Monday, 04 November 2013 11:01

A Parable Encouraging Prayer

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Dear friends, continuing with our parable series, the one before us this time is on the subject of prayer. Giving encouragement in regards to prayer, prayer to the one true God as revealed in God’s Word and in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners. Luke 18:1 tells us: “And He [Jesus] spake a parable unto them [His disciples] to this end [for this purpose] that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Our theme is, “A most encouraging parable in regards to prayer.” Notice with me at least four ways this parable is so encouraging.

For one, just the fact that Jesus gives this parable to encourage us in prayer is most encouraging, don’t you think? Consider how Jesus here is looking to have His followers continue instant in prayer to Him and not to become weary and disheartened, fainthearted in calling upon God, day by day. In all our needs for body and soul, with all life’s challenges at home, at work, at school, in church, and in society, Jesus is urging here to keep looking to the Lord, and don’t cease to pray to Him in regards to everything and in regards to anyone and everyone! Don’t quickly give up praying God-honoring, Bible-based petitions and intercessions and confessions and praises, but keep on keeping on in prayer in spirit and truth for as long as you live. Don’t conclude either with no immediate response to your prayers or not receiving answers as you might think you should or when you think you would, that God doesn’t hear or doesn’t care. “No”, says Jesus, “men ought always to pray, and not to faint.

I say, isn’t it amazing by itself, and most encouraging, that Jesus goes so out of His way to teach and urge us: “Don’t be prayers who give up so easily!” That Jesus will tell a special parable also just to drive home to us how important that we stay in ongoing prayer and humble reliance upon the Lord in all matters in all of life for body and soul is so very gracious of Him. Don’t you think so too? Here we see the Lord knows our frame, and our tendency, and our weaknesses of ourselves, and He is out to support us in His gospel way. This parable encouraging perseverance in prayer is something so kindhearted from God, and reflects the endless resources to be found for us from God Triune in all our needs. This is Jesus’ point with the parable He tells us here of the unjust judge or of the persistent widow. You and I should not allow any circumstances however depressing, or any delays however long, to keep us from continuing with the earnest, Word-based petitions you and I pray to God, because God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the covenant faithful Saviour God, is so reliable and good and kind. And He is always our only hope and refuge and comfort for body and soul, in life and death, for time and eternity!

From the parable in its context too, we learn how very fitting Jesus’ instruction here is. Jesus tells this parable in the setting of speaking on the end times, and in connection with Christ’s second and final coming. The whole time period between the first and second coming of Christ is called in the Bible, “the last days” and Paul speaks of this period as also “perilous times”. Jesus in instructs us that even in fearful times and terrible times of persecution and trouble and apostasy, never allow ourselves to become so hopeless and unbelieving in regards to the gospel cause and the second and final coming of the Saviour. “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” We could say, being so much closer now to Christ’s return, this parable encouraging prayer is especially relevant for our times today for sure! This parable encouraging prayer to God no matter what was told to Jesus’ followers then and still today. The two thousand years since it was first spoken hasn’t diminished the relevance and timeliness and blessedness of it, but only adds weight to it all the more, living in the evil days we are presently in.

Do you see this first point about this most encouraging parable in regards to prayer with me? Just the fact that Jesus would give this encouragement is so special by itself! Truly it is a gospel wonder of infinite care and love the way God pursues after sinners, not only to save us but also to teach us and supply us in all our needs in the ways of His marvelous grace. For sure, when believers persevere in prayer, it is only because God has been powerfully and persistently leading us in that way through His Word and Spirit. You see this with me too, don’t you?

But now let us consider a second way this parable of Luke 18:1-8 is most encouraging in regards to prayer to God, and perseverance in prayer to Him. Not just the fact that Jesus gives this parable, but how Jesus encourages prayer and steadfastness in prayer with it is most amazing too. This parable about the widow and the unjust judge is, as one put it, another one of Jesus’ “how much more” incomparable gospel lessons. It is plainly astonishing how Jesus promotes humble reliance upon Him in this parable. Here let us think of the story Jesus tells.

