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Persevering Through Prayer

Has there been a time in your life when you’ve just wanted to throw in the towel, throw up your hands and give up? We’ve all been there at some point, when the task was really hard, arduous, or overwhelming.  


I read an interesting quote from Gary Inrig in an excellent book he wrote called The Parables, which I’ve been leaning on for insight in this series. Inrig writes: “Perseverance isn’t a very romantic concept. We would rather admire the exploit than examine the endurance that made it possible.” 


Life is hard and it comes at you fast and furiously sometimes. This world is definitely not friendly to Christ-followers. And Jesus knew this would be true, which is why He went to great lengths to prepare His followers to be resilient and tough. And to be clear, Jesus didn’t teach that resilience and toughness would come from drive, determination, or positive thinking, but rather that it would come from prayer.  


In the parable of the unjust judge, found in Luke 18:1-8, we discover the silver bullet for perseverance… Perseverance is produced by persistent prayer! Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  Luke 18:1


Jesus knew what His disciples were facing then, and what you and I would be facing right now, especially if you are in the midst of a tough season. This is exactly why these words appear in Luke 18:1… always pray and not give up. 


So what does it mean to “give up?” The idea conveyed here is exactly what you think it is… It describes the temptation to quit in despair when you’re tired.  We’ve all been there multiple times in life, including living as a faithful Christ-follower in a hostile culture. Following Jesus is not easy because you’re swimming against the current; it’s much easier to go with the flow. So how do we persevere? 


Jesus’ followers must always pray.  (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18) Prayer is a sure means of perseverance, of endurance, of staying power. Without it, we’re at risk of growing weary and giving up!  We persevere through prayer. So to encourage us, Jesus tells this parable of an unjust judge. (Luke 18:2-8)


This is an interesting and sad story. Here are two people at two ends of the legal spectrum in Jesus’ time. The judge is the epitome of power, stoked by ego and pride, generally heartless, thoughtless and fearless towards anyone, including God. The widow is the epitome of helplessness and weakness. She is destitute, alone, and powerless. Sadly, some heartless scoundrel has taken advantage of her. Justice should be on her side, but she has no one to fight for her. She is left helpless before a pitiless, callous, unjust judge.  


Though the poor widow continued to plea for this unscrupulous judge to help her, to provide her with sweet justice, he refused again and again and again.  Yet the woman does not give up. Finally, her persistence pays off! The judge essentially concludes, “I don't care about this widow, about her plight, about what happened to her, about what people or God think; but this woman is wearing me out, so I’m going to rule in her favor so she will leave me alone!”  


That sounds awful doesn’t it? What is this judge’s motivation? He’s concerned, not about this poor widow’s plight, but only about making life easier for himself. But the final decision is ultimately in her favor, and only for one reason: persistence, endurance, and perseverance; she never gave up!


It’s a startling, compelling story, isn’t it? So why would Jesus share a story like this about prayer? Are our prayers a burden to God? Are we pestering Him when we pray? Is God like this selfish judge who doesn’t really care about what we’re going through, but might eventually help us just to get us off His back?  


I don’t think any of us would compare this judge to our God. Clearly that is not Jesus’ intent here. So what does Jesus want us to learn with this story? We get some keen insight in what Jesus says next.  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? 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?” Luke 18:7-8


That’s a deep and important question. If Jesus returns in our time, should His kingdom come, will we be found faithful in our own trials, difficulties, infirmities, not giving up?


Like the parable of the midnight caller, this is a parable not of comparison, but of contrast. Of course, our heavenly Father is nothing like this unjust judge. He is exactly the opposite in every way. Sometimes to truly appreciate who God is, we must carefully consider who He is not.  


Our persistent prayers don’t motivate God to act; they reveal the depth of our trust that He will act in His time. We don’t pray in a feeble attempt to wear God down or manipulate Him. We pray properly when we know God properly as our heavenly Father who always answers our prayers properly, fully trusting Him by faith.


We are not helpless before God; as committed Christ-followers, we are His chosen and He always hears our cries for help! This poor widow had little standing before a heartless judge. If a helpless widow with no weapon but persistence could get the help she needed from this unjust judge, how much more will our gracious God hear and respond justly to our needs?  As a Believer, you are God’s very own child. He loves you more than you could ever know. When you cry out to Him, He doesn’t put you off, He doesn’t turn His face from you, He doesn’t ignore you; He hears your pleas for help. Don’t grow weary in your prayers; persist so that you can persevere in this harsh world. 


For much more, including what to do when you aren't getting the answers you are hoping for, click here to listen to: The Parables - Part 7 - Persevering Through Prayer.  

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