Persevering In Prayer
February 23, 2020 | Randy Smith
Persevering In Prayer
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Pastor Randy Smith
One of my life verses has been Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Every heart of every person that has ever experienced life has had desires and not all of these desires are necessarily bad. There have been things that all people want. People have dreams about having their desires fulfilled. As a child, finding a magic Jeanie in a lamp and being granted three wishes. And then when we get older pursuing things that make for good luck or good karma . Fantasizes about winning the lottery, inheriting a fortune or stumbling across a mint condition 1910 Honus Wagner baseball card in your grandparent’s attic.
Often God fits somewhere into the solution. Many people look to God, maybe even pray to God to grant them the desires of their hearts. Today there is a whole belief system out there that God exists to make you happy. It is His responsibility to be your Santa Claus or slot machine or genie in the sky.
Psalm 37:4 again, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Does God in this verse promise to give us the desires of our heart? Yes. But notice it is first dependent on us first delighting in God. You see, when we delight in God, God gives us the best desires that are in line with His will. And when we ask God for these desires in prayer, He promises His children an answer. The answer may be not yet, but He will answer.
So, what are the greatest desires of a godly man or woman? God’s visible reign. All people confessing Christ as Lord. Direct communion with Christ. Vanquishing Satan. The full absence of our desire to sin. Perfect unity among believers. Resurrected bodies. God reclaiming the earth. God’s revealed will always done.
These are the best desires. On earth Christians experience these desires to a degree, but there are never fully realized. And the longer we are here, the deeper we long for them. Yet these desires will be met. Our Lord promised them to us. And they will be fully realized and experienced with He returns – the Second Coming – a subject that is repeatedly emphasized in the Bible.
So, we pray for Jesus to return, but it appears nothing happens. We begin to have doubts. And we listen to the opponents ridicule us and Christ .
Peter in his second letter spoke very candidly about this.
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’…But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:2-4, 8-9).
Jesus will return. As we learned last week (in 17:22-37), He will on one day judge those who have rejected Him and rescue those who have believed in Him. He came the first time to save the world, 17:25, “He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” But the second time He will come 17:24 like “lightning in the sky” and there will be 17:27 and 29 destruction and 17:34-36 deliverance.
So why the delay? Because as we heard from 2 Peter, God is patiently waiting for all of His children, His elect, to come to faith in Christ, desiring that none of them “perish.”
So, with the message of the sermon now completely revealed, let’s begin with the first point, simply called “The Point.” Verse 1 reveals the point of what Jesus is prepared to teach. It is also the main point of this sermon. Don’t lose heart when praying for His return!
The Point (verse 1)
Verse 1, “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.”
So, there is so much in the Bible about persevering in prayer. Why? Because persevering in personal prayer and persevering in the Wednesday church prayer meeting takes incredible grace. I don’t know about your personal life, but it’s sad to see people excited about public prayer for a season and then fade away. We can easily get to point when we believe prayer is rather optional. Maybe we start feeling that based upon the lack of visible results it is simply a waste of time.
That is why we repeatedly read in the Bible to make sure we are persevering in prayer.
Yet here in 18:1, while to call is to persevere in prayer, specifically in the context it is to persevere in praying for our Lord’s Return in particular. Let me ask you, as I mentioned earlier, how much do you really desire the return of Christ? How often are you praying for it? Have you lost heart in this regard? Have you ever even had the heart?
Jesus – “And He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come’’” (Lk. 11:2). Paul – “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22). In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul talks about loving His appearing. The writer to the Hebrews speaks about those who eagerly await for Christ’s return (Heb. 9:28). Peter speaks of “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:12). John in Revelation – “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
Are you, Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus?” Then keep praying for our Lord’s glorious return. Don’t lose heart! These are the words of Christ.
The Parable (verses 2–5)
Now as we move to the second point, Jesus will illustrate the main thought from verse 1 with a parable in verses 2-5. His goal in the story is to give us hope in not losing heart with our prayers.
Let me provide little cultural background to help us to better appreciate the story. First, according to the Bible (e.g. 2 Chron. 19:6-7), judges in the land of Israel were to be men of integrity – impartial, faithful to the law, compassionate, unable to be bribed and God-honoring . However, there were always some bad eggs that were just the opposite. We’ll see this today. Second, women back in the biblical times had now power. Often without a trade and a great welfare system, they were fully dependent on men for survival. The only hope they had were the gracious provisions in the Word of God for widows similar to the orphan and the alien.
