Scientists tell us that there are certain kinds of insects that live under water with what they call an “external lung.” What happens is that these bugs gather a pocket of air under their wings. With this air bubble held in place, some of these insects have been known to descend up to 100 feet into some of the murkiest of waters.
Even though he may be plunged into an environment that might be completely adverse to his state of living, he is able to thrive. And all this is owning to his little supply of oxygen that he keeps with him.
The Rev WT Dorward once expressed that the life of a Christian parallels that little creature. We are people who are typically submerged in an environment that is adverse to our way of living. The world in which we live is such that it would easily snuff out our faith if it were not for the grace of prayer. By means of prayer we have the ability to descend into its putrid depths and remain uncontaminated. We are able to remain immune to the evils around us because we always have by means of prayer a fresh supply of heavenly grace.
This illustration corresponds well to our passage of scripture today. The opening of our passage says that this passage of Scripture is here to help us “always to pray and not lose heart.” In other words, Jesus knows that our prayer bubble can pop.
And I think we will all admit that our prayer life is not what it ought to be. But if you listen to what our passage says, I believe you will be motivated to pray more often. Jesus provides here encouragement for us to persist in prayer.
In order to bolster our prayer life, Jesus first points us to God's goodness. One of the key aspects of a persistent prayer life is understanding that God is good.
I. God’s is good [1-6]
We see this in the first 6 verses, and we see it by way of contrast. Jesus begins by telling us a parable about a woman who gets justice from this unjust judge.
Now, I’m not sure you can familiarize yourself with this completely, but back in those days political figures were not very trustworthy. They were often corrupt. And here was a man who didn’t give a hoot about justice. And this woman, who represents the poor and oppressed, has only one recourse to gain what she wants: Nag!
It may be that her persistence even rose to the point of violence. I actually like the way the ESV translates verse 5. It says, “Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.” Some of the other versions have the unjust judge saying something like, “I will give her justice, lest she wear me out” or “lest she weary me.” But the original language has more brutality contained in it. A literal translation would be “I will give her justice, lest she give me a black eye!”
You can imagine this little old lady coming in to this judge’s presence, each time getting more and more feisty. First she approaches calmly. Then the next day she falls on her face and enters her lament through tears. The next day she increases her volume. She begins to become angered and she starts to pull on his jacket as she pleads with him. The next day she pokes him in the chest. Then the next day she’s so earnest that she’s beating him with her purse!
I think the text indicates that Grandma got a little riled with this man and made him feel threatened!
Jesus brings out the contrast in verses 6 and 7. He says, “Here what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.”
In other words, Jesus says, “Look. God isn’t like this judge. God isn’t corrupt. He loves justice. He is good and it is in keeping with his character to do that which is right. How do you think He will react to your prayers?”
If this is the case, then what stops us from going to the Lord in prayer? We do not have to beat him with our purses or upbraid him for not acting. God is willing to act. He is zealous for righteousness. He is swift to do good. So what keeps us from praying?
I might even say that God is so good that he almost begs us to pray. Jesus is telling us in this passage that you cannot exhaust God. He’s basically saying, “Keep on asking God.” And, you know, there are other places in Scripture that tell us the same thing. There is the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5 that says, “Pray without ceasing.”
Then there is that passage in Matthew that says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened.” That passage should actually be translated, “keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.”
And Jesus also says in the book of John, “Anything you ask in my name, I will give to you.” I think that’s his way of saying, “Go ahead, bring it on. Give it a try. See if I won’t answer your prayer.”
I believe Jesus is saying that God is so good that he wants us to bombard him with our prayers over and over. God doesn’t mind being nagged in prayer. He is good and he wants us to seek him for that which is good.
I might say that it is almost an insult to God if we do not pray with such fervor. Perhaps I might even go so far as to say that it is idolatry. Because if we do not pray with constant beckoning, are we not saying that the Lord is not good? How about praying for our president or for the state of our country. If we lag off in our prayers, are we not essentially saying that God is not good and will not do what we ask? And is that not Idolatry? Are we not creating another god—one who is not good? Our laxity in prayer expresses that nature of God has been distorted. Our theology at that point is wrong and we’ve essentially fashioned another god in our minds!
The only way to correct that is to get our practice to line up with our theology. The remedy is to remind ourselves that God is good! Forgive me if I sound like a health and wealth preacher, but we have to remember that God is one who will open up the heavens for us. If we are praying for righteousness, God will hear that prayer.
