June 26, 2022 – Worship

Pray and Never Give Up! – (Luke 18:1-8)

There is a true story of a Welsh woman who lived in a remote valley in Wales. She went to a great deal of trouble and expense to have electrical power installed in her home. However, after a couple of months, the electric company noticed she didn’t seem to use very much electricity at all.

   Thinking there might be a problem with the hookup, they sent a meter reader out to check on the matter. The man came to the door and said, “We’ve just checked your meter and it doesn’t seem that you’re using much electricity. Is there a problem?”

   “Oh no” she said. “We’re quite satisfied. We turn on the electric lights every night to see how to light our lamps and then we switch them off again.”

   Now, why didn’t this woman make more use of her electricity?

   She believed in electricity. She believed the promises of the electric company when they told her about it. She went to a great deal of trouble and expense to have her house wired for it. BUT – she didn’t understand the potential of electricity in her home. And so, she used its power sparingly.

This story makes us think about our prayer life. I suspect there are people who use prayer very much the same way. They believe in the power of prayer. They know of the promises God has made. They’ve even read and heard stories about answered prayers. But they use prayer’s power sparingly… Why?

Maybe the reason that happens is that many people do not understand how prayer works. And many people believe it doesn’t really matter whether they pray or not. They may believe: God’s going to do, God’s going to do it anyway – so why bother!? Or they regard prayer as a last resort after all of their other efforts have failed.

Today we heard Jesus telling his disciples a parable about a widow and a judge. In the first century, widows were among the most vulnerable members of society. In many ways, they were powerless and without social status.

The widow, in the parable, who was the most vulnerable, most helpless member of society, is under attack by an adversary. We don’t know for sure what the situation is. Whatever it is, all she wants is justice: in verse 3 it says, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”

All she can do in her desperate situation is persistence, perseverance, total tenacity. She drives the judge crazy with persistence. Verse 3 says, “She kept coming to him, kept coming again and again…” She is the model of persistence. Then, in verse 5, the judge says, “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.”

Though in this phrase, the Bible says, “she keeps bothering, wearing me out,” but in the Greek, literally it means she will give me a black eye, the terms actually from a boxing ring. She is going to come here and beat me up; basically, she will attack me.

Do you see? It’s like a comedy scene in a movie. There is a little old lady, who confronts a mugger. Instead of giving up, she is jumping over the mugger and starts beating on him with her little purse… Then, pretty soon he is beaten and his eye becomes black and blue. That’s the image here. So the judge cannot take it anymore and so grants her justice. The helpless, vulnerable widow finally wins in the end.

This is the story Jesus told the disciples to show them that they should always pray and never give up. Jesus said, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” Jesus also teaches us – we should always pray and never give up.

Maybe we should be like the 3-year-old boy who went to the grocery store with his mother. Before they entered the grocery store she said to him, “Now you’re not going to get any chocolate chip cookies, so don’t even ask, OK?”

   She put him up in the cart, and he sat in the little child’s seat while she wheeled down the aisles. He was doing just fine until they came to the cookie section. He saw the chocolate chip cookies, and he stood up in the seat and said, “Mom, can I have some chocolate chip cookies?”

   She said, “I told you not even to ask. You’re not going to get any at all.” So he sat back down.

   They continued down the aisles, but in their search for certain items they ended up back in the cookie aisle. “Mom, can I please have some chocolate chip cookies?”

   She said, “I told you that you cannot have any. Now sit down and be quiet.”

   Finally, they were approaching the checkout lane.

   The little boy sensed that this may be his last chance. So just before they got to the line, he stood up on the seat of the cart and shouted in his loudest voice, “In the name of Jesus, may I have some chocolate chip cookies?”

   And everybody round about just laughed. Some even applauded. And, due to the generosity of the other shoppers, the little boy and his mother left with 23 boxes of chocolate chip cookies.

This is just a little funny story, but the point is that we should always pray and never give up… But why? I mean, “Is God deaf?” “Is it hard to get His attention?” “Do we have to keep bothering Him until He throws up His hands in disgust and says, ‘If I don’t grant their request, I’ll never get any rest?’” Why?

I believe that there are two reasons why we should pray persistently.

You see, the number one purpose of prayer is not just to get what we want, but to get in line with God’s purposes, God’s will, with what He is doing in the world.

Praying to God is like a relationship with Him. We start our relationship and we say, “Meet my needs God!” Then when our prayers are unanswered as we wish, we sometimes say, “What kind of God are you? Why don’t you meet my needs?”

But slowly, as we go through our difficult times, as God transforms, changes us, we begin to see what He is doing in the world. We begin to be conformed to His will, His purposes.

You see, we grow by wrestling with God through difficult times. By learning to trust Him, even when we don’t like what He is doing, by making requests to Him, we realize overtime that maybe that’s not what we really need. Slowly, we conform our will to God’s will, so we begin to delight in the things that God delights in.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Notice that what we do is we delight in the Lord, in Him in His purpose, and then He gives us what we desire because our desires are coming in line with His desires. That’s the Jesus’ relationship with God. At times he prayed all night as we know. Why did he do that? Because God refused to answer? No because through prayer he was conforming his will to God’s will, to God’s purpose.

I also believe Jesus taught us always to pray and not give up because, when we pray, our prayers carry weight. EVERY TIME you and I pray, we unleash more and more power from the throne of God.

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, who is an author and Methodist professor emerita of theology at Claremont School of Theology, once said, “Suppose that prayer is our openness to the God who pervades the universe and therefore ourselves, and that prayer is also God’s openness to us… This would make prayer essential to God as well as to ourselves. What if prayer increases the effectiveness of God’s work with the world? Prayer is God’s invitation to us to be willing partners in the great dance of bringing a world into being that reflects something of God’s character.”

This is the power of prayer. In and through prayer God and we work together to make a difference in our lives and the world. Every prayer we pray brings God’s power, and imparts God’s power to the world. Indeed, prayer is not a passive act on our part. Prayer is an AGGRESSIVE, ACTIVE MINISTRY.

Let me conclude today’s message. When we persevere in prayer, something remarkable will happen. We see God working in our lives, and our faith grows and is renewed. We conform our will to God’s will. We even become an answer to our prayer as we embody the reign of God in our own bodies, in our own life. After all, when we keep praying persistently, our God hears and cares and He sends His ministering Spirit to embody the good news.

So I encourage you this morning that as you pray on something – do not just pray once or twice. Pray your prayers again and again and again. I hope and pray that all of us will experience the power of prayer in our lives. May it be so!

   In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.