Committed To Prayer
1 Thessalonians 5:17
11 different times in the Old Testament we read about Cyrus the great, who was the founder of the Persian Empire and the one who sent the Jews back to Jerusalem following their captivity in Babylon. King Solomon was the only king considered wiser than Cyrus, and both men knew how to use their great wisdom to invoke devotion. There is a story told following the capture of a city by the Persian Army. The Prince of that city was brought before Cyrus, and the great king asked the prince, What will you give me if I release you? The prince replied I’ll give you half of my wealth.
Cyrus asked, And if I release your children? The prince said, I will give you everything I possess.
Cyrus continued, And what would you give if I release your wife? Without hesitation the prince said, Your Majesty, I will give my life.
Cyrus was so moved by this man’s devotion to his family that he allowed them to all to return to their home. On their journey back, the prince said to his wife, Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man! With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you, the one who was willing to give himself for me.
Devotion has a way of consuming our attention, time, talent, and resources. Some people are devoted to their jobs and haven’t missed a day in years. Some are devoted to their spouse or kids and they make great sacrifices for them. Some are devoted to sports or entertainment or having a good time. Whatever you are devoted to will affect your time, how you spend your money, and what you think about. Every aspect of our lives shows the truth about where our devotion lies.
Last week I started laying the ground work for my dream, or agenda for this church family. I reminded you that we need to be devoted to the Bible, it’s the only truth that can sustain all os the doubt and struggles we face in this life. I hope this week you started getting to the text, reading a gospel so that you can see Jesus and focus your on getting the text into your mind, so it can effect your heart and transform your life. This week we are looking the next step in my vision for this church, a people that are committed to prayer.
If we are serious about being a Church of Christ, or a Church that is striving to be like Christ, we need to be committed and devoted to the things He was devoted to. While Jesus was devoted to the Father, and committed to the Scriptures, He found His power in prayer. He talked about the need to pray, He taught His disciples how to pray, and would often get away just so that He could pray.
Maybe you have noticed in your life, that often times there is bit of a rub from what I want to do and what I actually do. I want to pray without ceasing, but there are times when it doesn’t feel like my prayers ever get past the ceiling. There are times I wonder if God can even hear my prayers, because He’s timing is different than mine, or His plan is different that the one I have laid out. Have you ever prayed for a sick friend that passed away, or a job that never came through, or a family member to get right with God and they just continued to move farther and farther away?
I believe in being honest with each other, it’s help us see how normal we really are. We could all honestly say that there have been times in our lives where we struggled with our prayer lives. And it’s not just us, everyone throughout history has struggled with their prayer lives; our bibles are filled with folks who felt the frustration of an unanswered prayer.
Jesus understood that there were going to be times in our lives when we would be tempted to quit praying. That’s why He so often talked about our need to be committed in prayer. Even in our text for this morning we find Jesus teaching another parable about being persistent in prayer. Look with me in Luke 18:1-8. Let’s read the text and then pray. (Read Text)
God understands the difficulty we have with prayer. So once again we find Jesus encouraging His followers to not give up on prayer. Found in this story are some pretty great reasons that we need to be people who are committed to prayer.
First we see that Jesus teaches us that we need to Keep on praying because sometimes the answer to prayer will be delayed.
In other words, don’t stop praying just because we don’t see results quickly. In verse 1 we are told that Jesus was urging them to keep praying and never grow discouraged. You know if our prayers were answered quickly, Jesus would have never had to teach this parable. I mean, we’re only tempted to give up on something when we are not seeing significant results in a timely manner.
Have you ever been on a diet or started an exercise program? That’s a pretty common New Year’s resolution. I have a friend who owns a donut shop in Port Arthur Texas. A few years ago we were talking and she was telling me how slow business was in January. Everyone makes these resolutions to lose weight and we always struggle in January she said. But then she smiled and said it’s going to be okay because February is coming and people will forget all about their silly resolutions. She was right, while January might be slow in the donut business, by the first week of February folks have forgotten about all of those pesky resolutions and go back to the old way of eating fast food and spending the evenings on the couch. The reason is that we expect dynamic results in a few days, and when they don’t come we get discouraged and give up.
Jesus teaches that prayer needs to be coupled with patience and faith. Faith that God can do what He claims to be able to do and patience because God is long suffering. God has the ability to wait for the right time to do the right thing. That’s exactly what Peter says in 2 Peter 3:9 Now the Lord is not slow about enacting His promise, slow is how some people want to characterize it, no, He is not slow but patient and merciful to you, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but wanting everyone to turn away from following his own path and to turn toward God’s path.
The Lord is not slow, just patient. What would have happened if Jesus would have returned for His followers 100 year before you were born? If that would have happened, you would not be in existence today and you would not have opportunity to spend eternity around the throne of God. But you see, God loves you so much, He wants to spend eternity with you. You are not an accident. You are not here on earth by chance. God has willed you into existence!
What would have happened if Jesus would have returned for His followers an hour before you made the decision to follow Him? What would have happened if Jesus would have returned just a minute prior to you receiving Him as your Savior and making Him the Lord of your life?
Our view of time is skewed anyway. If we are at a restaurant and our food gets to the table in 5 minutes, we would say that’s fast. If a couple gets engaged after dating for 6 months we would say that was fast. But we all understand that there is a world of difference between 5 minutes and 6 months. So we need to remember that time is a relative term.
