon for a widow to be as young as her 30s.
2. She is seeking justice and appeals to a judge for help. It’s likely someone was trying to cheat her out of money or land her husband left her. This was prevalent in that day, because women had few legal rights.
B. In Jesus’ story this widow not only had the hurdle of being a female, she faced a terrible judge.
1. He didn’t have any fear of God, so he wasn’t motivated by pleasing God, showing compassion, or doing right.
2. Nor did he care what other people thought about him, so he wasn’t motivated by any concern for his reputation.
>>He had no reason to help this woman, and wasn’t about to do so.
C. For some time this judge does not act, but he eventually relents. Her persistence wears him down.
1. Anyone who has experienced persistence in a request can understand how the judge feels!
a. Example: My kids asking for things incessantly
b. Example: My dog eyeing our dinner table leftovers
2. The woman is bothering him constantly, and he anticipates being “worn out” by her. He is tired of her persistence, so he will act.
D. ILLUSTRATION: A huge Chicago company is one of the world’s largest magazine fulfillment firms. That means they handle subscription mailings by computer. Among other things, they send out renewal and expiration notices.
One day the company’s computer malfunctioned. Soon after, a rancher in Powder Bluff, Colorado, got 9,734 separate mailings informing him that his subscription to National Geographic had expired.
This got the rancher’s attention. He dropped what he was doing and traveled 10 miles to the nearest post office, where he sent in money for a renewal—along with a note that said, "I give up! Send me your magazine!"
There is something about multiple requests that brings answers. For reasons known only to God, that is true also in prayer.
E. APPLICATION: Persistent prayer is not something contemporary American Christians are known for. All the recent studies suggest that American Christians today, even ministry leaders, do not have regular times of daily prayer. Or if they do, they involve two, three, maybe five minutes—hardly enough time to say much to God or hear much from Him.
1. APPLICATION: Praying before I check email
2. APPLICATION: Praying whenever I get an emailed prayer request.
>>It IS possible, even in the frantic pace of contemporary American life, to make prayer a priority. But why should we? Why should we persist in prayer?
II. We should persist in prayer because God’s justice is certain (6-8a)
A. The Lord asks us to “learn a lesson from this evil judge” by reflecting on his reaction to the persistent requests of the woman, which in turn picture our prayers.
1. Jesus’ argument goes that if this godless judge, who is no respecter of persons, hears the cry of the widow, how much more will a compassionate God hear the cries of His people!
2. God will vindicate His people who constantly cry out to Him. The remark is stated emphatically with double emphasis: God will definitely vindicate His people.
B. QUOTES: C.S. Lewis wrote, “Prayer is request. The essence of a request, as distinct from a demand, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant them and sometimes refuse them.” Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Billy Graham once said, “If God answered every prayer of mine, I would have married the wrong man seven times!”