We must act out our theology. If we believe that God is good and just, then let us make our petitions. And let us make them with constancy. Let’s show the world that we believe in the goodness of God by how many times we pray, “Thy will be done!”
But you’ll notice that this is not the only impetus we have to be praying. We are encouraged to pray, not just because God is good, but because he is loving.
II. God’s election is sure
Look at verse 7 again. Jesus says, “Will not God give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night.”
Now, you have to remember that the Lord’s language is inspired. There is never a throw away word or a random string of idle words thrown together. And since that is true, we need to take note that he uses a specific term in this verse.
He doesn’t just call us his people. He could have easily said “his church.” But he didn’t. He specifically denominates us as “his elect.” Why is this? I believe it is to heighten our inclination to prayer. For if we remember that we are the ones that he has chosen from all eternity—the ones whom he sovereignly selected out of all the peoples of the earth, then we will realize that God has a special place in his heart for us.
This is to take God’s goodness and justice one step farther. It is to realize that his justice and his goodness are expressed towards us in particular. Out of all the people of the earth, there are a select number that have his special attention. And everything he does in this world is done specifically for those people.
Now, those of you who are married, your spouse is you “chosen one,” so to speak, right? She is the one you have chosen for yourself, and she has a special place in your heart, doesn’t she? You regard her with a special attention and you have a zeal for her that extends above and beyond that of other people.
That’s the way it is with the Lord. As a matter of fact, in the OT God’s people are referred to as “the apple of his eye.” They are the ones that he has chosen and, as a result, they are the ones who have his special attention. In other places Scripture reminds us that all that He does is for their good.
You know, we read history all wrong. We do history and we study different places and different kings who ruled here or there. But that’s not the way we should really understand history. History, as you all know, is HIS STORY. And everything that happens in this world is simply setting the scene for what God is doing for his church.
We typically read history from a secular perspective. We read about kings and rulers and all their edicts. We read about their battles and their struggles. But we rarely ever understand that God is ordering and ordaining all these events so that his church might be provided for.
Why is it that the Lord allowed the Roman Empire, that hideously wicked kingdom, to advance across the western world? It was so that everything could be in place for the advancement of the gospel at just the right time. The Apostle Paul was able to travel throughout the known world because the Roman Empire had established a superb transit system and a rather stable environment that allowed for ease of travel.
Why was it that the Lord caused such turmoil during the time of the Reformation? Why did he allow three wars to break out between the King of France and the King of Spain during a 27 year period? Well, I believe it was in answer to the prayers of a certain man named William Ferrell, who lived in Switzerland! The conflict of those two nations diverted the path of a young man who was seeking to go to Strasbourg in order to study and enjoy a quiet life of seclusion for writing and intellectual pursuits.
But his pathway was interrupted by a battle that was raging. So he had to take a detour, which led him right into the city of Geneva. And when Farrell heard that this man had come to his city, he went to meet him. And, the end of the matter is that he persuaded this man to leave off his dreams of Strasbourg and remain in the city to help further the reformation of the town.
If God had not raised up those two kings and allowed them to clash, we probably would have never of heard of John Calvin.
God is acting in this world, and all that he does is on behalf of his elect. He has loved them from the beginning of time, he has ordained the life of his Son for their redemption, and he is orchestrating the events of history specifically for them and their benefit.
And ought that not encourage us to pray? We can bow our heads in confidence to say, “God, you move nations like I move furniture. And knowing how easy it is for you to do such things, I pray that your church would be purged of evil. Lord, I want you to build her up and establish her in purity. Fix that broken marriage, or let that apostate church somehow get a gospel loving preacher installed in the pulpit.
Because we are the apple of his eye, we should be inclined to pray and not give up.
But there’s another reason that is found in our text. The fact that God is good and loving should encourage us to pray. But the fact that God is strong should also be another motivator.
III. God is strong
Look at the last verse that we read. In verse 8 Jesus says, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
What’s Jesus saying here? He’s certainly not saying that there will not be any believers when he comes. We know from the rest of Scripture that there most certainly will be. What he is saying is that it will likely seem like there aren’t any believers left. Unbelieving people are going to abound, and of those who profess faith, many will apostatize.
In other words, God’s people are going to be outnumbered. And, as a result, they are going to face extreme opposition. They are going to be pressured at every point to turn on Christ and capitulate to the broader society.
In other words, given the pressures all around, they are going to need persevering faith. But how does one obtain persevering faith? It is through persevering prayer! Persevering faith will only come about by means of persevering prayer!