What is the astonishing incredible comparison Jesus gives? Do you know the story Jesus tells? It is about a widow woman who had an enemy who had done something really wrong to her. Maybe her renter was not paying his monthly bill, or possibly someone stole something from her, or something worse even. The point is, this widow lady was being unjustly taken advantage of or mistreated in some way, and we are told by Jesus that she appealed to the city judge for justice regarding her case. But this judge she appealed to was a man “who feared not God, neither regarded man”. In other words, this unjust judge, as he is described by Jesus, was, as one put it, “nothing but a hateful egotist….a judge without any love for justice….Tender feelings were completely foreign to him.” The summary of God’s commandments is to love God and our neighbor, but this man lived the exact opposite in all his ways.

The widow woman brings her case to this wicked judge asking him: “Grant me justice against my opponent, avenge me of mine adversary.” But the judge simply dismisses her, and refuses to consider her case. But what does the widow do? She just keeps going to this judge to get justice regarding her case. Day after day! Each day people would stand in line to speak with the judge and each day she would be there too, appealing to him: “Grant me justice against my opponent!” But for the longest time this ruthless judge just kept dismissing her. Though the woman kept coming, he kept refusing her. Quite likely he realized he would get nothing from helping her out. But there she would be, standing and appealing the next day, time after time.

Finally, as Jesus tells it, there came the day when the judge said to himself, as it were: “This is ridiculous. Though I care not about what God says or what this widow wants, yet because she just keeps coming to me with her unending request, I’m going to help her. For otherwise with her continual coming and asking, she will weary me to death, or else just drive me up the wall.” This unjust judge becomes so sick and tired of her, so to speak, that at last he relents and gives in to her request. This unjust judge investigates the widow’s case and administers justice on her behalf, just to get her off his back at it were, for he couldn’t stand being annoyed by her appeals any longer.

That is the story Jesus tells, and after He finishes it, then He says: “Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, his people which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

So now, dear friends, how in what Jesus says here in this parable does He provide great encouragement in prayer and for perseverance in prayer? Jesus’ point here is surely not that we see how this woman pestered and peppered this unjust judge till he gave in, and so by badgering God, we too will win. No, rather for encouragement in prayer and steadfastness in prayer we need to see here the character of God compared to this unjust judge. What Jesus wants us to learn from this parable is: Consider who God is and what He is like! He is not like this uncaring, unrighteous, self-centered judge, but God Triune is ever merciful, patient. and most eager to assist His people in all their needs! With the picture of the unjust judge in almost an extreme way, the Lord Jesus is driving home in this parable: You should know who God is! And Jesus who is God Himself in the second person of the Trinity, God come in the flesh, and who knows and reveals to us God the Father in all His fullness and glory, informs us how totally different than this unjust judge God is in Christ Jesus.

The Lord is infinitely just in all His ways while at the same time endlessly merciful and compassionate towards all who appeal to Him. Though the Lord be high and lifted up, the Bible tells us, He inclines His ear to us when we cry. Imagine that! “For the sighing of the needy now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him” [out to ensnare or oppress others]” we read in Psalm 12. So we read too in that same chapter of Luke 18 about the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, when he found out Jesus was passing nearby, he wouldn’t’ stop calling out to Him, pleading His mercy and help in his needs. When people tried to stop him from repeatedly calling out to Jesus, “he cried so much the more” saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” [vs.39ff]. And we read in vs. 40 that Jesus stopped and stood still and helped the man, saying [vs.42]: “Receive your sight, your faith haTH healed you.”

So in this parable of the widow with the unjust judge, Jesus wonderfully makes clear the loving heart of God towards His poor and needy people. The point of the parable is that Jesus would have us to trust God and keep trusting Him, regardless of our circumstances for God Triune is so very great and most gracious and endlessly good! Indeed, “for he who spared not his own Son… how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” as Paul asserts in Romans 8:32. Truly, as one commentator noted: “None but the Son of God might have ventured to use the comparison of an unrighteous judge!” Yet let’s be sure not to overemphasize the unrighteous judge, but to see him just as an incidental comparison which Jesus chose simply to bring out all the more the encouraging gospel truth that He would proclaim about Who God is and what He is like as Triune Saviour God.

