Persistence in prayer
Sean McCartin
February 2, 2014

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.  

Out of everything the disciples asked of Jesus, this was quite possibly probably their best, wisest and most mature request. If you have a list of requests or questions for Jesus, you might want to put this at the top of your list.

We have been looking at the teachings of Jesus on the subject of prayer. The goal is that we as a church then would engage in this great gift more consistently.

Jesus exhibited passion in his ministry and you could say he reserved the greatest amount of passion when it came to this subject.

On two occasions we see Jesus angry in the gospels when he cleansed the temple of money changers. Extremely passionate. This happened at the beginning and at the end of his ministry. He is so worked up that He takes time to make whips, and then uses them to drive out the money changers from the inner court in the temple. Wow! We are all stunned!

What has irked Jesus to this degree? We aren’t very familiar with this side of Jesus. Listen to his response, his reasoning for such a dramatic expression of zeal and passion.

Matthew 21:13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

There are basically four series of courts. The Holy of Holies. The Inner court, or court of the priests, the court of women, and the outer court or the court of Gentiles or the court of nations. This was an area of approx. 10 square acres. It was in the court of Gentiles, the largest portion that Jesus removed the money changers. It was originally designed for countries of the world to come and experience God’s presence in this expansive outer court. A place where all people could connect with God in prayer.      

This privilege of prayer was being choked out. It was a place being overrun by commerce. God had provided a special place for prayer and it was being infringed upon. We may not have a flea market issue in a temple court, but I am sure God is concerned about prayer being choked out of our lives today.

Protecting the practice of prayer was of utmost importance to Jesus. As people, we are designed to be in close connection to God, to be in prayer, seek Him in prayer, rely upon Him in prayer, commune with Him in prayer, move mountains through Him in prayer, intercede for others through prayer, lift up thanks to Him in prayer, humble ourselves before Him in prayer, release His goodness in the world through prayer. And this was being taken away, threatened to extinction and Jesus would not tolerate it.

This passion gives us an insight from the perspective of Jesus of how important prayer is for us. Is prayer just as important to us, his followers? Jesus will fight for us, to clear space in our lives, so we can pray. If our inner court is full of clutter, worldliness, busyness, lust for money and greed Jesus may break out his whip. Maybe it is time for us to break out our own whips in our own temples and clear some space and do some temple house cleaning in our lives.

Jesus still has zeal for His house, which is us. We are the temple/house of the Lord and He is zealous for us.

I can speak for myself when I say I need constant cleansing of my temple that I may grow in this wonderful provision of prayer. He will not tolerate a prayerless and distracted church.

Big Idea: Jesus wants us to pray…really bad.

Which leads to his teaching we will look at in Luke 18:1-8. It is the story of the persistent widow and the unrighteous judge.

Luke 18:1-8 “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Jesus teaching shows us 3 motivators for prayer!

1. Jesus teaching on prayer shows us the character of God. The greatest motivator for prayer is not the character of our challenges, the character of our culture, the character of our needs but the character of God.

Jesus often described the character of God as the backdrop for teaching on effective prayer. If there is one thing Jesus knows we need to know, it is the character of God. He discerned that a major roadblock to prayer could be misunderstanding what God is like.

Jesus talked about how the God you are praying to knows you intimately, God knows the number of hair strands each of us possess. That is something not to be overlooked.

It is quite an amazing testament to God’s intimate knowledge of us by knowing the exact number of hairs on our head. Some of us put God’s love to the test. Here is one example:

Oprah Winfrey picture. If this doesn’t validate the authenticity of God’s love, I am not sure what does. God loves Oprah and he has proven it. Then there are others who make it easier for God to love. There is not as much work involved. Here is another example:

Joe Wittwer picture. Just to clarify, the scripture does not mention the hair on your shoulders or back, just your head. Bald headed people are God’s favorites J.  

Jesus teaches that Godknows your needs and it is not because you told Him. Jesus said he knows before you even ask Him.

God is loving and caring, evidenced by His care of the birds of the air and even sparrows, sold each for a penny and He is aware of each one of them when they perish (there are a lot of sparrows in the world) and yet we are more valuable than sparrows.

Jesus teaches His love and care far exceeds the love and care of a wonderful earthly Father. God gives good gifts to His children.

Maybe the most powerful thing Jesus taught on the character of God is how he referred to God. To his disciples he said “Your Father”. He didn’t say the Father, or a Father, but Your Father. This is the basis of effective prayer.