Just this week I heard a report from the Washington Times that Kim Jong Ill, that madman they call the leader of North Korea, put 33 Christians to death. He ordered their execution, calling them enemies of the state. These 33 saints were partners with a Christian missionary who was responsible for setting up over 500 churches in North Korea. Imagine that, 500 churches. And this execution was nothing more than a declaration that Kim Jong Ill will not tolerate Christianity permeating his country. He’d like nothing more than to stamp it completely out.
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith in North Korea? I’m sure he will. Because these monstrosities have only driven people to pray all the more for their land.
What was it that gave the church such power in its early days? Well, if you flip through the book of Acts, you will find that it is prayer! In the opening chapter it tells us that the disciples were huddled together in their Jerusalem apartment. What were they doing there? Luke tells us that they were “devoting themselves to prayer” (1:14). Then in chapter 2 it tells us that the people were devoted to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (2:42).
Then in chapter 4 there is the great prayer meeting that, when ended, shook the city! They cried out to the Sovereign Lord, who made heaven and earth. They recognized that they were in the very city that killed Christ. And they prayed that the Lord would grant to his servants (in the face of such ominous circumstances) the ability to speak his word with all boldness!
In chapter 13 it says that while the people of God were worshipping—which no doubt would have included a time of prayer-- the Lord told them to set apart Paul and Barnabas for missionary work.
The book of Acts is not just a record of how the gospel went forward in amazing and powerful ways despite the opposition it faced, it is a record of how the people of God persevered in prayer.
Some of you might have heard the story of Charles Spurgeon. There once was a certain person who asked him what it was that made his ministry so successful. He preached to crowds of 5,000 people each week. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people came to Christ as a result of his ministry. Churches were planted, schools were built, orphans were taken care of. It is only natural that one would want to know the secret to his success.
Spurgeon simply turned and led the man down to the church’s fellowship hall. He opened the doors and there sat 300 people praying for the service that was about to begin. Spurgeon turned to the man and said, “This is the secret to our success.”
The church grows and is sustained, not because we have a personal power or aptitude. It is sustained only by the hand of God. Our milk is his grace and we will thrive only when he extends it towards us. That is why we must be in prayer.
The Queen of England once said that she feared the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of Scotland. Scotland was protected, not by swords and shields, but by the sovereign hand of God. The Reformation took root in Scotland—and this despite the vehement attacks of Mary I (otherwise known as Bloody Mary) and Mary Queen of Scots. How did it come about? It much due to the fact that people prayed. God raised up great men who stood boldly against tyrants and profaneness in the church. John Knox himself was known to cry out, “Lord, give me Scotland or I’ll die.”
How is it that that the church has survived all through its history? How is it that the church will survive in our day? Will there be persevering faith in this land? Only if there are people who are persevering prayer!
And what of our church? Will Providence church exist in 20-30 years? Will it fade into oblivion? Or will it go the way of most churches and be eaten up by the world? What’s keeping the elders and I from diving head long in to the vast abyss of liberalism that surrounds us? I dare say that its survival is directly dependent upon how you today are praying to God on her behalf!
If anything, think of your own households! What power do you have to ensure your kids grow to love the Lord and follow him all their days? And how can you be sure that they will continue to walk with Christ and not turn aside with the rest of the legions who are turning their backs on the church? Absolutely none! You can lock them away in a room and play Christian music and Bible verses through speakers all you want, but even that is no guarantee that they will live to fear God. Their weak and tender hearts are in the hand of God and we can only ask the Lord that he would make them to be faithful.
When Christ comes back, will he find faith on earth? Such is a question that should remind us of how weak we are. And it should lead us run to the one who is strong all the more.
The Church of Christ owes much to its patriarchs in the faith. Most especially to Augustine. He was one of the foremost figures in Church history. He defined for us the doctrine of depravity and defended it against the attacks of Pelagius and the Pelagians. His legacy lives on nearly 1500 years after his demise. Yet, let us not forget that this great Saint attributed his walk with Christ to his lowly mother, Monica. Behind this great patriarch was a loving mother who never stopped praying for her son.
We could have easily lost the faith and all become humanists. But there was one lowly woman who remembered that God was good. The salvation of God’s elect was much due to some obscure lady who was not afraid to come to the Lord time and time again.
Let us take this to heart and remember that Christ calls us to do the same. We must pray, and we must not lose heart.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.