Never should you or I think either that delay of response on God’s part is proof of His indifference. The unjust judge did not respond at first to the widow’s request because he was indifferent and uncaring. But God is never that way! And when He chooses to delay in His response to prayer, it’s always for good and loving and wise reasons that may be beyond our comprehension for awhile or for our whole lifetime. Perhaps God sees He must teach us patience and other virtues, or maybe He delays to increase our thanksgiving when we finally receive the blessing asked for. Or God sometimes delays in response because He has a far greater blessing in store for us. Or maybe it’s for some greater reason we can’t know about or understand, even as Job experienced. But whatever the case, God’s delays are always well-intentioned and purposeful and ultimately all the more profitable for us and for others unknown to us even. God’s ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts than our thoughts, as we read Isaiah 55:8-9. Don’t stop praying just because He doesn’t answer how and when you might expect. Remember who God is in all His attributes and as revealed in Christ Jesus, the Saviour of sinners, and so pray and keep on praying. And do not faint in hope and prayer for as long as you live!  

Are you praying for a loved one who is unconverted and tempted to give up doing so for you have been praying for so long already? Oh, don’t stop, but keep on with your urgent petition! Are you praying for revival and reformation in the church today? Are you asking for strength against bosom sins and relentless temptations from the world and Satan and your own flesh? You have been asking that for years, but now lately you have been slacking off because things seem just to be getting worse instead of better?

Oh, this parable urges you to not quit praying, but keep on with your earnest pleas. Have you been praying for years that faithful churches be filled with true worshippers of God and that many more be saved out of the darkness of sin and the blindness of this world? But now lately you are tempted to give up for nothing really changes? Indeed, rather than churches growing in gospel zeal and holy influence it seems more and more churches are turning away from the truth and compromising with the world in all kinds of ways. But will you stop praying for this reason? What about praying for more men for the gospel ministry, and labourers in His service all over the world? What about praying for in regards to some sickness or heavy trial or marriage problem or whatever? This parable urges instead of giving up on praying, keep on in your prayers. Keep on keeping on in fervent prayer to God Triune for God is so great and good and just and true in all His ways! That is the divine exhortation and encouragement before us. As one put it: “The perception that God will not hear us or is not hearing us stifles prayer.” So Jesus gives this parable proclaiming God as so different than the unjust judge with this widow lady. Will you listen to this main point of Jesus’ parable, and not faint or grow weary in your prayers to God?

It is interesting to think here about Jesus’ choice of a widow appearing before his unjust judge in the parable He tells. The whole Bible declares God’s great tender care for widows and those in special need of any kind. We know too, don’t we, Jesus Himself appeared before a most ruthless, egotistical, unjust judge, Pontius Pilate, and He suffered under him as the Just for the unjust, even to the death of the cross with His crucifixion on Golgotha. Jesus was on the way to the cross when He told His parables and His proclamation of God as the ever merciful compassionate Saviour God He signed and sealed with His shed blood on the cross of Calvary! Oh, that you too would hear and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, yes, as proclaimed to us also in this most encouraging parable in regards to prayer to God.

Indeed, for notice with me further not only that Jesus tells this parable is most encouraging in regards to prayer; and how Jesus with so exalting God as most gracious faithful good-doing Saviour God in this parable is so encouraging in regards to prayer. But now consider what Jesus actually proclaims about God in vs.7-8a all the more can give great encouragement in prayer to God. When Jesus applies the parable, He says: “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” From these words notice Jesus totally underscores God in Christ is indeed so unlike the unjust judge, yes, the total opposite, infinitely so even! Further, the reference to His people as “his own elect” reminds us how God’s people are His dear chosen people from eternity to eternity, always the apple of His eye, and the subject of His tender care and keeping. The Triune Savior God, the everlasting God of the endless covenant of grace in Christ Jesus, neither slumbers nor sleeps, and with Him is everlasting strength and love and comfort refuge for all who call upon Him. And notice too how the elect are described. They are a people who “cry day and night unto him [the Lord]”.

