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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Persistence In Prayer

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost


Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’


“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”


And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 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.

Luke 18:1-8a


Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up, using a widow and a judge. So, let’s see what these two characters can teach us.


First, we’ll look at what the widow teaches us about ourselves. Like the widow, we also experience injustice and evil at the hands of others. In her case, we don’t know specifically what was involved. Similarly, we often don’t know beforehand what people will do to us: slander us, attack our motives, steal our property or our identities, persecute us in overt or subtle ways.


But we do know that our sin makes us deserve nothing but punishment from God. Not only do others sin against us, but we sin against them: thinking, speaking, and doing evil over and over again. Each of our sins against others is also a sin against God earning the death for which all sins call.


In the face of the evil done against us and the evil that we do, we can go into despair. We are virtually unable to help ourselves, and sometimes help from God appears to be unduly delayed.


But God invites us to seek His help and blessing for Christ’s sake. As Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9,10)


We are not unknown to God, as the widow was to the judge. We are His “chosen ones.” He has adopted us as His beloved children because of the vicarious work of His only begotten Son.


Then let’s look at what the widow teaches us about God. As the widow persisted in her pleas, so did our Lord persist in His work of winning for us His Father’s good pleasure. He endured as our substitute for human injustice and wickedness, drinking to its bitter dregs the cup of suffering that God administered to Him as the result of our transgressions. Never did He falter in carrying out His mission of salvation. He persisted, declaring, “It is finished,” but also promising, “Lo, I am with you always.”


For the sake of His crucified and risen Son, God now persists in hearing our prayers and blessing us. Through Christ we have access to the throne of grace.


So, we learn about ourselves and about God from the widow.


Now let’s look at what the judge in Jesus’ parable teaches us about ourselves. In stressing that the judge’s decision was a selfish one, the parable reminds us that we also decide to do many things from a selfish desire to benefit ourselves, rather than a pure desire to praise God and benefit others.


For example, our obedience to civil laws is sometimes motivated more by fear of punishment than by a concern for the common good – like driving only five miles per hour over the speed limit so we won’t get a speeding ticket.


In two weeks, we’ll celebrate the Reformation. Will we cheer that our Martin Luther was the first man to successfully reform the church in need of reform; that we have the Book of Concord, a book explaining our beliefs like no other church body has; and so, of course, we have all the answers! Or will we come humbly to God in thanks for revealing to us in His holy word that we are saved by grace, through faith – gifts of God and not by ourselves – so that we might work in His Kingdom for the salvation of others.


Pride and selfishness are unrighteous, contrary to God’s will, and deserve condemnation. Yet they so thoroughly pervade all human thinking – including ours, that the parable is not at all absurd or unbelievable. The judge is a picture of how we, by nature, deal with one another.


Well, what then can the judge teach us about God? We can see how different in this regard God is from sinful human nature. We can contrast the judge’s forced and selfish decision with God’s willing and selfless promises. God loved the world so much that He freely and selflessly gave His Son into death to save all sinners from death for life everlasting. Jesus did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped but humbled Himself and became obedient even to death. The Holy Spirit stoops to enter even our frail and mortal bodies and build us into a holy temple in the Lord.


Unlike the judge, who in selfishness was flighty, God is altogether trustworthy. He wants us to hold Him to His promises of blessing. His answers to prayers do not always come according to our timetable. But He does answer – and always at the right time for what’s best.


God want us always to pray and not to despair. But only as we realize His faithfulness toward us through Christ will we be constant in prayer. God’s persistence in blessing leads to our persistence in prayer.


Amen.

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