They had two Father’s. An earthly one and a heavenly one. The earthly one does the best they can, the Heavenly one is simply the best and is perfect. Wow, what a comfort!

In the 17th and 18th century Deism became more prominent in society in what is known as the Enlightenment period. A Deist was someone who believed on a supreme being as the Creator, but not a god who was personally involved in creation.

Deists respected the natural order of things as constructed by God, but rejected day to day supernatural involvement in people’s lives.

It is if God designed an intricate watch, wound it up, and then let it run and stepped away. Some people think like a deist. They know God is up there but not too sure if He really cares, is mindful, gets involved, or if He is paying attention to me, or will act on our behalf.

In Luke 5 a leper presented Jesus with a loaded statement.

Luke 5:12 b “If you are willing you can make me clean.” This comes from a deist mindset. This is not a capacity question, it is a character question, a nature question. It is as if he is saying “I know You have power Jesus, but what is your nature, because your nature will determine what you do or don’t do with that power.”

Jesus, reflecting the character of God said I am willing. A desist says He is able, but not willing. A Christian says not only is He able, but he is also willing. The Father is willing, he cares, He desires to be involved in everything, He knows you, He loves you,      He is protective of You. That is His wonderful character that draws us to spend time with God and to pray with confidence.

This analogy Jesus employs here is not a comparison, but a contrast. A complete contrast. We have an unjust judge. Moses instructed judges to be placed in each city, at the city gate to administer justice to the people. The purity of these positions isn’t what it used to be. This judge is anti-spiritual and anti-relational. The anti-god authority. He is one self centered person with no moral inhibitors.

He is confronted with the least influential, powerless person of that day, a widow. These are two extremes. The widow’s persistence wins over the heartless, self oriented unrighteous judge.

She receives justice from her adversary. Someone has been bullying her around, stealing from her, suing her and she without an ability to protect or defend herself. But her persistence causes this highly reluctant judge to act.

God is contrasted by His use of the term chosen one, meaning dear to God, and by his readiness to act on our behalf. The judge is reluctant, God is ready and willing and just waiting to be asked. Very different.

If this poor widow can get results from this unjust judge, just imagine what chosen ones can expect from a loving and caring God. Jesus might be implying we are way underutilizing our relationship and prayer with such a good and willing God. He is Your Heavenly Father. Not a Father, not The Father, Your heavenly Father.

When I was 5 I came home from school and my mom told my brother and I “Daddy and Mommy can’t live together anymore.” They divorced and my Dad went off, remarried twice and had 5 more children. I have had limited contact since then.  

At that point all I knew was I had one earthly Father and he wasn’t around. Not until I was sixteen and became a Christian did I finally realize I now have two Fathers. I have an earthly Father, and I have a Heavenly Father. Awesome.

Not having a dad was not without complications but overall I think this helped me to grow. I was very hungry to be Fathered and it changed my life. I took God up on this Good Heavenly Father thing. I knew I had a great Heavenly Father and I tried to use it for all it was worth!

A powerful motivation for prayer is the character of God! Another motivation for prayer is:

2. Jesus teaching on prayer shows us the character of the person praying. Jesus is pretty clear in what he is going for, that we pray always and not lose heart. So Jesus has a vision for us: to be active in prayer and to be energized and hopeful.

The character of someone who prays is just like the character of a good farmer. A farmer does not lose heart and stays energized. A good farmer is one of the most optimistic people groups in the world. They work hard, cultivate the soil, maintain their machinery, buy seed, schedule their lives around planting season and harvesting season. They act as if stuff is going to grow. They live their lives in anticipation of crops. The farmer or the gardener is optimistic because of the nature of the creation, the seed, the soil, the sun, the rain, the inherit growing properties of organic life.

The praying person is equally optimistic because of the nature of God. A farmer shows their optimism in the character of creation by sowing seed. The believer or Christ follower shows their optimism in the character of God by praying.

We could say that praying is like sowing. The character of a person who prays is optimistic, hopeful and is a generous sower of spiritual seed through prayer and anticipates a harvest.

We pray and seeds of the Kingdom get scattered. When our prayers go out they are like seeds that go out into the soil and germinate and sprout and reveal God’s goodness.

