Hope for Persistent Prayer
January 15, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This past Sunday at Oak Hills we considered Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Luke 18:1-8. Luke gives us Jesus’ aim for his teaching in verse 1: “he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus desires us to be persistent in our prayers, even for things that seem impossible in our view (i.e. the justice for a widow). In fact, it is necessary for his followers to be persistent in prayer.
In the days that have followed, I have had conversations with several believers who testify to the challenge of persisting in prayer. The challenge is not laziness or the lack of know-how. The challenge is hope. How do we remain hopeful in the face of impossible situations in order to remain persistent in prayer? Whether it’s the salvation of a loved one, the reconciliation of a broken marriage, or the overcoming of a besetting sin, Jesus does not want us to lose hope (heart) in persisting in our prayers.
Hope is the confidence, or assurance, that everything will be okay. The situations we feel to be hopeless are typically ones where we have no control over the end results. In order to sustain hope, our confidence that everything will be okay must rest in someone outside of ourselves. This is exactly what Jesus does in his parable in Luke 18. By using the contrasting example of the unjust judge giving justice to the widow, Jesus exalts the worthiness of God for our hope. How is God worthy of our hope?
1. God Never Withholds Anything Good from His Children. This is Jesus’ point in Luke 18:7, “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” The unjust judge gives justice to the widow, for whom he has no regard. How much more will our heavenly Father give what is good to his children? This is the promise of Romans 8:28, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.”
The problem here is that there are times when it seems like God is withholding good from us. Why would God not answer our prayers or delay long in answering prayer? I believe the apostle Paul’s perspective is helpful, “I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18) and “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). The suffering we endure now, looking for the “good,” is offset by the glorious good promised us in the age to come. The temporary lack of good does not equate to God withholding good. His ways and plans and ordering are not ours (cf. Is 55:8-9).
2. God Delights in Being Gracious to His Children. Unlike the unjust judge in Luke 18, God does not begrudge his children and their needs. Isaiah 64:4 says, “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.” There is no one, false god or human, who is like God. He is infinitely happy. He lacks nothing. He is never frustrated. We can add nothing to him. His “action” for those who wait for him is purely motivated by his free grace. Chick-Fil-A workers my say “My pleasure” when you thank them for their service, but their pleasure is not the only motivation for their service; they receive a pay-check. Not with God. He is pleased to serve and be gracious. Isaiah 64:4 says that he acts for “those who wait for him.” This is the same place Jesus concludes his teaching on prayer in Luke 18:8, “will the Son of Man find faith on the earth?” God is free in his gracious actions, but he reserves them for those who wait upon him in faith. Persistent prayer is one outward action springing from faith.
I know that you are facing some difficult circumstances, situations which may seem to be hopeless. Let me encourage you to hope in God. He has promised good for you and he delights to act on your behalf. Trust in his provision and timing and working of all things. Persist in your prayers.