Why Should You Pray?

Intro: My intention this morning is to encourage you to pray, and pray some more. Why should you pray? I might answer that you should pray because things are so bad. But there is another biblical answer. You should pray because God is so good. Last week we began to touch upon that theme, when we considered the character of God as the God who is ready to hear us. The words of the Psalms and the picture of God in the OT (rescue of Israel from Egypt) provided our text. Today I want to consider Jesus’ own words, as we learn about God, who hears our prayers.

  • Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:1-8 1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'” 6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

I. The Reason for the Parable: vs. 1 – that men always ought to pray and not lose heart. The parables of Jesus do not always come with preface telling us why Jesus told the story. We know right off that Jesus is talking about praying. But not just any praying. He is concerned that His people do not become discouraged and give up (NIV); (faint – KJV; lose heart – NASB). Notice that, when faced with adversity, praying is depicted as the opposite of giving up. Many Christians view praying, or the need to pray, AS giving up. “Nothing else to do but pray.”

A. But we will notice as well that this parable is about constancy in prayer. The emphasis is on the word always – (pantote). Paul used the word in 1 Thess. 5:17 -“Pray without ceasing” – pray without intermission, or interruption. Col. 1:3 – “praying always for you”, and also in 4:12 – “always laboring fervently for you in prayers” This widow is persistent. Her persistence is a key element to her success, and as such presents this quality is a positive light.

B. The story is simple: 2 characters, a single concern or issue to resolve; a simple conclusion. But this easily understood event is used to depict the profound relationship between God and His people, and the spiritual response of God to their requests.

1. Jesus often used examples of pleadings between people to portray the pleadings and requests involved in prayer. (A son who asks his father for a piece of bread (Mt. 7:9-10); a neighbor who comes to his friend as midnight with an urgent request. (Lk. 11:3ff)

2. The story would have been familiar. Civil judges were common; set up tents in communities and heard cases brought before them. Their word was final; no lawyers to advocate; IF you paid enough money you got what you wanted. Jesus used this typical scene of injustice to teach us a lesson about God and prayer.

3. A widow has a need. She keeps coming and pleading her case. At first the judge refuses to help. (why should he?) but afterwards, because she does not quit asking, he yields to her request.

4. Jesus gives the meaning both before and after the story. We must resist the temptation to make too many extrapolations. The point is what Jesus says it is.

5. The lesson to be learned is contained in the contrasts that are made. The judge vs. God; The widow vs. the elect

II. The Judge: It is not difficult for us to recognize this judge. We have all met people just like him.

  • He did not fear God; He was not motivated by faith or conviction in God. He held no moral principles, nor was he bound by any higher law from God.
  • He had no regard for man: He did not judge from a sense of justice or equality among men. He did not care about what others thought of him. At times, people in power, may do what is right, not because they think it is right, but because others would think less of them if they did not do it. This judge had no such hang-ups. He was only concerned about himself.

III. The Widow: Jesus chooses a widow as the main character of the story because of her helpless position. Widows were a very neglected and vulnerable class of people. They had no political power or influence. Even though the law commanded the Jews to provide for widows, they were easy targets for those who would take advantage of them.

A. We might assume this widow is poor. She has an adversary (opponent in the court) who had taken advantage of her. She seeks to be “vindicated” or avenged through a decision of the judge to force her opponent to return what he has taken from her. She seeks justice from a judge.

IV. Her Persistence: Although the judge consistently turns down her plea for help, she does not give up. She continues to plead her case. Notice how this woman’s persistence has the judge talking to himself. I like the ESV translation: Luke 18:4-5 – For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” ESV He tells us why he finally gives in… so that she will not beat me down (literally “give me a black eye”). I cannot hold out forever, so I will do it. Her pleading is effective. But what is the lesson? Is Jesus saying that if we keep nagging God, he will eventually give us what we ask just to get us to quit asking? What is the point?

V. “Hear what the unjust judge said…” In v. 6 Jesus makes application of the story by calling attention to the judge’s words about himself, and his actions. Although the story represents a picture of our praying to God, the lesson is not found in the similarities, but the contrasts.

