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THE POWER OF PERSISTENT PRAYER
Intro: Most of us are familiar with Ted Turner, the cable television millionaire. Turner, at the American Humanist Association banquet, where he received an award for his work on the environment and world peace, openly criticized fundamental Christianity. He said, "Jesus would be sick at his stomach over the way his ideas have been twisted." He went on to say, "I’ve been saved seven or eight times. But, I gave up on it, when, despite my prayers, my sister died. The more I strayed from my faith, the better I felt!"
Ted Turner is dead wrong, but he is perfectly reflecting the attitude many hold concerning God and the matter of prayer. Many people will pray about something for a while and when the answer doesn’t come when they think it should, they just throw up their hands in defeat and say, “What’s the use?” Many of us wouldn’t admit that tonight, but we have done the same thing! This passage is a challenge to that notion!
In these verses, the Lord Jesus tells His disciples a parable that is designed to teach them the importance of remaining persistent in prayer. I would like for us to examine this parable together this evening because we need to hear the truths that are taught here. Why? Because in the church and in the work of the Lord, everything rises or falls on prayer! That is why we take the first part of our Wednesday service and devote it to prayer. I pray the Lord will give us such a spirit of prayer around here that the entire service is devoted to praying! (Note: By the way, it is a sad commentary that many people stay away from the Wednesday service because of the extended prayer time!) That is why we have prayer rooms before every service. That is why a small, ever decreasing handful of people gather on Friday evenings. We need to pray and we must be persistent in our praying.
Let’s take a look into this parable today and see the truths that are contained here. It is these truths that teach us about The Power Of Persistent Prayer.
I. THE CRY OF THE WIDOW
A. V. 3 Her Demand - We do not know the nature of this woman’s burden, but she had a grievance against someone that was lying very heavily upon her heart.
B. V. 3 Her Disadvantages - This poor soul had several things working against her, when it came to seeking redress before a court of law. 1.) She was a woman and women were not allowed to speak in court.
2.) She was a widow and she had no husband to speak for her.
3.) She was a widow and they were a segment of society that was oppressed and often taken advantage of.
4.) She was a widow and being a widow was synonymous with being poor. She had no money with which to grease the wheels of justice. She could not have paid a bribe had she wanted too.
C. V. 5b Her Determination - The Bible refers to her “continual coming”. This phrase has the idea that she was begging this judge for help every day. When he would show up for court, there she was. When he went into the marketplace, there she was. She pleaded with him in front of his friends. She stalked him at home. Everywhere he went, there she was, constantly asking him to give her satisfaction.
D. Her Desperation - Because of her social standing and because of her financial standing, she had no other hope but to get help from this judge. Therefore, she made a nuisance of herself before him, everyday, until she received the very thing she was after!
(Note: This widow represents us. There are times when we too are burdened down with cares, worries, fears and troubles. During those times, it may seem that every circumstance of life is stacked against us. There may be the temptation to say, “What’s the use?”, especially after we have prayed and prayed and prayed about some matter. Yet, if we can learn anything from this poor woman, let us learn the lesson that persistence in prayer pays off in God’s time! So, keep praying, despite all the obstacles you face and despite all the signs that say you should just give up!)
II. THE COLDNESS OF THE JUDGE
A. V. 2 He Was Corrupt - This man did not care anything about God or man. All he cared about was himself and his own life. To put is simply, he was a wicked man! To understand this judge, we need to understand something of what the judicial system was like in those days. Wiersbe describes it this way, “The courtroom was not a fine building but a tent that was moved from place to place as the judge covered his circuit. The judge, not the law, set the agenda; and he sat regally in the tent, surrounded by his assistants. Anybody could watch the proceeding from outside, but only those who were approved and accepted could have their cases tried. This usually meant bribing one of the assistants so that he could call the judges attention to the case. This is still true in much of the third world countries today.” [Warren Weirsbe. Be Courageous Luke 14-24. (Wheaton, ILL.: Victor Books, 1989) p. 62]
B. V. 4a He Was Calloused - Even though he had heard this widow’s petition and saw she had a case, he would not do as she asked. He simply turned a deaf ear to her pleas for help. He was hard hearted and close minded to the needs of others.