It is important to note natural seeds range widely as far as the germination rate. Some seeds sprout as soon as they hit the soil, or as soon as water hits them. Some seeds germinate a little longer. Likewise our prayers can have different germination timetables or rates. For instance,

Radishes (Radish picture) are known to have the fastest germination rate of typical garden plants. You can plant a radish on Monday, you will see it sprout by Thursday.

Peppers (Pepper picture) are known to have the longest germination rates of your typical garden seed.

For instance, the ghost pepper, known for it’s extra hot properties and if you eat one you are messing with fire. These can take 4 months to germinate.. So if you plant a ghost pepper on Monday, you won’t see anything pop up from the soil in 4 months or you will forget you ever planted it. But for those of you that have a spicy bent, the wait is worth it.

Our prayers can be radish prayers, or pepper prayers. Each living seeds, but differing germination rates.

My patience threshold gravitates toward radish prayers. I want to pray, open my eyes and see the result. God does radish prayers.

Doug Neves illustration. – “Dude, no way!”

But I have also seen pepper prayers.

When I became a Christian I immedietly thought I need to share with my Dad and see him come to know Christ. I actually bought a plane ticket to visit him in California just to go and share Christ with him. It did not go very well, he listened, nodded his head, but no response. I kept praying and praying for the next 10 years. Then he shows up to a church service that I am pasturing and he receives Christ. It was worth the wait.

Radish prayer in the Bible – Church praying for Peter in jail. Explain

Pepper prayer in the Bible – Daniel praying in Babylon. Explain

Our prayers are alive, they are germinating, they will sprout, but the timing can be different.

The character of the person praying becomes more and more like the character of the person he or she is praying to. What a motivation. What prayer does to our character is another motivator to pray. Here is one more motivation.

3. Jesus teaching on prayer shows us the character of prayer.

If we look at the widow you can make a case that her requests got her out of bondage to her adversary. I believe we can pray ourselves out of bondages. We can pray ourselves out of stuff.

Prayer is a sign of active faith. It is what Jesus wants to find when he returns. Oh and by the way, what is Jesus doing right now. Interceding for us. He is praying that we would be praying.

Prayer is not just a defensive weapon to avoid tragedy, or prevent catastrophe. Prayer also comes from an excited, victorious mindset of moving forward in confidence.

Yes, prayer is preventative medicine, it is our 911 distress call, but it also is our playbook for victory. It is the language of winners, overcomers and advancers. It is the activity of expansion, not just the desire to survive, but with a plan to thrive.

Praying gets things done in the Kingdom. It creates a path for us to grow. Praying people are those who know they have power over the devil and are going to use that power to see God’s love spread throughout neigborhoods, communities and countries.

Exodus 17 a part of our journal reading for this week also shows us the character of prayer.

Exodus 17: 1b – 3a “They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses.”

The people were without water and they did not like it. They had a need and they let Moses know about it. Instead of praying they grumbled and they quarreled towards a person. They were physically and spiritually dehydrated. We start to lose it when we are dehydrated.

Studies tell us most Americans don’t drink enough water and it comes with consequences. Headaches, muscle inflexibility, toxin build up, weak immunity systems, slower muscle recovery, lethargic. Spiritually we can be dehydrated as well and it comes with consequences too. The Israelites were spiritually dehydrated. They reveal it in their reaction to a challenge. They grumble and they quarrel. The key is, it doesn’t produce any water.

Many of our complaints against others, against situations is a symptom of carrying problems ourselves, feeling victimized, but never taking it to God, so we take it out on others.

However Moses reaction was different. Moses went to God in prayer:

Exodus 17:4a Then Moses cried out to the Lord,”

The water was there, it was under the surface. It just required some prayer. He was the one who prayed and God showed him a rock to strike and it tapped a reservoir of fresh water. There was enough water for everyone. It is interesting that there was water present, but hidden from them under the surface. Prayer is the way to tap into what is there, unseen initially, under the surface, but ready to bubble up.

But fresh water doesn’t bubble up when we complain, grumble or quarrel. But it does when we pray. Prayer will severely limit and replace the grumbling and quarreling that takes place in relationships, in our homes, in our workplace and in our communities and instead will introduce new streams of grace and love and patience.

Character of prayer is revealed in the personal resources of grace released in our lives.

You may find yourself in some spiritually dehydrated environments. You can cry out to God in prayer and watch how He will open up a new wave of grace into the landscape. 

The power of prayer to tap into inexhaustible resources is the nature of prayer and serves as a great motivator.

Application: Sow generously in prayer and reap generously in the Kingdom.