I did not preach this Sunday. If I had, this would have been my sermon.
Do we persist with God? Do we give up and not bother to pray because we do not believe that he will hear?
I want us to learn that God sometimes will only hear persistent, demanding prayers.
We will discuss gimmee prayers, aggressive prayer and God’s justice.
Gimmee Prayers are OK
Christians are sometimes reluctant to ask for personal needs in prayer. We may have heard preachers rail against so-called gimmee (give me) prayers as being selfish and inappropriate. Yet, we must remember that part of the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, is to ask for our daily needs. Many people today are the forgotten and faceless desperate poor who have great and urgent needs. In our hermetically sealed, pristine halls of legislation, some politicians can seem like the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8, ignoring the persistent pleas of the needy. Anciently, widows were without social protection. Today that includes people from many walks of life. Some have lost homes because of medical bills or unemployment. Others have been swindled out of their life’s savings. God will hear and answer our plea for daily needs even when others will not.
Persistent & Demanding Prayer
In the ancient world laws did not divide inheritances equally with a woman. Such was the injustice of the times that this often left a woman who was a widow destitute and poor. In Luke 18:1-8 we read of such a widow’s demands for justice from a recalcitrant judge. Is this how we ought to approach God in prayer, demanding and persistent? If we take the short sentences in the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, as an example of how we ought to approach God, then the answer seems to be a resounding yes. Jesus encouraged us to make demands of God, unabashed, not holding anything back. Perhaps we think that prayer ought to be weak and pedestrian. Yet, that was not the example of the importunate widow. Her plea was persistent and demanding. Are our prayers like that?
Do we have the idea that faith is docile? Do we think that we must simply take abuse without a plea for our rights? Does being a Christian mean that we must passively receive injustice without any response? Do we believe that aggressive cries for equity and fairness are only for those without faith? Should we just wait patiently on God and keep silence? Will the parable of the importunate widow in Luke 18:1-8 give us a different perspective? Is aggressive faith an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms? Perhaps not. Maybe appropriate, aggressive requests are perfectly acceptable to God. Possibly we don’t have to sit passively by while the world abuses us. Jesus commended a persistent widow for aggressively demanding justice from an uncaring judge. Should we not likewise persistently and aggressively ask God in prayer for his intervention?
Persistence is not always good. There is an old proverb describing failure as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Sometimes we should give up and try something new. That is the case with a bad habit or a corrupt practice. However, tenacity is the right thing when it comes to something good. Persistence in fighting against corruption and abuse is a necessity. Evil is like a weed. If we give up the fight, it will take over. Abuse in government and industry is commonly reported. It exists in every walk of life, even within the Church, all churches. In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus praised a widow who persistently demanded justice from a judge who did not care. How much more should we persist when we know the only truly just judge ever to exist.
When Justice is Slow
We are all impatient. We pray and expect God to answer without delay. But justice can only be swift if we show less mercy and do not give people space to change their minds. We all want mercy, but we are not always willing to give it. In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus encouraged us to always pray and not give up. When we pray for justice, we must be persistent simply because true justice takes time. Even the adulterous Jezebel who led many people astray in the early church was given time to repent (Revelation 2:20-22). Rush justice steps on people. True justice takes time because it must necessarily involve mercy and space for the guilty to repent. So when we pray, the answer may take some time for God to work out. A key is not to quit.
We are the Unjust Judge
In Luke 18:1-8 we read the parable of the unjust judge and may be tempted to compare God’s justice with that scurrilous person who neither feared God nor cared about men. However, the comparison of God to that individual is not the point. God is the only truly just judge. It is we who are the unjust judges. When we pray ceaselessly against injustice, it is at our own door that justice must first begin. It is we who do not fear God nor care about each other. It is not an unjust world that we fight against primarily, but its poison residing deep within our own souls. Every criticism of injustice that we level against others points a finger right at our own hearts. Pray always and we will be delivered even from our own unjust hearts.
God is not an unjust judge, but he is sometimes slow to answer our prayers as we count slowness, because he wants us to learn faith and perhaps even persistence.