Here we go with the fictitious story, a parable to teach us a spiritual lesson. Beginning in verse 2. “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.”
So, this was a bad guy. As Jesus enjoys using extremes, he would have been the worst judge anyone could ever imagine. No regard for the greatest commandment to love God. And no regard for the second greatest commandment to love people. This judge was godless and hard of heart. He even affirmed that description of himself in verse 4.
Verse 3, “There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’”
For anyone hearing this story, they would have given this woman absolutely no hope in finding favor from the judge. She didn’t even have the unjust means to bribe him.
What “legal protection” did she desire? We do not know specifically, but most likely she lost her husband and received the short end on her rightful financial settlement. Even though women could not inherit their husband’s estate, they were entitled to receive regular compensation from his estate to provide for their living expenses. This was money that was due her and this money was necessary for her survival. We are talking about total desperation in the midst of total injustice.
Verse 3 says she “kept coming.” Repeatedly she would venture alone into the forbidden male realm of the public courts. Repeatedly she would relentlessly plead her case before the callous and wicked judge.
Verses 4 and 5, “For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’”
So, the judge does not act in a righteous way. He unashamedly says of himself (verse 4) that he does not fear God or respect man. However, he does rule in the favor of the woman for her “legal protection.” It is not because he cares about justice. It is not because he has a compassionate heart. It is not because he wishes to be accountable to God. He acts for one reason and one reason alone – to finally get rid of her. Even now, he’s still acting only in his best interest. As he said, the woman wore him out. Every day she would come in a plead her case. She surely did believe in her cause.
Are you making the spiritual connection with prayer? She was relentless. She was persistent in her requests. She did not grow weary. And as a result of this she finally got what she wanted.
So, in light of verse 1, what is the spiritual point of the story? Is it that we should continually pray to a stingy God so we can wear Him out to finally give us what we want and therefore we should keep praying and not lose heart? Of course not!
A God whose will we can bend and acts merely out of frustration, is not a holy and wise and loving God. And He is like the bad judge as well! Rather the point is this if a wicked judge can respond to a persistent plea from a useless widow (in his estimation), how much more will a loving God hear the cries of His people whom He purchased with His blood?
The Principle (verses 6–8)
Let’s see how Jesus expands this thought in the third point. Here now is the principle.
Verse 6, “And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said.’”
In other words, consider how this unrighteous judge acted of behalf of the woman. As Jesus expands His thought, the judge was the epitome of wickedness. God is the epitome of righteousness. The is an argument from the lesser to the greater. If a corrupt and mean and stingy man acted favorably, how much more will a just and loving and gracious God act favorably?
Verse 7, “Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?”
Again, an argument from the lesser to the greater. If a widow who is helpless and insignificant to this judge receives favor, how much more will “[God’s] elect,” God’s beloved children loved from the foundation of the earth, receive His help “who cry to Him [in prayer] day and night?”
The Lord promised His return. Our prayer for His return is our desire to see Him receive glory. Of course, He hears, welcomes and promises to answer that prayer. But according to Scripture, the only reason there is for a delay is because He is patient. He is patient as He was in the days of Noah and Lot (17:26-30) for people to repent. He is waiting for the full number of His elect to come to faith. His delay only glorifies, unlike the unjust judge who was callous, unmerciful and frustrated; His attributes of love, mercy and patience. And then the end will come.
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS’” (Rev. 19:11–16).
That day is coming.
And as God’s elect persevere in Christ and suffer shame for His name and commit themselves to prayer, in God timetable, verse 8, “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly.”
It’s interesting that the word “justice” is used twice (verses 7 and 8). The widow deserved justice and the judge refused it. We do not deserve justice and God promises it.
“However,” the rest of verse 8, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
God will return. He will be faithful. But will He find faith and faithfulness among people when He returns? How many people will be around that love Him? And in the context of the section, how many of His elect will be found crying out day and night for His return? Will they lose focus on the greatness of the Second Coming? Will they have given up in prayer? Will they have in a sense given up on Jesus?
Now we can better understand verse 1 that we “ought to pray and not lose heart” because when we delight in the Lord, He gives us the desires of our heart.