A. God is not Like the Judge: Jesus refers to him as a “judge of unrighteousness (unjust judge). This seems a poor representative of God. But the point that Jesus makes is that God is nothing like this judge. We can appreciate God when we see what HE is NOT like. Lenski says… The moment we see that God acts in the very opposite way, the disgraceful conduct of this judge will appear in its proper light.

1. God is moral and acts according to the principles of law and justice. If there is an injustice, he does not have to be bribed to act. Again we are impressed in the scriptures with the many proclamations of God’s holy character.

Moses, in the song of Moses in Deut 32:3-4For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. 4 He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.

• Ps 89:14Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.

• Ps 10:17-18Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, 18 To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may oppress no more.

2. God cares about people. Ps 146:5-9 – Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, 6 Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever, 7 Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners. 8 The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous. 9 The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down. As we considered last week, God is merciful and good by nature. He cares passionately.

B. The Elect are not Like the Widow: If the Judge represents God, then does the widow represent us, God’s people? Jesus certainly references “the elect” in connection with the widow in His explanation of the story (v. 7). It is the elect who cry out to God day and night. We must be careful to see that the lesson is still in the contrast, not the similarity. We are not like the widow.

The widow had no status or natural influence with the judge. But as God’s children, we have constant access to Him, and He is inclined to provide for us because we are His children. v. 7 – “His own elect”

The widow had no promises that she could claim as she tried to convince the judge to hear her case. We have God’s unfailing promise that He will hear our pleas.

C. The contrasts run throughout the parable.

over against the widow, in whom the judge has no interest, are set the elect, in whom God has supreme interest.

The widow comes to the judge from time to time; the elect “cry out day and night

Over against the utterly base and selfish yielding of the judge there is set the holy, righteous, loving action of our Father in heaven, who acts solely in our interest.

D. The application to us? v. 7-8 – And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Jesus says God will hear His people. Even if He bears with the evil and oppressive folks a long time, He will avenge His people, and when He does it will be swift and decisive!

VI. “Faint not– The second reason He gives for teaching this parable is that they …”faint not” (vs. 1) The NASV translates it not to lose heart. To despond in difficulty rather than continuing to do what you know is right. This woman did not allow this judge’s indifferent & evil attitude deter her from pleading her cause.

A. Compare Paul’s admonition in 2 Thess. 3:13; Be not weary in well-doing. 2 Cor. 4:1Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. – Paul determined not to give up his ministry because God had given him the mercy (comfort) to endure evil.

B. The Indifference of Others Cannot Cause Us to Quit. Much evil comes in the form of indifference. Have you ever been intimidated by the moral indifference of others? You see a problem and voice a moral objection and you get: What’s the big deal? Whatever? It’s harder next time to bring it back up. We have to keep bothering them with our morality.

1. The indifference of others to morality causes us to let down our guard – We start to think… Maybe it isn’t such a big deal.

2. Many in the church will discourage you by their indifference. Their level or maturity and zeal becomes the standard by which we judge ourselves.

Conclusion: God Will Avenge Us: If this evil judge will respond, so will our loving Father. The world makes us think that no one is listening. Prayer is seen as superstition or mysticism. But to the Christian prayer is as real and effective as the character of God Himself.

1. How did Jesus survive in an unjust world – no one has been treated any more unjustly than Christ?

• 1 Pet. 2:21-23For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; Jesus trusted in the justice and righteousness of His Father. Do we have this faith?

2. Jesus concluding question: “When the Son of Man cometh will He find faith on earth? The faith Jesus is considering here is evidenced by perpetual prayer in the face of adversity. I like what Alber Barnes writes here: “The danger is not that “God” will be unfaithful-he will surely be true to his promises; but the danger is that his elect-his afflicted people-will be discouraged; will not persevere in prayer; will not continue to have confidence in him; and will, under heavy trials, sink into despondency. The sole meaning of this phrase, therefore, is, that “there is more danger that his people would grow weary, than that God would be found unfaithful and fail to avenge his elect.