Some Thoughts On Prayer (5)
In Luke 18:1-14 are two parables on prayer. Both of these present some needful thoughts regarding prayer. Both impress that God hears and responds to the prayers of His children. The purpose of the first parable was: "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint." This instruction goes right along with Paul's, "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). Did this mean that Jesus expected those of His day to be on their knees at all times or uttering a prayer without stopping? If He did, they did not obey and neither did He practice it nor did His disciples. It must have meant something other than that. Yet, it meant a constancy. To me, what it meant then it means now. We should pray "always, without ceasing," just as they were taught to pray in the first century. If not, why not?
The parable of the unjust judge teaches this very lesson. He neither feared God, nor regarded man. This was a wicked, unbelieving judge. He did not subject himself to the law which constituted him a judge (Ex. 18:21; Deut. 16:18; 2 Chron. 19:6-7). He was not even careful to practice the law in his judgeship (Ex. 23:6-9; Lev. 19:15; Deut. 1:16-17). His lack of respect for God led him to disrespect the law; and, when one disrespects God's law, he disrespects God. One cannot respect God without respecting His law; neither can one respect God's law without respecting God. Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). This is just as true in respect to prayer as it is in any other relationship with God.
There was a widow in the city who came to the judge asking him to "avenge me of mine adversary" or "deliver her from the oppression of unjust men." The judge refused to give her audience at first. She kept asking until the judge finally reached the conclusion, "I had better grant her request or she will continue to annoy me."
Jesus said, "Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?" Jesus used this type of character to impress upon each person that if an ungodly, wicked judge who cares neither for God or man, can be touched by the pleading of a widow, then surely God who loves and cares for his children will hear and answer their pleading. He said, "I tell you that he will avenge them speedily." This teaches that God will hear. It also teaches that a faithful Christian will continue to pray and allow God to respond at His own time and way. "Avenge them speedily" seems to contradict any delay, but as the Expositors Greek Testament explains the terms, it is understandable: "Quickly, quite compatible with delay; quickly when the hour comes, that is suddenly." God can accomplish and grant at His own will. Our part is to trust Him and be content.
The second parable teaches humility. A meek spirit is essential when one approaches God. This attitude leads one to recognize his dependence upon God. It also builds in one confidence that God is able and will hear and respond -not because of one's own accomplishments but because of God's grace and mercy. This, rather than overlooking man's faith, emphasizes it.
Jesus pictures two men going into the temple to pray: one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. These two men are extremes. The Pharisee was very religious, and accepted as a teacher; the publican was much less respected, and especially in religious circles. The Pharisee was self-righteous and set others at nought. He prayed as if God did not know anything about either of them. He first told God everything that he did not do and then added all the things that he did do (vs. 11-12). He was the one classified by Jesus as "certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." An attitude of self-righteousness or self-centered religion thinks, "I do no wrong. I do right completely and am pure, clean and need no forgiveness." Not only did he justify himself but also sat in judgment on others, "and despised others." His prayer was about himself. A selfish prayer will not be acceptable to God.
The publican was of humble disposition. He "would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me as a sinner." This is the attitude that all need to have toward God. We are not able - God is. We are praying - God listens and answers, if the answer comes. We need - God is the giver. We are weak - God is strong. God is our only hope for salvation - God gives help in the time of need. Therefore, we ought to approach Him in a humble, submissive and obedient spirit. This publican did. Now listen to Jesus: "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
Humility alone is not sufficient. In the parable of the rich man and the beggar, being poor was not enough. The parable teaches that if a person is going to pray acceptably to God he must do so with a humble heart. The person who humbly submits himself to God to do His will and with a meek and quiet spirit prays to God can confidently arise with assurance - God heard me.
To whom shall one pray? Paul wrote in Col. 1:3, "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." He said to the Romans, "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world" (Rom. 1:8). Therefore, one's prayer should be made to God through Jesus; our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5; Col. 3:17).
How often should one pray? Romans 12:12 answers, "rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.'' "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). One must keep his heart in a prayerful mood, being thankful to Almighty God and depending upon Him completely for every good thing. Therefore, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6). Be instant in prayer; pray always without fear. Pray wherever you are any time, always "let your requests be made known unto God."
Why pray? "Let us therefore come boldy unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
The Bible plainly teaches the child of God to pray. He is to pray for all things, all. men everywhere and for his own well being. Therefore, pray. This means that God will hear. We are taught to pray not as to an idol or a post but rather to our heavenly Father and His ears are open and His hand is limited only by His own will. Pray! We need God's help every day and every hour of our lives. In the eternal world He and He alone is our only Hope. Therefore, Pray! As Peter put it, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."
Robert Grant expresses it thusly:
Savior, as in dust to Thee,
Low we bow the adoring knee,
When repentant, to the skies,
Scarce we lift our weeping eyes,
O by Thy pains and woe,
Suffered once for man below,
Bending from the throne on high,
Listen to our humble cry!
Truth Magazine XXIV: 10, pp. 168-169