C. V. 4b-5 He Was Condescending - In spite of his spiritual condition and in spite of the fact that he did not care for this widow in the least, in the end, he helped her! Why? The answer lies in verse 5. There are two words there that are of special interest.
1.) Troubleth - This word comes from two words that mean, “to reach forth to beat another or to cause another trouble.”
2.) Weary - This word means “to beat down, to blacken the eye”. It is a word used to describe the effects of being beaten severely about the head. Evidently this means that her continually coming before him and her constant crying was hurting this man’s reputation. She was giving him a “black eye” in the community!
(Note: For us, the lesson here is this: We may not get the answer we want immediately, but we must keep asking and keep believing. God will answer in His time!)
(Ill. John Wesley, the great Methodist preacher, encountered many times
of refusal, and denial, during his early years in the ministry. He logged a few of these instances in his diary:
Sunday A.M., May 5:Preached in St. Anne’s. Asked not to come back. Sunday P.M., May 5:Preached in St. John’s. Deacons said, "Get out, and stay out!"
Sunday A.M., May 12:Preached in St. Jude’s. Can’t go back there either.
Sunday P.M., May 19:Preached in St. Somebody Else’s. Deacons called special meeting, and said I couldn’t return.
Sunday A.M., May 26:Preached on street. Kicked off street.
Sunday A.M., June 2:Preached at the edge of town. Kicked off highway. Sunday P.M., June 2:Preached in a pasture. Ten thousand came.
If you and I are to get an answer, it may take some action. Consistent, and persistent action! I believe that George Mueller, the great prayer warrior said it well, when he said, "The great fault of the children of God is, they do not continue in prayer; they do not go on praying; they do not persevere!")
III. THE CONTRAST WITH OUR FATHER
(Note: Jesus now turns from the character in this parable to the Father up in Heaven. He shows us that God, Who is nothing like the unjust judge, delights in answering the prayers of His elect.)
A. V. 7 He Hears His People - We need never fear that God doesn’t hear us, because His ear is ever open to the cry of His children, Isa. 65:24; Jer. 33:3; 1 John 5:14-15.
B. V. 7 He Honors Their Persistence - “though He bear long with them”. Sometimes prayer is answered immediately, at other times, the answer is delayed for some time. The key is not giving up! God isn’t just making us wait, He is working out the answers we seek. Our persistence in prayer demonstrates the depth of our burden. If you can pray about an item once or twice and then give up, you weren’t really burdened over it. A genuine burden will put you before God and keep you there until He answers!
C. V. 8a He Handles Their Petitions - He doesn’t turn a deaf ear to our petitions, but He begins the process of working them out speedily. In truth, real prayer is the evidence of God’s impending answer. Why? Because real prayer always begins with God. The Spirit burdens our hearts and we offer the burden back to God, Who is already busily engaged in bringing about the answer, Rom. 8:26-27. What great confidence that ought to give us in prayer! What a desire that should put within us to seek Hid face more consistently and persistently in prayer!
(Ill. This story illustrates the value of persistence in prayer: Roger Simms, hitchhiking his way home, would never forget the date--May 7. His heavy suitcase made Roger tired. He was anxious to take off his army uniform once and for all. Flashing the hitchhiking sign to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek, new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped. The passenger door opened. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back, and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. "Going home for keeps?" "Sure am," Roger responded. "Well, you’re in luck if you’re going to Chicago." "Not quite that far. Do you live in Chicago?" "I have a business there. My name is Hanover." After talking about many things, Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to witness to this fifty-ish, apparently successful businessman about Christ. But he kept putting it off, till he realized he was just thirty minutes from his home. It was now or never. So, Roger cleared his throat, "Mr. Hanover, I would like to talk to you about something very important." He then proceeded to explain the way of salvation, ultimately asking Mr. Hanover if he would like to receive Christ as his Savior. To Roger’s astonishment the Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger thought he was going to be ejected from the car. But the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger. "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me."
