October 16, 2022 Luke 18:1-8

Two women met unexpectedly one day in the parking lot of a local bookstore. One had a great bundle of books in her arms. "What in the world are you doing," her friend asked, "opening your own bookstore?" "No," said the woman, "these are all books about prayer. All my life I have been hearing about the importance of prayer, so I finally decided to learn how to pray. I have bought fourteen books on the subject. And not only that, I have signed up for two courses in prayer, one at my church and one at a friend's church. I am really going to master the subject!"

Several weeks later, the friend ran into the woman again, this time at the grocery store. "How is the big project going?" the friend asked. "Have you learned to pray?"

The woman hung her head and made a gesture of despair. "It was too complicated," she said, "and I gave it up." As an afterthought she added, "Now I'm taking a course in yoga."

Our text for the day is about persistence in prayer. Often, we turn to prayer when we are in distress. One football coach was in a re-building season. He was desperate. Someone asked him, "Say, Coach, I hear you keep a chaplain on the bench to pray for your team during games. Would you mind introducing me to him?"   "Glad to," said the coach. "Did you want to meet the offensive chaplain or the defensive chaplain?"

My guess is that even non-believers find themselves uttering desperate prayers in times of great distress. But for the believer ” for the follower of Christ ” the issue is not prayer in crisis but prayer as an ongoing part of life.

Jesus told his disciples a parable about "their need to pray always" so they would not "lose heart." "In a certain city there was a judge," Jesus began, "who neither feared God nor had respect for the people." In those days there was a saying that justice could be bought for a meal. Maybe this judge was that kind of judge.

In that same city was a widow. She went to this judge looking for justice. It was the judge's duty to be sure widows were taken care of, that they had a place to live and enough food to eat. This judge was not doing his job. The widow, though, would not give up. She pestered him not only in court. She also followed him home, pleading her case. This bothered the judge. If he did not want to hear her case in court, surely, he did not want to hear it in his own home. So, the judge told her to go away and never come back. "Leave me alone," he shouted at the widow.

But the widow was not discouraged. She wasn't about to give up. She was no quitter. Every day she stopped by hoping he would change his mind. Finally, the judge agreed to hear her case, not because he was filled with compassion, but "because this widow keeps bothering me." "I will grant her justice," he thought, "so that she may not wear me out by continually coming."

In telling this parable Jesus wants his disciples to PRAY PERSISTENTLY. Jesus wants the disciples to pray even when they are discouraged ” when it seems they are getting no results. "Pray always and do not `lose heart,'" Jesus tells them. That's sound advice for us. Even when things go wrong, even when we don't seem to get the results we want, even when it seems our world is crumbling, continue to pray. We receive strength in the face of difficulty when we are able to pray without ceasing.

In telling this parable Jesus is teaching the disciples to pray with persistence. HE IS ALSO TEACHING THEM TO PRAY WITH PATIENCE. Sometimes we become discouraged waiting on God.

We pray with both patience and persistence. And we wait for God's response. Why go to all this trouble? Because of the nature of the one to whom we pray.

WE PRAY AS IF TO A LOVING PARENT. Jesus contrasts the unjust judge with God. If the unjust judge who has no respect for anyone would respond, God who loves each and every one of us will give us MUCH MORE than what we need. All we have to do is ask and hang in there patiently.

A college student once asked his theology professor "Does God know my name?" In answering the professor said, "Well, our Gospel says that God does. The very hairs on our heads are all numbered. The God who notes the sparrow's fall takes notice of us, for we are of more value than many sparrows. When I pray, I am not pleading my case before an implacable judge in a cold court of justice, I am talking to a Heavenly Father who knows and understands." (5)

Jesus portrayed God as a loving Parent. Through Jesus' parables we see a God who cares about each one of us and knows each one of us by name. That is how we can pray with persistence and patience ” it is because we know the One to whom our prayers are directed.

Back in September 1984, country singer Barbara Mandrell and her two children were involved in a serious automobile accident. A car pulled into their lane so quickly they couldn't get out of the way. The car smashed into them head on. Barbara was badly injured. This vibrant, lively entertainer became so discouraged that she believed that she could never perform again.

At a low point one of Barbara's friends suggested that she see a faith healer. Barbara was unsure, but was willing to give it a try. They agreed to meet at a coffee shop.

"This is not about me," the faith healer said. "It has nothing to do with me. It's only the Lord Jesus doing this." Barbara remembers that he made biblical reference to the time Jesus cursed the fig tree as he and his disciples were walking down the road. The disciples were astonished that nothing happened to the tree when Jesus cursed it. A few days later, though, they were walking past the tree and noticed it was withering and dying ” because Jesus had cursed the roots. "Even though I had not been praying to Christ to heal me in the past days," Barbara recalled, "I was now ready to pray for it."

Barbara felt her spirits lift. "His attitude made me feel good...He did not raise his voice or wave his hands. He was not impassioned, the way you imagine healing preachers to be. The four of us held hands when we prayed for a few minutes. It was very matter-of-fact. And my tailbone did not feel any better when we left. I was still hurting, but something else felt good. I did not feel the urgency anymore that maybe I was doing something wrong. I realized it was in God's hands. I had always trusted God. I still trusted Him. And that made me feel immensely better...I accepted the healing, knowing the pain would go away in God's time, and I thanked Him for it."

That is a good lesson for us. God answers our prayer in His time, not ours. But He does hear and He does answer. Thus, three words are key to a believer's life of prayer, persistence, patience and Parent, our Heavenly Parent who does care and teaches us to pray always and never become discouraged.