10/21/07, P21C

“Keep on Praying”
Luke 18: 1-8

“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  (Luke 18: 1-8, NRSV)

s in many of Jesus' illustrative stories, sometimes called parables, we here have a conflict between the powerful and the powerless and in an ongoing struggle.

There are two main players in this drama and as usual, the most attractive player is the bad guy. Perhaps we are drawn to him because all of the judges we have known have been fair and honest leaders of their communities and churches. This has been my experience with jurists in my circles. The vast majority of the members of the legal profession are decent, disciplined and dedicated servants of the community.

This was not so with the Judge in our story: "He neither feared God nor had respect for people." (v.2) Our text does not say that he was an atheist; he evidently believed in God but felt free to ignore or disrespect God. Like a spoiled child constantly embarrassing his parents, this jerk of a judge probably thought everyone else would bear his misbehavior as did his parents. Folks never do, for long. You see, his major problem in life was that he somehow had never learned to love or respect people, and he was in the people business. He was sworn to seek justice for people and he only cared about himself. This sad nameless man probably died alone in shame, yet unyielding and unrepentant.

There is a legend of a frontier "Hanging Judge" who was fond of repeating the same phrase at sentencing, "String him up it will teach him a lesson!" Then one day the old judge died and appeared before the Righteous Judge and God said, "Forgive him it will teach him a lesson!" Of course the story could not be true because God grants us but one lifetime to learn our lessons.

The second actor in Jesus' parable is a widow. Why a widow? Because widows were powerless in Jesus' day and in many parts of the world they remain so. We immediately think of the pitiful plight of the widows and all women, of Afghanistan. A half million widows resulted from the ten year war with Russia and unless these women had close male family supervisors many of them were executed. The "women of cover" that remain have few civil rights and can not be taught to even read and write. Our military action against the Taliban is for the freedom of the women and widows of that oppressed country.

The widow in Jesus' story did not have equal rights but she had the right to seek "justice against her opponent." We are not told the nature of her case but she was evidently in the right and she received justice, not only because she was right, but because she kept seeking her rights time and time again.

Of course, the obvious point of the story is that if an unjust judge can be swayed by a woman who would not give up, we can clearly see how persistent prayer prevails with our loving God. However, as a just judge God will not grant our request if we are not in the right. It would be unjust for Him to do so. God would want to excuse us but He is self limited by His own rule of law.

The Good News is that if we persist in coming to God in the right way, He will hear and answer every prayer. When God does not seem to be answering our prayers it is usually because we were praying for the wrong thing.

So, what is the right way to pray? Basically, we need to pray that God's will might be fulfilled and that we might positively respond to it. Really now, is it not His best future for us and our world that we seek? Who are we to presume to instruct God? We ask that God might see fit to grant our hearts desires if it is within the framework of His will. Submission to God's vision is humanity's chief goal. Prayer is our means of surrendering and finding God's plan. We submit in the name of God's own Son whom himself submitted to the cruelty of the Cross. Thus, God knows our needs and He is able to meet them even if we do not see it in the midst of crisis.

The feeling that our prayers are not being answered is never good, but as we gain experience we learn that in time we will see how God has brought about the best for us. Athletic coaches teach their worn our players that, "There is no gain without pain” In spiritual things tribulation is sometimes necessary for redemption.

Today’s story is encouraging us “to never lose heart." Folks feebly fumbling along the roadway of life have not so often lost their fortune, or friends, as they have lost their soul; Connection with their Heavenly Father. Some times we feel that too many are falling by the wayside. Even Jesus wondered whether He would find any faithful saints at the final curtain. Yet, we will faithfully “Keep on Praying!”

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
10/21/07, P21C