3 Incentives to Keep Praying
Luke 18:1-8 (NIV)
In a magazine cartoon there is a little fellow kneeling beside his bed for his bedtime prayer. He says with some measure of disgust, "Dear God, Uncle Jim still doesn’t have a job; Sis still doesn’t have a date for the social; Grandma is still feeling sick - and I’m tired of praying for this family and not getting results."
I am guessing we all have felt this way, at one time or another, in regard to our prayers.
- Each one of us has probably felt like quitting. Each one of us has probably felt like giving up on seeing answers to our prayers.
- Probably more than a few of us have actually stopped praying, maybe not altogether, but we have quit praying for certain things. Things that God had laid on our heart!
- Things that is important and not trivial. Things like seeing a loved one saved or return to Christ.
- Things like having a marriage restored,
- Sickness or infirmity healed,
- Or an urgent need met.
- We quit praying because of discouragement and doubt.
- We quit praying because we sometimes wonder if it pays to pray. Even though we would never voice such thoughts, the idea does sometimes come into our minds.
- Before we look at this parable about prayer – let’s get an understanding of the setting that it occurs in:
- Jesus had just talked to his disciples about His return and the coming Kingdom of God. He told them that His coming, and the establishment of Kingdom of God with it, might be delayed and that during this time they would long for His return. Things would not be as good as they longed for them to be.
- After explaining that there might be a delay in His returning - Jesus knew that His disciples would be tempted to quit praying.
- We are no different in that we are living in the in-between times, waiting for Christ’s return. And as such, we face the same things that the original first century disciples did: troubles, opposition, adversity, etc...
- Jesus knew that His disciples then and now would be tempted to give up on prayer, so He spoke often on the subject of persevering in prayer, to give His disciples encouragement and incentives to not give up on prayer.
Luke 18:1-8 (NIV)
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
2 He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.
3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'
4 "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men,
5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'"
6 And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says.
7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
- This is a parable of contrasts – God is not like the unmerciful judge. And we are not like the widow who keeps coming back to get justice.
- In the parable, it is a widow who is asking the judge for justice. She is a “nobody.” She is not special to the judge at all. Yet we are special to God.
- He is certainly less inclined to listen to her because she had no rights. But he wouldn’t have treated his own mother or daughter any better.
- Also in the parable the judge is described as unjust. According to verse 2, he does not care about people or doing the right thing, i.e. he "neither feared God nor cared about man." In this parable then, a nobody gets an uncaring judge to meet her request, just because she persevered.
- This is important Jesus is not comparing God to an unjust judge or Christians to nobodies.
- Rather he is making a point by contrast. If a nobody can get an uncaring judge to answer her request by perseverance, then how much more can we expect the Righteous Judge (God) who does care to respond to his special people’s persistent requests. After all we are somebody in his eye; we are special to God.
In this passage Jesus gives His disciples reasons to keep on praying. I see in this passage three incentives to keep on praying.
- Keep on praying because sometimes the answer to prayer will be delayed. In other words, we should not stop praying just because we don’t see results quickly.
- In verse 1 we are told that Jesus gave this parable to show his disciples that they "should always pray and not give up."
- There would be no need for such a teaching if most prayers were answered quickly! After all, we’re only tempted to give up on something when we are not seeing significant results in a timely manner.
- For example, when we diet to lose weight, we’re likely to give up in discouragement if we weigh ourselves after 2-3 days and expect significant results. Only if we approach the diet with the understanding that achieving the goal may take some time, will we persevere.
- It is the same with prayer. We need to understand that the answers or results we seek in prayer may be postponed or delayed significantly.
- We need to recognize that delays are what Jesus told us to expect.
- Do not make the mistake of equating a delay in the answer to your prayers as a denial to answer your prayers.
- You can pray for something that is within the will of God and still not see a quick or easy answer.
- Keep on praying because something is going to happen.
- Now let’s look at another incentive Jesus gives us to keep praying (Luke 18:2-5) Keep on praying because perseverance in prayer is essential for success.
- Let me give you a simple illustration. Suppose one of the trustees came to change the light in one of the sanctuary’s light chandeliers. Suppose somehow the ladder he was on fell but he managed to grab hold of the light fixture and not fall.
- Would I need to give a motivational speech to John or Bill on why he should persevere and hold on? Of course not!
