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persistence

Intro

This is taken from Luke 18.1-8. Read through this in a translation and also in The Message.

I did a lesson in a school recently. They do a thing called 'Grill A Christian'. It sounds painful and positively cannibal-like but it's about getting students to question Christians on their beliefs. In my group I suggested that when the other Christians in the room walked in there was angelic music and that they floated in with halos. One of the lads in my group made us laugh by saying, 'yeah and when you walked in the music stopped.' I replied, 'I was waiting for the hip hop beat to start..' We had a pretty mad time..

I digress. We were talking about prayer. They asked me if prayer worked. I replied that sometimes God says yes, sometimes no and sometimes says wait. That I didn't understand why. God always listened and wanted me to pray but I wasn't sure why some prayers were answered and others weren't. I explained if I did understand, God wouldn't be the all-powerful mysterious awesome God he is.

What I should have added is that sometimes we need to keep on praying, over and over..

The Parable

The Bible is full of people who persisted - that means they just kept going doing something God had called them to do. This is an important principle and a challenge. Persistence is good and Godly. However, don't persist because things have always been done this way or cos there is no-one else to do something.

The parable may well be a kind of real story. You can imagine this kind of thing happening. Corrupt judges? Yep. Poor widows? Yep. This is what's so good. Again, Jesus uses tools that even today we can relate to!

This parable is mainly about the importance of keeping on praying. It is also linked to Luke 17.20-37 where Jesus is talking about the future and end times.

As Bible commentary books put it - the point is that - if an ungodly and corrupt judge will hear the cries of a poor widow through her persistence, how much more will God answer the prayers of his people as they persistently cry out to him in their situations and with their needs and requests.

In this specific situation alluded to in the parable we can guess that God's people (the so-called 'elect') are being persecuted and long for God to vindicate them and save them. (Vindicate means something like 'show that their cause is right, to be proved correct).

Breakdown

In verse 1 in the Youth Bible we find that Jesus encourages his disciples to 'always pray and never give up hope.' I think we should heed this advice which we also find In Ephesians 6.18. As I explained to the students in the high school, our prayers should be constant in the sense that we involve God in every aspect of our daily life. 'God I commit this journey to you.. I need a parking space.. help me answer this question..' etc. It also means that we keep on hoping for what we have not yet seen - what Hebrews 11.1 calls faith. It's also about what we find in 1 Thessalonians 5.8 which is about a general attitude of hope - of heaven and of God's saving power (the helmet of salvation).

Verse 2 we learn that the judge did not respect God or care about people. We can point out rulers like Saddam Hussein who was in charge of Iraq, all the other Middle Eastern rulers, and those in China - but maybe some of these kinds of leaders are closer to home than we care to admit. Our rulers need prayer - a lot of it - see 1 Timothy 2.2

Verse 3 sees a widow with very little or no money (certainly not enough to pay the judge a bribe). She demands her rights. You know what, sometimes we need to cry out to God. As the Salvation Army founder once famously told some of his people, 'try tears.' A girl writing in 'Idea' the Evangelical Alliance magazine stated that she cried when she felt God move in her heart to reach out to teenage girls in prostitution. From that she took action.

When God moves in our spirit and gives us a heart for things and people we may cry out to God in tears. Sometimes you may shout at God and demand your 'rights.' Although we are totally unworthy it's OK to explain to God how you're feeling, remind him what he said - and shouting is cool. Jesus cried, shouted and cried out - it wasn't anger or hatred - it was a Godly deep cry from within his heart and spirit.

This also reminds us that sometimes we need to defend our rights. In the US especially, the rights of Christians are being eroded and some action is being taken in the courts to uphold basic values. Challenges come from people 'offended' by various Bible passages. This is a kind of thought police and sometimes we're right to use the law.

Verses 4 and 5 concern the judge who decides to give the widow justice even though he doesn't care about her or fear God, to avoid her nagging him any longer. For more on the fear of God click here.

Here is the persistence. When we pray we may need to come back to God time and time again. I've heard many stories about people whose families are not Christians but the person keeps praying for them. On the death bed these parents accept Jesus. Other times people do and we don't know. As one woman said, 'everyone who gets saved has been prayed for by someone else.' I've got no idea if that's Biblical as God does act without us, but even so it's a good principle.

This is also encouraging because it tells us God wants to answer our prayers. Sometimes we prove that we mean business by our persistence. God has called me to do certain things that haven't happened yet but I know they will happen. I keep committing it to God. It will happen. I demand it!! And not cos I'm worthy - because God promised it and God is faithful to his word.

Jesus then goes on to say - take a look at the example of the judge. Although God is not like the judge as God is perfect, God longs to answer his people's prayers. God is not slow to answer our prayers. No, God's timing is absolutely spot on, perfect. God answers in his way according to his plans and purposes. Our problem is that we have our own agenda and time scale. God operates on a much higher and different level! Who can know the mind of God? (Just take a look at Psalm 139!) Colossians 3.2 encourages us to set our minds on 'things above'.

Finally Jesus looks at the future and this challenges all of us. Jesus asks whether there we be anyone faithful left when the end has come? Have you persisted, are you persisting in prayer? We need to be because Jesus is looking at our hearts to see whether we have persisted in prayer. If we're not praying, then now is the time to commit to pray more, more effectively and with more passion, strength and faith. We're all guilty and God doesn't expect super heroes. Some are called specifically to prayer. But we must all play our part and grow in this.

Response

How can you commit to pray more persistently?
What do you need to keep praying about?
Spend time in quiet with God and in reading your Bible - to see what God says

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