Oct 16, 2016 – Tenacious Prayer!
C.S. Lewis once said: “A person cannot remain ‘a good egg’ forever. One must either hatch or rot.” In the gospel lesson we just read there is another ‘either / or’ sort of thing. Luke tells us that the parable that Jesus tells is about prayer and tenacious faith. Luke sets up this parable in such a way that we learn we either pray or we give up.
The point Jesus is making about praying is, it’s an ‘either / or’ condition. We either pray, tenaciously or we give up and lose heart. When we pray we receive encouragement because we understand and believe that God hears our prayer.
It may be that what drives us to prayer might be that we’re sad, tired or weary, but if we pray we have not lost heart. We can’t give up when we pray, because we have hope in God through Jesus Christ.
If we didn’t have that we wouldn’t pray!
Sometimes we face situations that leave us lost or bewildered and thinking we want to give up. When we face exhaustion or unhappiness we can give in to it; we can spend sleepless nights trying to figure our own way out of whatever the situation is. Either of these responses leads us into a downward spiral.
However, God alone has the power to deliver us from our despair. And He does that by His promise to hear us and by granting us the faith to move forward in Him. God is the content of our faith (X2) and He never gives up on us. The cross of Christ proves that.
Jesus died in order that we might realize and know God’s tenacious love for us. And He rose from the grave to guarantee to us the restoration of our relationship with God. So, when we pray to God, we do so in the name of Jesus and that Name alone sustains us through any and all trials of life. Why? Because He’s the proof that God is for us.
I have seen the poor begging from the rich, refusing to go away, and persistently reaching out their hands to receive charity. But who ever saw the rich following the poor with a hand filled with gold, refusing to go away, persistently pressing them to accept the gift, even begging them to receive it? Yet, to the amazement of both angels and demons, our holy and righteous God does this very thing with sinful human beings – holding out to us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in His Son.
The hope and promise of that, assures us that God – God in heaven above – hears our prayers. God is madly in love with us and provides His comfort, compassion and strength through any and all circumstances that come our way. But, when we refuse to turn to God in prayer – in those times when we’re frustrated or angry or despondent – and we refuse to pray, then we deny to ourselves God’s care.
But as we turn to God, in Christ alone and pray, then we cannot give up or lose heart because, with that change, we’re focusing on and trusting in the character of the One who loves us; Who loved us so much that He sent His Son to prove it.
In the gospel parable, the woman persists in seeking justice from the judge. It’s a daily thing for her. The daily, hourly, moment-by-moment habit of prayer that we, like she with the judge, cultivate is for our benefit, not God’s. God knows our needs and hopes. We’re the ones who need to tenaciously speak our needs to God so we can be clear about what we are asking God for. Only with that clarity will we then learn to trust Him for those needs.
As we remember that we’re speaking in to the ears the living God of heaven and earth, the Creator of all that is; as we remember that, we learn that we don’t come to Him to ask for those things that help us just to keep up with our neighbors. No, we learn to ask for the things that we truly need.
Things like hearts of repentance – of trust – of the desire to know more of the righteousness of Christ in our lives. ‘Yes’ you might say, ‘but I need help with my rent’. True, and such things the God of heaven knows when you ask Him. He will provide, though how He will, I can’t stand here and tell you.
What I can tell you is that you cannot pray to ask God for help with your rent without believing that somehow He will help. Otherwise why would you be praying? Prayer is what God has promised to hear for the sake of Jesus who died to restore us to Himself. Our focus in prayer is not on pestering God till He gives in to our whims; it is tenaciously trusting in the content of God’s character as revealed in Jesus Christ to provide for all our needs of body, life and soul.
In the parable the judge is unjust. But justice is not within the person of the judge; it is external to the judge though it’s in his power to grant it. (X2) That judge is nothing like God – in whom is all justice.
St Paul says to Timothy today, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead. God, as our judge, grants us by grace alone, what we don’t deserve, mercy. We pray to Him persistently because His character is what we put our hope in. We don’t put our hope in our desires. Often our prayers and our trust falter if God doesn’t respond immediately like we think He should to what we desire!
We tend to lack the persistence that we hear about in today’s Old Testament lesson. But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And here, in the bulletin, someone is missing a ring and we’ve kept it in to find out who it is.
Remember this story from a couple months ago, A woman telephoned the manager of a concert hall asking about a valuable diamond pendant she’d lost there the previous night. The manager asked her to hold the line, and he went to where she thought she might have dropped it. He found the pendant, and returned to the phone, only to discover that she had become impatient and had hung up. He had no way of reaching her because she hadn’t left her name. Her lack of persistence cost her dearly.
So often people quickly question God’s love and care if He doesn’t immediately respond in the way they desire. Remember God is always going to do what is best for us, and when it is best for us. That’s because of His character, because of Who He is! We trust in Him, not in our own timetable.
Waiting on God is something that is learned. Again as St Paul said to Timothy today, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Prayer, too, is learned. Prayer is learned through doing.
Let me give you something you can use in your prayer-life. Write the word ACTS in a column. Now out to the side of each letter write these words. For A write Adoration. For C, Confession. For T, Thanksgiving, and for S, Supplication.
Using these 4 elements in our prayers can help guide us in grasping hold of, and focusing in prayer, on the character of God as we pray. First, as we take time to focus on God in Adoration – that is praising Who He is, giving Him glory and honor – as we do that, we grow in our appreciation for God’s mercy and grace.
Next as we allow ourselves to Confess our faults – our sins – that too helps us to more clearly focus on God’s grace to us. When we acknowledge our sins to God we do so in full confidence of His forgiveness to us in Christ. Confession frees us up to then return honest Thanks to Him.
So then, in Thanking God for His gifts and grace to us we can find a new heavenly perspective on what is confronting us in our daily life. When our heart focuses on truly giving God thanks, whatever is troubling us, it can now be seen in a different light. It may not remove our troubles or pain, but allowing ourselves to concentrate on giving thanks to God for His mercy to us in Jesus, puts that pain and sorrow into a less all-consuming position in our lives.
Now comes Supplication. Asking God to supply our needs. When we give adoration to God, confess our sins and acknowledge His forgiveness to us in the blood of Jesus, and return true thanks to God; when we do those things first, we put ourselves in a frame of mind that makes it easy to share all our true needs with God. We are also now in a posture to receive what God supplies.
Yes of course He knows our needs, but now, after A, C & T, when we come to S – Supplication, we now have a fresh and new perspective on what is troubling us. As we approach God appealing for our needs, we can perhaps ask that they be met in a way we had not considered before spending time in the ACT of prayer.
Again, as we started out talking today, when we pray we are not losing heart, neither are we giving up. Jesus told this story so that we might learn to pray. Our view of life is changed when we pray. Not because of any so called ‘power in prayer’, no the power is in the One Jesus teaches us to pray to! In praying we’re coming to the Father in heaven above. Such a thing is a great gift that is ours only through the blood of Jesus Christ. And through that blood we have access to the very ear of God. Can anything in our lives be too much for Him to hear about? No.
And in building the habit of prayer we learn to lean more and more on the character of God, on His great mercy and kindness. In doing that, through whatever pain, trial or hurt we face we are tenacious and do not lose heart, because God hears us, for Jesus sake. In His name, amen.
Sermon #849 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Genesis 32:22-30
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
Second Reading 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
4 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Holy Gospel Luke 18:1-8
18 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 what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 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. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”