Five years went by, Roger married, had a two-year-old boy, and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a business trip to Chicago, he found the small, white business card Hanover had given him five years before. In Chicago he looked up Hanover Enterprises. A receptionist told him it was impossible to see Mr. Hanover, but he could see Mrs. Hanover. A little confused as to what was going on, he was ushered into a lovely office and found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties. She extended her hand. "You knew my husband?" Roger told how her husband had given him a ride when hitchhiking home after the war. "Can you tell me when that was?" "It was May 7, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army." "Anything special about that day?" Roger hesitated. Should he mention giving his witness? Since he had come so far, he might as well take the plunge. "Mrs. Hanover, I explained the gospel. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day." Explosive sobs shook her body. Getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, "I had prayed for my husband’s salvation for years. I believed God would save him." "And," said Roger, "Where is your husband, Mrs. Hanover?" "He’s dead," she wept, struggling with words. "He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see--I thought God had not kept His promise." Sobbing uncontrollably, she added, "I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought He had not kept His word!" [J. Kirk Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, pp. 39-41. www.christianglobe.com/illustrations/prayer])
IV. THE CHALLENGE TO THE SAINTS
(Note: What are we to do with this message? I think the answer can be summed up by three simple challenges that will make all the difference in our prayer lives.)
A. V. 1 Be Committed To Prayer - Jesus says that we “ought always to pray”. This is the idea that we find in 1 Thes. 5:17, where the Bible says, “Pray without ceasing.” “Without ceasing” has the idea of “no intermission”. It can refer to a nagging cough, a tickle at the back of the throat that says a cough is always about to happen. Jesus is telling us to “to ready. To be on guard, to be watchful” It is the idea of “being in the attitude and atmosphere of prayer all the time.” You see, prayer is more than an obligation. It is also an opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to be in touch with our heavenly Father any time the need arises!
B. V. 1 Be Consistent In Prayer - “Not to faint” - This phrase means “to lose heart, to become slothful, to grow weary”. Jesus challenges His people not to lose heart during the times when answer to prayer is delayed. Don’t give up, keep praying and don’t lose heart! God will move in His time! This is illustrated by the Lord’s promise in Galatians 6:9!
C. V. 8 Be Comforted By Prayer - The last question in verse 8 wonders if Jesus will find faith when He returns. That is, “will He find His people persisting in prayer before the Father over the things that really matter?” The answer to that question depends upon you and me! We may be faithful and we may not. We might persist and we might not. You say, where is the comfort in this? It lies in what Jesus said! Notice that He said, “When the Son of Man cometh...” The comfort in prayer is this: God’s people may not always do what they are supposed to do, but they can count on the Lord to keep every promise He had ever made. He will be faithful to honor His Word to us. You may feel like giving up, but you keep on praying and He will answer in His time! That is His promise, John 15:7; John 16:23; Matt. 21:22; ***Matt. 7:7-8***.
Conc: While crossing the Atlantic, on an oceanliner, F.B. Meyer was asked to address the passengers on the subject of answered prayer. An agnostic, who was present at the service was asked, "What did you think of Dr. Meyer’s sermon?" To which he replied, "I didn’t believe a word of it."
Later that afternoon, the agnostic was on his way to another service, just to hear, as he put it, what the "babbler had to say." He put two oranges in his pocket, and as he walked toward the meeting place, he passed an elderly woman, who was sitting in her chair, fast asleep. In the spirit of fun, the man slipped those two oranges into her outstretched palms.
After the meeting, he saw the old lady happily eating one of those oranges. He remarked, "You seem to be enjoying those oranges ma’am!"
To which she replied, "Yes sir, my Father is very good to me!" He said, "Your Father? Surely you father can’t still be alive!" She exclaimed, "Praise God, He’s very much alive!" She then went on to explain it to the agnostic, and said, "You see, I’ve been sea sick for days. I was asking God to somehow send me an orange to help ease my sickness. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. However, when I woke up, I found that He had not only sent me one orange, but two!" To this response, the agnostic was speechless. Later on that same cruise, he was converted to Christ, and was made a believer that God answers prayer!
Keep on praying saints! The answer is on the way!