When iPray

IPray Series Sermon 2
~When  iPray,  Never Give Up~
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church
May 8, 2011
Luke 18:1-8

A teacher gave her class of second graders a lesson on the magnet and what it does. The next day in a written test, she included this question: "My full name has six letters. The first one is M. I pick up things. What am I?" When the test papers were turned in, the teacher was astonished to find that almost 50 percent of the students answered the question with the word  “Mother.” With all the things that mothers are known for doing, it’s hard to imagine when some of you have the time to pray. 

According to CNNmoney.com here are 10 top duties the average mother performs and the time they spend on them each week.

 Job                 Stay-at-home mothers 
 
 Housekeeper                         22.1 hours
 Cook                                    13.6
 Teacher                                15.7
 Laundry machine operator       6.7
 Home Administrator               4.2
 Facilities manager (custodian)  5.8
 Chauffeur                              4.2
 Doctor                                   3.9
 Computer operator                  9.1
 Janitor                                   6.3 
 
 Total weekly hours                91.6  

Mothers, with all of that said, I have to hand it to you, there are times when I don’t know how you do it all.  With all of your responsibilities and all of the hours it takes to be a mom, it’s hard to understand where you find the time.

So, in the midst of all of that and in that and in light of this iPray sermon series.  Many would be lead to ask you Christian moms this question: “When do you have time to pray?”

Moms, just like anyone, if you aren’t careful your  prayer life can become lost in the mess of the many things you must do.

So when do you pray?  The Bible says,

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 “Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 1:9  “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Ephesians 1:17  “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.”

Each of these passage was written by one of the busiest Christian workers of all times.  He wrote at least 13 books of the Bible and traveled thousands of miles on his various missionary journeys to many different countries.

In the middle of everything else Paul was dealing with, he tried to honor and serve the Lord, he said, “I keep asking”...   Paul did not believe that if you made a prayer request, you never had to make it again.  Paul did not believe that if you were busy, that excused you from needing to take the time to pray.

I have heard it said that since God knows everything we say before we say it and since He even knows everything we think before we think it (which is true), that we should not repeat ourselves in prayer. 

The exact opposite was true.  In the midst of Paul’s evangelism, in the midst of his work for the Lord, he prayed the same requests over and over again, and again, and again.  He prayed time and time again, that those he was working with and ministering to would know God better.

But here is the deal, we don’t pray to inform God of anything. He knows what we are thinking long before we voice our prayers to Him. So if He knows all, why pray at all?

The simple answer is one you have heard before:  “He’s God and we’re not.”  We pray to express our total dependence on Him in every circumstance of life. As we continue to pray for the same things, the godly desires of the heart grow stronger and we are reminded that every day we must be 100% dependent on Him.

We can’t live on yesterday’s blessings, and we can’t depend on yesterday’s prayers.  So, just like Paul, we “keep asking” in persistent prayers, never giving up.

According to scripture when asked, “When do you pray?”, we should respond:
“iPray all the time.”

Persistent prayer honors God because it expresses our complete dependence on Him.  Since God knows what we need before we ask him, we don’t have to repeat ourselves to get His attention.
At the same time, many of us know from personal experience that not all our prayers are answered the first time we pray them.  Sometimes we receive immediate answers, but often we must wait days, week, months, years or even a lifetime before the answer comes.
 
[Donna Printy’s Testimony displaced the following:

 Some say that the repetition of a prayer over and over again is a sign of lack of faith.  I have been questioned, “Don’t you believe that God hears and knows your prayers the first time?”  When I pray things more than once am I showing doubt about God’s ability? Absolutely not! I believe repetition of our prayers is proof of faith.

I would add that it sometimes seems that the more something matters to us, the longer we will be willing to pray about it. This is very often true when we pray for our loved ones to come to Christ.

Bill Hybels tells about an interesting experience after a baptism service at Willow Creek in Chicago.

He writes: “I bumped into a woman in the stairwell who was crying. I thought this was a little odd, since the service was so joyful.  I asked her if she was all right.  She said, ‘No, I’m struggling.’ She said, ‘My mom was baptized today. I prayed for her every day for almost 20 years. The reason I’m crying is because I came this close to giving up on her. At the 5-year mark I said, “Who needs this? God isn’t listening.” At the 10-year mark I said, “Why am I wasting my breath?” At the 15-year mark I said, “This is absurd.” At the 19-year mark I said, “I’m just a fool.” But I just kept trying, kept praying.  Even with weak faith I kept praying. Then she gave her life to Christ, and she was baptized today. I will never doubt the power of prayer again.” ]

When your prayers go unanswered for longer than you would like, please don’t ever doubt that God cares, or that God is working, but be persistent.

Jesus told His disciples a story about how they should keep on praying and never give up.

Turn with me to Luke 18:1-8

Read Verse 1 = The King James says, “...we should always pray and not faint.”

Read Luke 18:2-8

Widows had a very difficult position in the first century. They were quite literally unprotected. Many became homeless and destitute after their husbands died. Often they were taken in by cunning con men, including some religious leaders who would "devour their houses" (Mark 12:40), a sin that brought a fierce judgement from Jesus.

In order to survive, a widow had to learn how to fend for herself in a male-dominated society. She couldn’t count on anyone to come to her aid, and she had to assume that others would quickly take advantage of her.

