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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Always Pray; Don’t Give Up

October 17, 2010

Always Pray; Don’t give up

Luke  18:1-8

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 18

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

Some of us have a keen sense of direction.  We usually have a general idea about where it is we are headed.  We can take off in that direction and get to where we need to be with few if any wrong turns.  Others of us, on the other hand, would be hard pressed to say which way is due North, and so have to get some help from a compass and a map or a GPS before taking the first step of any trip from home.  But then there is that good many of us who try to give the impression that we know exactly where we are going, while inwardly we are just guessing that it must be down this road somewhere.  And our hope is that we will stumble onto what we are looking for before it becomes so obvious that we are lost, that we have to ask some stranger for directions.

There are probably a number of reasons why it is difficult for some of us – many of us – to ask for directions or, for that matter, to ask for help of any kind at all.  But I wonder if all the reasons, stem from a misguided sense of shame.  We often feel ashamed to ask for help.  It seems like a sign of weakness to ask for help.  Or it’s a sign of ignorance to ask for directions or explanations.

You know what it’s like when you’re in a big group and everybody is talking about something that you don’t understand.  Everyone else is taking their turn adding to the conversation.  It’s obvious they all know what they are talking about.  But you don’t have a clue.  Sometimes it’s easier to just smile and nod your head then to interrupt the conversation and ask, wait, what?  I have to do that with football a lot.  I would rather just pretend I know what’s going on rather than to ask, who’s that guy.  Why did he do that?  And who is holding whom?

But we do need to recognize when it is important enough for us to ask for help or for directions or for an explanation.  It is a tragedy when a person puts up with a pain or a problem or tries to ignore a difficulty in their life that could be easily and quickly solved if they just asked for help.  Sometimes in life you have to suffer. You simply must endure those times, patiently.  But it is wrong to suffer when you don’t have to.  It’s wrong to suffer just because you are ashamed to ask for help.

What you must do, is believe that God has called you to be His servant in this present life and to serve your neighbor in love, to help them out when you can.  Then you must also believe that God has also put your neighbors in the positions that they are in, to serve you.  Whether they realize it or not, your neighbor is there to serve you.  Remembering that God works this way, you won’t feel like you are interrupting the clerk at a store to ask for help.  It’s his job to help you.  You won’t need to feel ashamed or weak to admit to the plumber that you have a problem you can’t fix on your own.  It’s his or her place to listen to you and you are their opportunity to do what God has them do.

It is God’s will that you love your neighbor and serve them, help them out.  It is also His will that your neighbor serve you and help you out. Hold them to that, expect that from them.  The persistent widow in this parable today, Jesus holds her up as an example for doing just that.

At first you might think that the widow woman comes off as an annoyance and a bother.  Who would want to be that?  But she was right to be persistent.  In order to protect herself and her interests she had to go to the judge and because the judge was slow to help her, she had to be persistent.

Jesus calls the judge, the “unjust judge”.  He was unjust because he wasn’t carrying out justice for the widow.  The problem is, he wasn’t doing his job, his calling from God.  He didn’t care about God or about people.  So He was an anti-judge, the opposite of what he was supposed to be.  An unjust judge.

The point of Jesus’ parable is this:  You who are reluctant to ask a stranger for directions, you who might get uncomfortable going to a doctor with your problems, you who are too ashamed to ask your neighbor for help or for advice, You must never hesitate to call upon the Lord in times of trouble.

In the book of James, that apostle says to us You do not have, because you do not ask God.  (James 4:2)

Know that God is there to help you.  That is his job, hold him to it.

Always pray; never give up.

It’s a pity that Jesus has to tell us that.  It’s too bad that he has to have this parable for those of us who are slow to pray, hesitant to pray, negligent in our prayers.  He never told a prayer for those who pray toomuch.  He knew that would not be our problem.  But he needed to teach us and rebuke us when we pray too little.

Always pray; never give up.

And really, why would you give up?

Do you think that you and your problems aren’t significant enough to bother the Lord with?  Learn what your baptism has done for you.  To you who believe and are baptized He has given the Holy Spirit and enabled you to be called the Sons of God.

Learn well how much He loves you.  He wants you to be with Him forever.  He is waiting for you in heaven, waiting to greet you like a groom greets his bride at the altar.

You are more significant than you realize.  Cast all your cares on Him for He cares for you.

Always pray, never give up.  And as you pray you will learn what are your most significant needs and you will learn what to pray for most persistently.  Consider the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer as you pray and have Jesus teach you how to pray from there.

Learn to pray by doing it.  Like riding a bike, you didn’t learn by reading a book about it or just by listening to someone talk about it, you learned by doing it.  As with so many things, so with prayer, you learn by doing it.  And then as you are doing it you grow in your understanding of it, deepen and improve your prayers by learning from the Lord and His word and by learning from the church in the corporate prayers we have here.

Always pray; never give up.

Even if it seems as though the Lord is putting off help for you.   Hear how Jesus wraps up His parable:  "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.

Pray with patience.  And trust.

            Like Jacob in the Old Testament reading today, wrestle with God.  He has promised to help you out in times of need.  His job is to keep His promises.  Hold Him to that.  When there seems to be a delay,  keep at it.  Be persistent in your petitions and requests to God.

            Yes, we know that God is doing His job.  Since the start of creation He has been at work for you, his beloved.  He will see that you get justice.  That’s the beauty of His love there.  That’s not the justice that you’ve got coming, because you don’t deserve any love or help from God.  You shouldn’t expect or demand that He gives you any aid.   But his is the justice that Jesus gives you when He wins His case against the devil and against all sin and against death.  God says, it is not good for my children to suffer, even when it is their own fault.  So I will give them justice for my Son’s sake.  I will bless them with Him

            And because of my Son, I will hear their prayers and I will answer them quickly.

Therefore you, my beloved ones, “always pray, never give up.”

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