- He is going to hold on and not give up because he recognizes that perseverance is essential to success. He has all the motivation he needs to persevere, to keep holding on.
- In the same way, we need to keep on praying because we know that it is essential for success.
- By success, I mean success in accomplishing God’s purposes. We need to understand that we have no other options, no hope, no other recourse but to keep praying, no matter how long it takes to get an answer. That is our second incentive to keep on praying – success the answer is coming.
- We need to get to a place like the patriarch Jacob in the Old Testament did, when he wrestled with God. When his hip was dislocated, he had no leg to stand on, no strength of his own, all his self-reliance was gone. It was then that he held on and wouldn’t let go of God until he got the blessing. In his weakness he knew that perseverance was essential for success.
- Jesus emphasized this same point in a previous parable dealing with prayer. In the parable of the Friend at Midnight, in Luke 11:5-8, Jesus notes that the man needs bread to feed a friend who came at midnight. This detail emphasizes that the only option that this man had was to keep knocking and asking a neighbor for help, after all it wasn’t like he could go to the Go-Mart and purchase bread.
- Perseverance in knocking = persistent praying, was essential for success. We also need to get to the place where we realize that we have no strength of our own, that no plan that we have will succeed, that God must come through.
- This will motivate us to keep praying, because we will understand that God answering our prayers is our only hope.
- Now let’s look at the third incentive Jesus gives us to keep praying (Luke 18:6-8). Keep on praying because you’re special to God.
- If Miriam wants to go to the Mall – she keeps on asking me but one of her friends would not normally do that. Why? Because her friend is not my daughter. Miriam has a special relationship with me which means I am more inclined to hear her request. That is what encourages her to keep asking.
- It is the same with you and me. When we realize how special we are to God, how much He loves and cares for us, and then we are motivated to keep on praying.
- I want you to notice that in verse 7 Jesus specifically refers to us as "his chosen ones / people."
- In other words, you and I are special to a caring God, so you can expect an answer to your persistent prayers, even more so than the widow in the parable did. If it worked for her, then it is much more likely to work for you. This is an incentive or motivation to keep on praying.
- God does care and can be expected to respond to our prayers, because of who He is and because of who we are by His grace. Keep on praying because you’re special to God.
- When you understand this, it will change your whole prayer life. I keep on praying because I expect God to listen and respond to my request.
- I don’t expect Him to listen and respond because I have great faith. I don’t expect Him to listen and respond because I have fasted or prayed for many hours. I don’t expect to be heard because I’ve been exceptionally righteous.
- I expect God to hear and respond because He is a wonderful, caring God who loves me and sees me as special. I, like all Christians, am one of his chosen ones, so I just keep on praying.
- Keep on praying because you’re special to God. The Lord will not ignore his children who "cry out to him day and night." He may delay answering our prayers for a time, but he will not "keep putting us off."
- According to verse 8, God will see that his people get justice, i.e. their righteous request will be met. At this point, it should be noted that the widow’s request in the parable was for what was right, and that God will not honor our request if they come from wrong motives, no matter how much we may persevere or belief.
- James 4:3 says, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." Wrong motives would include asking for things out of pride, greed, lust, or to satisfy fleshly pleasures.
- The main point Jesus is making is that unlike the unjust judge, there is no reluctance on God’s part to answer our prayers.
- Then you may ask, "Why is there any delay in answering our prayers at all?"
- Jesus does not directly address that question, but I think the latter part of verse 8 gives us a clue! Jesus asked an interesting question here, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
- This question is interesting because Jesus was talking about prayer and now He asks about faith; He is talking about persevering in prayer
- So then why is he ask this question on faith in the context of prayer?
- Persevering prayer and faith go hand in hand. The one is evidence of the other! When God delays answering our prayers, it is not because He is reluctant to bless his children, but I believe one reason He delays is to test and strengthen our faith, which is of more value to God than gold is to us!
Conclusion: If Jesus were to come this week, would He find faith in your life?
Would He find you persevering in prayer?
Or would He find that you had quit praying because you do not really believe?
My hope is that He would find us persisting in faith and believing in prayer. We certainly have every incentive to keep on praying.
1. Keep on praying because sometimes the answer to prayer will be delayed.
2. Keep on praying because perseverance in prayer is essential for success.
3. Keep on praying because you’re special to God.
FINALLY - The value of persistent prayer is not that He will hear us but that we will finally hear Him. (William McGill)