Sunday, August 26, 2012

Persevering In Prayer

It has once again been too long since I last posted, and for that I apologize.  I must admit that I 'made' time for this post...simply because after what happened at church today, I THINK it may be a little necessary.  I would definitely have to say that this is one of my more favorite passages from Luke.  (Okay, that's not necessarily true).  Luke definitely has to be my favorite recording of the Gospel (yeah, kinda wrong, I know), and I am very familiar with the passages.  Anyway, it comes from Chapter 18 verses 1 through 8.  Here I will post it for you:

 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to whis elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

We had a good time of prayer after the sermon.  I watched as a bunch of people came forward and fell upon their knees.  I will say this:  There is nothing better then that feeling, seeing people humble themselves before God.  I can definitely say that when you're in that position of heart, sure, doubts will come...but IN that position, there's very little the devil can accomplish against you.  (I know I'm crossing all sorts of lines there, but that's how I feel).  Anyway, let's hop right into this!

The first point we see:

I.  At All Times, We Ought To Pray.

First off and foremost, note that this 'ought' in verse 1 is really not only a suggestion.  It really has an idea of necessity.  As humans, we are completely prone to lose heart and wander.  To me, this definitely brought a portion of a song:  "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love, here's my heart o take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.".  Very much so, we are prone to wander and lose heart.  I sure am.

You may also be able to connect them in this way:  If you lead a life that's characterized by prayer, you probably won't be prone to lose heart as much.  (Now, I know that's not ALWAYS the case.).  Now my pastor brought up some serious thoughts on the matter:  To give up on prayer, in essence, is giving up on God.  When you use the 'excuse' of "Well, it's good and all, I just don't have time.  My schedule doesn't work to pray a lot.".  Waaiiiiiiit....You only say that to things that are of no importance to you.  Is communication with God, asking Him for help in things, of no importance to us?  I oughta think about what I just said there before I'm tempted to use that excuse.

Before we get a bit deeper, I must clarify something.  ALWAYS.  Uhm, what am I saying there exactly?  That I shouldn't hang out with any friends because I need to always be praying?  No, no, I'm not saying that. I love what my pastor said on this matter:  It's more of, don't cease to pray.  Whhhaat?  Doesn't that mean the same thing?  Well, that's what I'm tempted to think.  But the moment my pastor said 'military tactic' not 'ceasing'...what that means is they charge, pull back and regroup, and then charge again.  Now, repeat.  Then repeat again.  And again.  And onto infinity.  That's what 'don't cease to pray' means.  We take a break, sometimes regroup with friends or (and, definitely no matter what) the Holy Spirit.  The other thing is that prayer isn't necessarily limited to just speaking words with closed eyes and an open heart to our Heavenly's a lifestyle.  It's praising Him for who He is and what He does for us.

Before we actually move on to the 'parable', I would also say this:  From what I've said, do NOT BY ANY MEANS think that I'm saying, "Hey, you, pray more!  Pray, pray, pray!".  I mean, sure, we all need to pray more.  But prayer is one of those things that you can always theoretically 'do better' in.  We can always be better, therefore we can't be satisfied.  But that' just the thing:  It's no performance!  It's nothing that'll get you from Hell to Heaven (or vice versa).  Here's the point though:  Does leading a prayer-less life characterize our lives?  The answer is to not say, "Oh, I need to change that.".  You need to ask WHY that is, not how to change it.

II.  A Main Reason We Lose Heart In Prayer is the Delays in God's Answers.

Yeaaah, that's a big one, certainly.  Here is where we start to answer that 'why' question.  It often seems that God doesn't answer our prayers as rapidly as we want Him to.  But remember:  What is rapidly to Him isn't rapid to us.  We're but a moment, He's always been.  We don't really understand His Eternal Perspective on things.

We go on to the parable.  The main thing to note here are the characters.

1 Character:  A selfish, unrighteous, wicked Judge.  You get the idea that he doesn't really care about justice, he doesn't care about anyone, just himself.

