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P.R.A.Y. – 10/20/13

Luke 18:1-8 (GW)   Jesus used this illustration with His disciples to show them that they need to pray all the time and never give up.  He said, “In a city there was a judge who did not fear God or respect people.  In that city there was also a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice.’

“For a while the judge refused to do anything.  But then he thought, ‘This widow really annoys me.  Although I do not fear God or respect people, I will have to give her justice.  Otherwise, she will keep coming to me until she wears me out.'”

The Lord added, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge thought.  Will God not give His chosen people justice when they cry out to Him for help day and night?  Is He slow to help them?  I can guarantee that He will give them justice quickly.  But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Each year sports teams during the season play a theme song like “Keep on Believing!”  They realize there is tremendous power when you keep the faith.  However, the original ‘keep on believing’ encouragement did not come from sports, it comes from this parable Jesus told.  The purpose of the parable Jesus told is found in the opening verse of the Gospel Reading for today: Jesus used this illustration with His disciples to show them that they need to pray all the time and never give up.

These words are recorded just after Jesus had described the End of the World and ends with the comment by Jesus: (Luke 17:37)  “Vultures will gather wherever there is a dead body.”  This comment suggests how we might feel on a bad day.  If you are not having a good day vultures move into your life.

The parable Jesus then told has great wisdom for those who are having a vulture attack in life.  Vulture attacks might be like losing your job, battling illness, family crises, or being financially in trouble.  Whatever is the vulture attack, I know that they quickly descend on the situation.  Think about what vultures are threatening to tear your life apart and ask yourself: how can I keep it together when it seems my world is falling apart?

Jesus’ answer is simple and powerful: P.R.A.Y.

Praying is faith in action.  Prayer can keep you together when your world seems to be falling apart.  The power in prayer is not in the one praying but in our great God who wants us to pray to Him.  When Jesus told the parable, He highlighted 4 important aspects of prayer that help us to know how God can keep our life together.

The letter P in the word ‘pray’ can stand for PUTTING your whole heart into it.  When you pray, pray with intensity, with a sense of urgency.  When you take a child shopping to a toy store, you will hear the child say, “I want this, and this, but I really want this.”  In Jeremiah 29:14 we find these words: … When you look for Me, you will find Me.  When you wholeheartedly seek Me, I will let you find Me, declares the LORD…

God wants you to pray passionately.  People often do one of two things when life gets rough, they either withdraw from God, or they dig in and will not let go.

It is unfortunate that we often save our passionate praying for only emergency situations.  God desires that ALL of our prayers to Him would be with our whole heart.  When you and I pray, God does not measure the number of words, He looks deep into our hearts.  Sometimes the most spiritual prayer we can pray with the vultures are circling is: HELP!

At the end of the parable an interesting comment made by Jesus asks: when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”  I think Jesus is revealing in these words that He desires to find people with faith in action.

When you and I put our hearts into our praying, God listens.  As God hears our prayer that leads to the letter ‘R’ of the word ‘pray’ to mean REMEMBER God loves you.  Some people have taken this parable of Jesus and assumed that His point is that if you nag God long enough and hard enough you will get what you want.  They do not say it bluntly but that is what they think.  For example, when someone prays for healing and someone is not healed they might say, “They did not have enough faith.  They did not pray enough about it.”  That is wrong thinking.  When we pray, God responds.  Jesus’ whole point in the parable is that if this woman can get justice from an unjust judge, how much more you and I can expect God to act because He is just and He loves us.  The Bible is very clear in this.  One of the best passages to show this is John 3:16.

That is God’s word, not just our wishful thinking.  When your world seems to be falling apart and you are trying to keep it together, remember God loves you.  Realize what this means when we pray.  God is not only willing to answer our prayers, He has the power to do so.  With God all things are possible.

Have you ever wished, when you know the vultures are circling around, that you had a magic wand that could take all the pain away or that the purpose of the pain might be better known?  When a loved one has died and I wished I could take the pain away for the surviving family, I could not do it.  That is in God’s power.

God Himself tells us that He loves us so much that He gave Jesus, His own Son’s life that we may have life.  Now since God has invested that much in our lives, He certainly is going to remember us when we pray.

The woman who was seeking justice was direct in what she asked of the unjust judge.  To keep her life together she kept pouring out her heart to that unjust judge and kept remembering he was the only one who could bring justice.  When your world is falling apart and you are trying to keep it together, remember God’s love for you.

There is a story about a man who died and when he got to Heaven saw warehouses all around.  In the warehouses he saw tremendous gifts like job opportunities, happy family situations, marriage partners, financial stability, love, joy, even patience.  The man asked what all this was for?  He was told that these were all things ‘Never asked for’.  God has all these things ready to be provided.  God invites us to come to Him in prayer for all things.

This leads us to the third letter in the word ‘prayer’, ‘A’ – ALWAYS pray no matter what.  Jesus told the parable that we should always pray and not give up.  This is great advice.  Have there ever been times when the vultures were circling and you gave up?  Have you ever discovered that God never gives up?

How wonderful our God is that when we have difficulty knowing how to pray, the Holy Spirit is ready to help us.  In Romans 8:26-28 it says: … the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know how to pray for what we need.  But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words.  The One who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind.  The Spirit intercedes for God’s people the way God wants Him to.  We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God – those whom He has called according to His plan.

If you have ever been in a situation where your world seemed to be falling apart or have seen the vultures circling and gone to God in prayer, you really know what the verse means when it speaks of our groans.  It is that time when we do not know which way to turn except to God, and we do not know what words to say.  Our hearts are aching and tears are flowing.  You may not remember a single word you prayed, but you can know that the Holy Spirit was there helping your prayer.  You can know that God never left you.  He never will abandon you.

Many blame God for letting the evil that happens in this world.  But let us recognize that people do deplorable things, and the result is that life is not fair.  But let us recognize that Paul wrote no matter how much garbage the world throws at us, not matter how many vultures are circling, no matter how much we think our world is falling apart, God still pours good into the lives of His children.  God brings the best out of the worst situation.  That is why we should always pray.

This leads to the last letter ‘Y’ of the word pray.  It can mean YIELD to God.  When we have been wronged, it is so easy to desire revenge.  Yet instead of feeling better when we get even, we usually find ourselves in greater pain.  So David wrote in Psalm 37:(7-9, 28) Surrender yourself to the LORD, and wait patiently for Him.  Do not be preoccupied with an evildoer who succeeds in his way when he carries out his schemes.  Let go of anger, and leave rage behind.  Do not be preoccupied.  It only leads to evil.  Evildoers will be cut off from their inheritance, but those who wait with hope for the LORD will inherit the land. … The LORD loves justice, and He will not abandon His godly ones…

The widow in the parable found justice from an unjust judge, how much more will we find justice from a just God.  God knows the pain of injustice for when His Son died on the Cross He did not deserve it.  In that act of gross injustice toward Him, the love and power of God was revealed and made available to us.

How then can we keep it together when our world seems to be falling apart?  Put your heart in your prayer to God.  Remember God loves you.  Always pray. And Yield to God to do what is best.  When we come to God in prayer we will discover how He keeps our lives together in Jesus’ name.

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