Sunday Sermon - 7th February “Be faithful in prayer…” (Romans 12: 12c)

Sermon, Feb 7th 2021: “Be faithful in prayer…” (Romans 12: 12c)

 

Readings: Psalm 115; Genesis 32: 22-32 & Luke 18: 1-8

 

 “Be joyful in hope; patient in affliction; faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

FAITHFUL IN PRAYER – God’s people are enjoined by Paul to be constant, faithful, enduring, persevering, devoted in prayer. This was not the first time Paul had exhorted the churches to pray – pray at all times in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18); rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5: 17)…

 

Matthew Henry commented, “All God’s people are a praying people.” My house will be (called) a house of prayer, Jesus said…Every Sunday morning my elderly friend Felicity leaves for church. Her unbelieving husband says, “You’re not off to that ‘prayer factory’ again, are you?!”

 

In Luke 18 we have the (curious) story of the widow who takes her (legal) case to an ungodly judge who eventually agrees to consider her claim - because of her “importunity” (AV) or persistence.

And, “the key to this parable is hanging in the door!” (Matthew Henry) We are not left scratching our heads about what this parable means.

Jesus told the disciples this story to show them that they should always pray AND NOT GIVE UP! (Luke 18:1)

It was the Champions League Final of 1999. Bayern Munich were leading Manchester United 1 – 0. Injury time had begun. In my disappointment I turned off the TV. I resigned myself to the defeat of my team. Later I turned the TV back on and, watching the news, I was astonished to discover that United had scored twice in the dying minutes of the game. I had given up. My team hadn’t. I’d missed the blessing!

 

And I think this is what Jesus was getting at when he spoke of the need to continue praying to God, and never giving up.  The truth is God doesn’t give up on us – we give up on him…

The widow is a desperate woman who makes personal application to the judge by banging on his door daily/loudly. She cries out for justice in her case. Eventually this “besieged” man will open the door and they will look one another squarely in the eye. She could have walked away. Instead she was faithful in prayer.

 

When Jesus says you “ought to” pray and not give up, you have to listen. Prayerlessness is a dangerous option.  Either we are “faithful in prayer” or we will give up and lose heart. We are either consciously coming into God’s presence in prayer or we are lost in the world. Without prayer we have no chance of rejoicing in hope; no chance of being patient in our afflictions…

 

Prayer is a privilege.   When you come to God, it is not as an irritating stranger to be placated or got rid of, but as his beloved sons and daughters.  We come to God in prayer as his own people, a treasured possession.  We come, not to a largely indifferent judge, but to a gracious heavenly Father (Abba) who loves to give good gifts to his children.

 

This is a picture of prayer. Prayer is the business of coming face to face with God. Prayer is how we draw near to God. If you have an emergency – cry out; if you are in deep distress – cry out!

 

If we are praying it enough, I guess God will know we are serious about prayer.  This is what Luke wants us to hear.  If we want something badly enough – if it is sufficiently significant to us, the probability is - we’ll keep on keeping on! The things we pray about are the things we care about. The things we care about are the things we pray about.

 

All God’s great pray-ers were known for their daring & boldness. Take Abraham’s prayer on behalf of godless Sodom (Gen. 18:23-33): “Would you also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Far be it for you to do such a thing as this. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Or Jacob (Read Gen 32:18)… who said to the angel of the Lord, “I will not let you go unless you bless me!”

 

Ronald Dunn reminds us that the angel of the Lord was infinitely more powerful than even this most desperate Jacob. He says, “I believe that while the angel was saying, “Let me go, for day breaks”, he was really thinking to himself, “but I hope you don’t. Hang on just a while longer and you’ll get the blessing!”

 

How many times have we become discouraged, let go of God and desisted in our praying?! The woman in our story won’t let go – she’s like a dog with a bone!

Prayer is frequently hard work. Jacob wrestles with God; he literally grapples with God. We are told that when this strange encounter was over Jacob walked away with a limp. Prayer can be hard and painful. Just do it! Sometimes all we can do is hang on. Jacob becomes “Israel” – the one who struggles with God.

To trust in the Providence of God when times are hard is not easy…

 

Perhaps there is something or someone you have stopped praying for.  Surely God can’t be bothered with me, we tamely say. Have we stopped badgering God with our prayers? Perhaps it is that, secretly, we don’t believe. We don’t believe that God is able – He can’t, so we stop, sometimes not even realising…

 

When Jesus says, ask, seek and knock – what he means and what the NT Greek actually says is, “keep on asking; keep on seeking; keep on knocking”.  Don’t, whatever you do, give up praying. ‘You’ve asked me (disciples) to teach you how to pray: pray persistently. Pray like the persistent widow…’

 

Jesus greatly admired those who refused to give up. He admired those who were prepared to pester him, whether it was a blind man from the roadside crying out for mercy, or a foreign woman who desperately wanted food for her children…

 

I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth. (Isa 62)

 

Some people will go to extreme lengths to get justice. They simply will not stop until they get what’s due to them. William Wilberforce submitted the same bill to Parliament year-after-year as he argued for the abolition of slavery; eventually that bill came into law. He was persistent – “let our motto be perseverance!”

 

“I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true; I’ve seen them vanish at dawn;

But I’ve realised enough of my dreams, thank God, to make me want to dream on.

I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came; I’ve waited patient and long;

But answers have come to enough of my prayers, to make me keep praying on!”

“I’ve drained the cup of disappointment and pain; I’ve gone many days without song,

But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the rose of life, to make me want to live on.” *

 

I remember some of the things I asked for and was never given. Like the poet I can look back and thank God that, in his wisdom and Providence, he did not give me what I pleaded so earnestly for.

 

I can remember praying through tears that God would heal my mother’s cancer 15 years ago.   Well, that did happen – and she died a relatively young woman. What I didn’t realise was that she (not a religious woman) had been praying for me (for years)… that God would save (rehab) me from drugs and alcohol and despair. Her prayer (prayed persistently; I suppose as only a mother could) was answered in the hours before her death.  Her prayer was answered abundantly.

A godless druggie became a minister 6 years later!

 

Don’t walk away until the game is over! His ways are not ours… Perhaps we should thank God more often for his “waits” and even his “No’s!”

 

“So thank you for saying no when my want list for things far exceeded my longing for you;

When I asked for a stone, foolishly certain I asked for bread; Thank you for saying no.

Thank You for saying no when I asked you to leave me alone!”*

 

The final verse: However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) What Jesus really means when he asks this question is, “Will I find my people at prayer?”  Prayer is really faith in action, after all…

Will I find them enjoying the privilege of prayer?” Will I find them persevering in prayer?” “Will I find my people wrestling in prayer?”

 

Jesus told the disciples this story to show them that they should always pray AND NOT GIVE UP! (Luke 18:1)

 

 

*Poem by Ruth Parks…“Keeping on”*

 

MFR Feb 21

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