2 Character:  A needy widow, who relentlessly comes to the wicked judge for justice.  (Note:  In that time, it was much harder for widows then it is today [Not that it's NOT difficult for them today] in the sense that women weren't really allowed to own anything, and when their husband passed away, they received anything that was left and had to live off of it.  [which is usually little].  Here, Jesus seems to make it apparent that someone has removed this widow's source of livelihood.  That's why she's desperate, and relentless in approaching the judge.).

As you follow the story, Jesus shows that eventually the wicked judge gives her justice just because he didn't want her to bug him.  Now don't misunderstand here.  Yes, the widow represents us.  And no, the wicked judge doesn't represent God, we know that.  Here's the thing though:  If a wicked person can give justice by being annoyed into it, won't a perfect, loving and caring judge give justice to those whom He loves and gave His life for?  Exactly!  He does!  But again, it's difficult for us to see that at times.  It's really hard at times, I know.  But He is faithful, His timing is always perfect.  We are promised that He WILL give us justice, and help us in our time of need.  Even rapidly, He says.  But we have to go by God's 'rapidly'...not our own definition of rapidly.  (I'll continue this train of thought in a moment).

III.  In Order To Pray Unceasingly, We Need To Understand Ourselves, and We Need To Understand God.

I've already given you a lot to 'understand' about God, and there's much more, and much more no one understands at all!  But we're revealed some things.  According to other Scriptures, we know of God's Faithfulness, Omnipotence and Omniscience.  He's powerful, and can do anything He wants.  So when He doesn't answer our prayers, it's NOT that He's unable to do it.  We know that He's able.  We also know that He works all for our good, even if we can't see it as good.  Don't freak out about an issue that He's not answering:  If He's not answering, then you don't need it solved quite yet, and God knows that.

What about us?  Well, we know that we're not at all powerful in any minuscule way...otherwise, you know, we wouldn't really need Him, now would we?  As humans, we're frail, we lose heart and give up easily.  We often are grieved by mistreatment (from other humans, because God never mistreats us.  He treats us so oppositely from that, when you realize what we really deserve) and difficult trials.  (Or seemingly mistreatment from difficult trials).  God's Will is Sovereign, and He works all for these things are necessary.  Our position in life is necessary, otherwise, it completely disproves everything about the Gospel and the Bible.  Also, we must never cease to bring to Him our troubles and heartfelt needs.  He listens.  He knows.  There's a song by Fireflight that's called He Weeps...and He Weeps for you, and loves you.  Know that!  Just remember the importance on His timing.  (I know I'm repeating myself...but I wouldn't repeat it if it wasn't serious).  Also, we should NEVER question God's Faithfulness.  The Bible in so many different places has shown us that various people have asked the question:  "God, where are you?  Why have you abandoned me?".  We must be concerned with OUR faithfulness.  The issue is that we have a lack of it, and we must acknowledge it.  Perhaps in prayer, you may also express that.  We ought to be sad and distressed at our lack of faithfulness, and realize that any attempt of ours to be more faithful won't really do much.  Perhaps in addition to asking Him for help in our time of need, we could say, "Hey, God...I don't feel like I'm trusting you.  I mean, I know you can be trusted.  I know that.  But I feel my faith lacking.  Give me the strength to believe that this is all according to your plan."  <---and it really does.  Always.  If a problem isn't solved, then God will solve it...when He solves it.  But He loves to hear you ask anyway.  Amen?


Anonymous said...

"But prayer is one of those things that you can always theoretically 'do better' in.  We can always be better, therefore we can't be satisfied. "

Well said. I think another thing that Christians struggle with, even through strong prayer and trusting of the Holy Spirit, is to be wiling to follow Him blindly. You feel and see Him working, but you don't always know what the plan is because you can't see that far ahead. And that's where faith is both tested and strengthened.

Good post, as usual. Keep it up.

Karyn Payne said...

This is really good. I know I usually leave a longer comment, but all I can say right now is that I needed to read this... Thank you for posting it. Really.