This is what we know about the widow in the story:

1) She had a problem or adversary
2) She couldn’t solve her own problem
3) She was persistent
4) She had a genuine need
5) She received what she needed

This is what we know about the judge in the story:

1) He didn’t fear God
2) He didn’t respect man
3) He was unrighteous
4) He didn’t care about the widow
5) He was unwilling to help her at first

Evidently, the facts of the case didn’t move him and he had no desire to see justice done. To him she was just another bothersome woman. And note this key point. His only motive for helping her was utterly selfish. He only helped her because she was persistent.

Persistence

She "kept coming" and "kept bothering him" until he feared she would "wear him out" with her persistence. From beginning to end, he didn’t care about the woman, didn’t feel her pain or worry that she wasn’t getting justice. He only gave her what she wanted because she kept on coming and bothering him with her request.

  • In the morning her request was, "Give me justice."
  • In the afternoon her request was, "Give me justice."
  • In the evening her request, "Give me justice."

Give the widow credit. She never gave up and she got what she wanted.
Give the judge a little credit, too. He gave her justice, even if he did it for the wrong reason.

It’s a simple, true-to-life story. The widow got through to the uncaring judge and got what she needed by being persistent.

In order to get the lesson that Jesus intends for us to understand, we need examine 2 key points:
 
1.  We are like the widow in need.

Our problems are two sizes too large for us. No matter what we do, things get worse. And there are times when the whole world seems to come crashing down upon us. We may go weeks, or months, or even years thinking we can solve our own problems, but the line between happiness is tragedy is mighty thin. It only takes one phone call to put us face down on the floor begging God to help us.

2.  God is not like the unjust judge.

The judge was an uncaring jerk who lacked all compassion for the widow. He granted her wish simply because she kept on coming before him. But if that is true, why would Jesus use an illustration like this? He seems to be calling us to persistence in prayer by using an example of a man who is nothing like our Heavenly Father.

I believe Jesus used this unusual illustration to help us see that if persistence wins over an unjust man, think what it does with my Father in heaven who cares for me.

Persistence works on earth.
It works even more in heaven.

Three Questions to Ponder

Jesus brings the point home with three questions:

1) Will not God bring about justice? The answer is yes.
2) Will God keep putting us off? The answer is no.
3) Will the Son of Man find faith on the earth? The answer is ... maybe.

When the Son of Man comes . . .

Will he find faith in your church?
Will he find faith in your family?
Will he find faith in your heart?

I leave you now with one final insight from the story. I have already said that the unjust judge is not like our Heavenly Father. Yet, the judge is like him in one respect, and we will not fully understand this parable unless we grasp this truth.

The unjust judge delayed his answer for unjust reasons.
Our Heavenly Father delays his answers for righteous reasons.

What else could Jesus mean when he refers to His chosen ones who cry out to God day and night? Sometimes God seems to be like that unjust judge. We often feel that way, especially when we cry out to God for our loved ones and nothing seems to happen.  Even the most faithful Christians experience periods where God seems to be uninterested in answering. There is no way around this reality, and we shouldn’t deny it or pretend it isn’t there.

The question is not, ‘Is God like the unjust judge?’ The answer is no.
The question is rather, ‘What will we do when it seems to us that God is like that unjust judge?’ The answer is up to you.  Will you give up, or will you continue to pray?

This parable makes no sense apart from a full theology of God as a Father who not only loves us, but who also knows what is best. Here we come up against the bedrock of God’s sovereignty.  And it is precisely at this point that a proper view of God will win and lead us to proper prayer.

If we think God is like the uncaring judge, then we will get angry and stop praying.
If we think we have to talk God into loving us, we’ll become cynical Christians.
If we think our persistence convinces God to do something he wouldn’t otherwise do, then we’ll end up thinking our prayers are more powerful than God himself.

But if we believe that God is a "Father Almighty" who loves us without limit and who knows what is best for us, then we will cry out to Him day and night, believing that when He answers it will be at the perfect time.

Why, then, is persistence important? Here are two key insights:

1) The one who knows the answer must be able to give it.
2) The ones who seeks the answer must be able to receive it.

Persistence is a great instructor in the school of Christian growth. "God does not become more willing to answer  because of our persistence, but we may become more capable of receiving the answer."

Persistent prayer does not change God but it does change us.

  •  It purifies our motives.
  • It forces us to confront our helplessness.
  •  It distinguishes deep-seated desires from fleeting whims.
  •  It makes us ready to receive God’s answer.
  •  It humbles us so that God alone gets the glory.

If God answered every prayer the first time we prayed, we would soon become complacent in our faith. Our work in persistent prayer helps us understand how totally dependent we are on Him for everything.

What are you praying for right now?

Strength to be a better mother or father?
A family member to come to Christ?
A loved one with cancer?
Victory over a stubborn habit?
Wisdom to make a big decision?
A mate?
A prodigal son or daughter to return home?
A marriage on the rocks?
A deeper walk with God?
Growing love for others?
Grace to forgive those who have hurt you?
Hope for the future?
Money to pay your bills?
Relief from discouragement or depression?
Physical healing?
Courage to keep going?

Let me add one more thing to your list.

Pray for persistence.

Pray for gritty determination to hang on to the Lord until one of three things happens:

  •  God gives the answer.
  • God changes the circumstances.
  •  God removes the burden altogether.

God is greatly glorified when we do not give up in prayer.   Not all our prayers have been answered—yet!!!

Don’t give up, and don’t stop praying.   Keep believing, and keep on praying. You never know what God will do.

When asked, “When do you pray?” or   “Aren’t you too busy to pray?”, answer with confidence,   “iPray  because I am too busy not to pray.”