Two Kinds of Prayer

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"...men always ought to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1).

The Lord Jesus tells the disciples (Luke 17:22) two parables of contrast.

Parable about persistent prayer (Luke 18:1-8)

Jesus tells us the point of the parable first:

"Men always ought to pray and not lost heart."

And then tells us a story as an everyday example, which shows a practical example of what this means.

The story is about a widow being hassled by her adversary, appealing to an unjust judge for justice.

The Lord Jesus is not saying our Heavenly Father is like the unjust judge, but rather Jesus is saying: "If, in the end, an unjust ... judge can be wearied into giving a widow woman justice, how much more will God, who is a loving Father, give His children what they need?" (William Barclay)

In other words, if a hard-hearted judge will finally and reluctantly give justice to the widow, then by contrast, how much more willingly will our loving Heavenly Father give us justice. In fact, "God shall bring justice for His own speedily" (Luke 18:7-8).

It says literally, "she kept coming to him" (Luke 18:3). The verb erchomai is in the imperfect tense (Ralph Earle).

The judge literally says that the widow "keeps causing me trouble" and "keeps bothering me" (Luke 18:5).

The unjust judge was annoyed by her, and maybe afraid of her. His words "lest she weary me" literally means "strike under the eye" or "give a black eye." It seems unlikely that the woman would dare to strike the judge in the face. But he may have feared that the woman would "give him a black eye" in the community (Ralph Earle).

But the reason we need to persist in prayer, is not because God is deaf or stubborn! Then what is the reason we need to persist in prayer? The reason in found in Luke 17 (the previous chapter) for it is all part of the one discourse.

"This parable is given to teach that when things seem to go hard while waiting for His (The Lord's) coming (back); when the love of many waxes cold; when the god of this world seems to triumph, we are not to be discouraged, but by constant communion (prayer) with God, we are to be kept holy and courageous in spite of the corruption all about us. We can pray always, even if we can not be on our knees; our hearts can be constantly uplifted to God" (G. A. McLaughlin).

Persistent prayer is necessary, not because God is hard, but because the times we live in are hard.

It is important to notice Jesus' words: "Pray and don't lose heart."

We shall surely get faint-hearted as we see error abounding on every hand if we do not pray a good deal (a lot). The faint hearted Christians are those who pray little ... It is more than a duty, it is a necessity that we pray much" (G.A. McLaughlin) so that we will not lose heart. (See also Ephesians 6:18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17.)

Jesus leaves us with a haunting question:

"When the Son of Man comes, will He finally find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)

I believe the answer lies in what we do about "praying always".

If you and I keep on praying always this year -- then yes, there shall be faith on the earth! If you and I are not keeping on praying always -- the no -- there shall not be faith on the earth. The answer depends upon what we do about praying!

Parable of a humble prayer for God's mercy (Luke 18:9-14)

This is about a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the temple.

The Pharisees were religious people of Jesus' day who believed they were righteous in God's sight because of the good deeds they did. They "trust in themselves," and "despised others."

Even though he addressed God in his prayer, the prayer wasn't going anywhere -- because he prayed with himself.

This shows us that God will not listen to us when we are self-righteous and when we despise others. True prayer is between God and myself.

On the other hand, the despised tax collector was afraid to look up to heaven, and prayed straightly:

"God, be merciful to me a sinner!"

His prayer got straight through to God. Why?

This shows that God had been speaking to this man in his heart, for a long time, and that he had accepted what God said to him as true. It also shows that the man had repented of his sins -- so that when he prayed he just knew what to say.

The fact that he came to the temple to pray shows that he wanted to pray. Church is certainly not the only place to pray, for Jesus said that "men always ought to pray" (Luke 18:1).

Jesus said this man who prayed humbly went back home "justified." That means he went back home made righteous by faith in God.

God's Word says, "It is God who justifies" us (Romans 8:33). We sinful human beings cannot justify ourselves, even though we may try.

And when God justifies us, He gives us His peace -- because we are forgiven by God for all our sins, when we confess them to Him and turn away from them, and accept Christ's atonement for them.

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).

"Now the God of peace be with you all" (Romans 15:33).

"Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11b).

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

If we keep praying persistently, and humbly, God is able to keep us from going back into the old sinful ways.

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).

But, we are still able to fall. "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous" (1 John 2:1).

If we do fall, we need to humbly confess our sin, and get right with the Lord promptly.

Does praying to God make any real difference in our lives?

YES, YES, YES!

It makes a mighty difference -- in our relationship to God, to each other, and to people we meet, to the decisions we make, and the direction we go in life and in eternity. I urge you to make more prayer the top priority of what you do this year.

Note:

Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.

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