God’s true people are a praying people. When Saul was converted and his name changed to Paul, the evidence it was so is, as we read in Acts 9:11: “…behold, he prayeth.” Prayer is, as has been said, “the breath of the soul”, the evidence of new life in us, by God’s grace, and God knows this and Himself accomplishes this in us by His Word and Spirit when we are His children in spirit and truth. If you are not a person of sincere prayer to God Triune, then you need to ask if it is well with your soul. When you belong to Christ Jesus in true faith, you become a praying person and you want to continue being a praying person and you so value all encouragement to be prayerful to God, for you know it is your lifeline ever and always to be calling upon the Lord. Is this your testimony too before God and others? If it is not yet your testimony, will you learn from this parable to begin to pray to God for His mercy and help in your life, for His saving grace and redeeming power, beginning even today?

To see the blessedness of calling upon the Lord and persevering in living in humble dependency before Him in all our needs, notice too what Jesus declares and confirms about God’s help for His praying people. Jesus tells us for our encouragement in prayer that truly calling out to Him, God will avenge His people. That means He will come to their help without a doubt. Always we can be sure God will deliver His people and in the end all that is crooked will be made straight and all will be cleared up in perfect justice by the Lord. In this life you and I may think sometimes: “Has God forgotten us?” But Jesus confirms here He never forgets His people and always and forever He will save and keep His own, as many as call upon Him in spirit and truth.

You may wonder about Jesus’ words, that God will avenge His own speedily, those who cry to Him day and night. But very likely that word, speedily, also referred to Jesus’ death and resurrection which would soon take place shortly after telling this parable and all His parables. In Christ and Him crucified and risen again, all our vindication, deliverance and perfect victory over sin, Satan, death, and evil and every injustice is all taken care of and forever guaranteed! That is the gospel message of this parable and so what reason to persevere in prayer to God in Jesus’ Name still today.

Will you and I too take this urgent gospel call to heart then, ever to pray and to persevere in prayer to God in all our needs and ways, living in these last days? Do you personally pray to God on a daily basis and time and time again? Do you reflect being one of the elect also in this way? The question is warranted for notice yet this last way Jesus actually so encourages prayer in and with this encouraging parable. Here I’m thinking of why Jesus also gave this parable. What does Jesus say at the end of the parable as final application of it and the call to prayer? Jesus asks this somber question: “Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?” Isn’t Jesus forewarning with this question that when He comes again there will be comparatively few true believers?

Jesus lovingly forewarns about few being steadfast in the faith, and all too many falling away to worldliness and by superficial religion, and just plain carelessness and indifference for the things of God and matters eternal. But you see, also in stating these things and with His ending question of application, Jesus is urging His disciples: Don’t be a non-praying, distracted, doubting, deceived, wayward people in seeking and serving the Lord. No, but seek Him with all your heart and call upon Him daily and constantly that you serve Him in spirit and truth and earnestly and zealously so, more and more and not less and less as the sudden and final glorious return of Christ the Savior approaches nearer and nearer.

How much there is to pray for in relation to God’s church and kingdom and the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ while it is yet the day of grace. In and with all Christ’s teaching on prayer, He shows what needy people we are and always remain in and of ourselves if we only see it rightly. As one put it, also in connection with this parable: “If only we sensed our desperate need more, we would pray more readily, more persistently, more humbly. And don’t you think we would receive more readily all that God wishes to give [praying so to God in all our needs, pleading His mercy and grace for Jesus sake alone]?” Are you a prayer before God, dear friends, realizing all your needs for body and soul, day by day, and so many needs in the family and in our society and world for each and all?

Let us hear the challenge in Jesus’ name also from this parable to be more diligent in prayer to God. There is every reason for true and growing diligence in prayer. Often the lack of prayer and little diligence in prayer is both the cause and symptom of so much trouble and downfall in our lives in regards to walking in God’s ways and living to His praise. A prayerless person is not a healthy Christian, and most likely no true believer at all. Examine yourself in this regard, also in thinking too often small thoughts of God and what does it help to pray to Him!

May this most encouraging parable in regards to prayer bring revival in praying to God, personally and as couples if married, and in family worship and in our churches too. Oh, may God bless also this message, teaching us, you and me, truly to pray, and to persevere in prayer, and not to faint, ever looking to Jesus, the one and only all-sufficient Saviour of sinners. Grant Lord such believing repentant response on the part of all, and hear this prayer too we ask, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor

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