Sermon – Pentecost 19 – October 20th, 2019
Text: Luke 18:1-8 – “Always to Pray”
Have you ever heard of a prayer warrior? A prayer warrior is someone who constantly prays to God expecting to ward off evil in their life and in the world and bring about only good things by their prayers. A prayer warrior fights against spiritual evil but, in ways, a prayer warrior fights against God convincing Him that He should hear our prayers and answer us how we want right now. A prayer warrior is engaged in battle whole-heartedly believing that whatever they ask for in their own names will be granted to them by a God who waits until he can be bested by a really good prayer or even by a whole bunch of people all praying for the same thing. In a way, a prayer warrior who fights like this – expecting that if we only all pray hard enough God will give us what we want – views God as someone who really doesn’t have our best interests at heart. A person who fights like his views God as someone who must be convinced to be good and to help us. It is a common mindset, even a mindset that I, and am sure many of us, sometimes have that if we all pray hard enough and often enough God will be more likely to answer our prayers than if only one person half-heartedly were to pray for something. We see things like Word Day of Prayer where everybody around the world prays for peace and justice in the hopes God will hear all these prayers and will have to pay attention to them. It is like we treat our prayers like a letter-writing campaign, or as a petition that has more strength with more signatures, or like “email-bombing” God’s inbox with prayers will force Him to pay attention to us and respond to our pleas.
Why wouldn’t we think this way when it comes to God? Have you seen our Scripture readings for this morning? We see Jacob wrestling with God all night long and when God asks for Jacob to release him Jacob responds, “I won’t let you go until you bless me!” What happens next? God changes Jacob’s name to Israel which means “Striven with God.” Surely wrestling with God and forcing Him to do what we want is what this text is all about!
More so, we see in the parable in the Gospel reading an example of a persistent widow who bothers a judge so much the judge finally gives up and gives her justice because he needs the woman to stop bothering him. This text in the original Greek even gives the idea that the judge gave her what she wanted because he was worried about her giving him a black eye! This is one mean widow! Surely this text too is telling us that if we want justice, we aught to take the opportunity to sock God in the face in order to get Him to give us what we want.
Or does this all sound not quite right to you?
What is the Parable About?
If this historical account and this spoken parable are not about waging war against God through our prayers and getting Him to do what we want for us, then what are they about?
Is this parable about judges and widows and how they aught to behave? Is is about needing to be really persistent, and potentially even violent, if you are a widow and not likely to get the justice you deserve? Is it about being like the judge and giving in to the pressures and cares in this world when they threaten to hurt us? What is actually going on in this parable? What is Jesus really saying? And why is Jesus always speaking in parables!!?
Parable in Context
In order to get the full truth about something you have to look at the whole context of what is going on. We do not treat God like news reports sometimes treat the people they interview and skew the interview when it is broadcast to make it look like the interviewee said something they didn’t. My favourite from Scripture is the quote from Luke 4:6-7 “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” I love seeing this framed or as a poster because, of course, these are Satans’ words as he tempts Jesus in the wilderness. Context is often hugely important.
Before this parable begins Jesus is teaching about the end times. Jesus is talking about what will happen when the world is about to end how no-one will know what is coming, then BAM, the Son of Man will return and it will be the end.
At the very start of this parable Luke even describes what this parable is about for us! The introduction says, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” This parable is about always praying and not losing heart as we wait for the day of the Lord – the end times.
This parable does something amazing for us – Jesus is revealing mysteries about The Divine, about God, to humanity. This parable shows us that even a bad judge who does not believe in God will give justice if pestered enough for it. This parable lets us think about how much more will The Good Judge – God Himself, give justice to those who deserve it with or without their persistence. God will do what is right because He is just and good. He will provide justice to His people – you know, those people who cry to Him day and night.
The Lord’s Prayer is what the Confirmation Class this year will be starting to learn about in the Catechism. The explanations for the first few petitions like “hallowed be Thy name” and “Thy kingdom come” “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and “Give us this day our daily bread” – All of the explanations to these petitions start by stating that these things certainly already are and will be done even without our prayers but we pray that it may be among us also. Our prayers are not asking that God would do something outside of what He has promised us or outside of His will, but that we align ourselves with God’s own will by asking for things He has promised to deliver.
It is like a dad who promises His son that after baseball practice they will go out for ice cream. The son does not pester the dad about driving to Winnipeg to rent a bouncy castle after practice. Instead, the son holds his dad to the promise of ice cream after practice knowing that it will happen because his dad has promised it. He brings it up over and over again “Dad! We’re going for ice cream after, right?” Dad, remember you said we were going to get ice cream after?” Dad, I’m sorry I missed that big catch in practice, are we still going to go for ice cream?” “Dad, I made the coach really mad at me by not paying attention all practice. Are we still going to get ice cream after practice?
Even when the son knows he does not deserve ice cream, he holds to the promise His dad made, constantly reminding his dad of the promise and the trust that His dad will stay true to his promise.
We are like the boy who has been promised something by our dad. We can be as persistent as we want, and as long as we are asking for something God has promised us, we will get it. As long as it is something that is good and right according to our “Dad in Heaven” so to speak, he will give it to us.
Prayer is not about wrestling with God until He gives us what we want. God touched Jacob’s hip and dislocated his joint instantly! After the match Jacob calls the place “Face to face with God” because he saw God and was in awe that he did not die instantly from His unholiness. God certainly cannot be held captive by Jacob or forced to do something He does not want. God heard Jacob and gave him a new name which means “striven with God.” Jacob had wrestled with his dad, his brother, and his uncle, all his life, and God, but Jacob’s new name does not mean he will continue to wrestle by himself, but that God now wrestles with him – FOR him.
God fights for us and with us and He is not someone we need to fight and convince to do the right thing. It is often us who needs to be convinced to do the right thing or think the right way that is in line with God who is perfectly good and always does the right thing.
Prayer is as much about bringing ourselves in line with God’s will over and over again as it is with asking Him for good things. Prayer is about reminding God, and ourselves, about the promises He has made to us that we wait to be fulfilled. We ought to be like the persistent widow in that while we wait for the last day when Jesus returns and all the dead will be resurrected and those in Christ will be in God’s presence forever on the new earth God has promised us – while we wait we ought to pray. We ought to pray and not lose heart. We ought to remember and remind God of His good promises that He surely will deliver.
We trust that God will deliver us from the eternity of hell and suffering that we deserve by our thoughts, words, and actions towards God and others. We trust that we will be rescued from what we justly deserve and given something incomprehensibly amazing because Jesus has died and rose again.
Lord, grant this promise of everlasting life to us all. In Jesus name.