That’s why Jesus says that the Lord is not slow. Even though for some of us God seems awfully slow at times. I have to admit that there have been plenty of times that my prayers have been accompanied with times of waiting. But we have to remember that God is not constrained by our view of time. God is bigger and greater than our view of time.
Think back to the last few months. In December of 2015 Jim announced that he was going to transition out of the pulpit and you were committed to praying that God would send the right family to come and join the Greenbrier family. But as the days, turned to weeks, and turned into months, the desire to pray was harder and harder. It’s so easy during those times of waiting to wonder if our prayers are in vain. But standing on the other side we realize that God’s delay was not His denial. He was in the process of getting everything ready so that His will could be done.
Maybe this morning you have lost your commitment to pray fervently for something important. Maybe you are discouraged or convinced that your prayers will not be answered? Perhaps you have had some of the same thoughts so many followers of Christ have struggled with, that my request was not in God’s will and you began to accept the status quo. If that describes you this morning let me encourage you to get back on your knees and keep praying, because sometimes the answers to our prayers are delayed.
Next Jesus wants us to keep praying because perseverance in prayer is essential for success.
In verses 2-5, Jesus could have said that a woman came before judge, with no other details, but that’s not what he did. Rather He was specific in what He said; a widow came before an unjust Judge. This is significant because a widow in those days had no money to bribe the judge, no husband to speak up for her, and no influence to pressure the judge to do what is right. In essence, she was in a helpless situation, without any other source or recourse.
Her only option was to keep asking the judge to help her. If she was going to have relief she had to persevere. There were no other alternatives. You understand that the widow in the story represents us. We need to realize that we must persevere in prayer because we have no other source of hope or help.
Sadly many of us never really pray or preserver in prayer until we come to the place of complete desperation and have no other plan or recourse. But did you notice that the widow was intent on finding justice, no matter how times she had to petition the judge. She didn’t just ask once and say, Let me know what you decide. She is persistent, she asks again and again and again. Have you ever asked God for something, and when He didn’t answer your prayer immediately, you quit praying?
The most effective prayers in the Bible are those that were prayed persistently. In Psalm 55:16-17, David wrote: I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. David was a man after God’s own heart, which is why he was devoted to prayer.
In the Old Testament, Hannah desperately wanted a child. For many years she prayed and prayed to have a child. After her prayer was unanswered for years she didn’t say, Well, it must not be God’s will for me to have a child. She kept on praying for years, and eventually God gave her a son, Samuel.
Even Jesus prayed persistently. On the night before the crucifixion, He was in the Garden of Gethsemane pouring out His heart to His Father. His prayer burden was so intense there were drops of blood, like sweat on His forehead. He prayed, Father, take this cup from me, but not my will but yours be done! He prayed it again and again. Three times He cried out to His Father, and His Father heard Him and gave Him the strength and resolve to face the cross.
Persistence is an important factor in prayer. God blesses those who persist. So whatever you may be facing right now, don’t give up! Persistence is essential if we want to be successful.
One of the greatest running backs in professional football was Emmitt Smith. He is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame not because he was as flashy as Walter Payton or Barry Sanders, or possessed the break away speed of Bo Jackson, He’s in the hall of fame because of his ability to just kept on running. In his career he ran for 18,355 yards. That’s almost 10 1/2 miles. And while 10 1/2 miles may not seem that far you have to understand that he did that against 11 huge defensive players trying to take his head off. Emmitt’s average run over those 10 1/2 miles was 4.2 yards at a time. That means he was tackled and knocked down 4,409 times. And after every tackle, he got back up and ran the ball again. Sure, he was injured a few times, but he always returned. Persistence is not being knocked down almost 4,500 times, but the ability to get up and run again.
Even the best of people get knocked down in life, but what sets them apart from the rest of the world is their desire to get up. Life is full of sour people who will tackle you. You will face difficult circumstances that trip your feet out from under you. The poor widow in Jesus’ parable had been knocked flat, but she refused to stay down. She got up and persistently made her request to the judge. Preserving in prayer is essential.
Finally we see that we must Keep on praying because you’re special to God.
My favorite part of this text is found in verse 7 where Jesus says we are "his chosen ones." Do you know that? Do you understand how important you are to God? The most powerful messages in the world today is that God loves us. Every individual person is important to God; we are created in His image and the objects of His love. G.K. Chesterton understood this truth when he said, All people matter. You matter. I matter. It’s the hardest thing in theology to believe.
When teaching His disciples, Jesus said, But don’t misunderstand: you don’t really need to be afraid of God, because God cares for every little sparrow. How much is a sparrow worth—don’t five of them sell for a few cents? Since you are so much more precious to God than a thousand flocks of sparrows, and since God knows you in every detail—down to the number of hairs on your head at this moment—you can be secure and unafraid of any person, and; you have nothing to fear from God either. Luke 12:6-7 (The Voice).
There is not a single bird that falls from the sky without God’s notice; and how much more important are we than a few birds? You are so import that God knows every hair on your head. And while some of us may have a few more hairs than others, the message the same, God loves you and He knows everything about you. And He still chooses you again and again. Every failure, every mistake, every sin won’t diminish His love for you.
Max Lucado once said: Our prayers may be awkward, our attempts may be feeble, But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not the one who says it our prayers do make a difference.
That’s why we must be committed to Him in prayer. We believe that God will listen to and respond to our request. We don’t expect Him to listen and respond because we have great faith. We don’t expect Him to listen and respond because we have fasted. We don’t expect to be heard because we’ve been exceptionally righteous or religious. We expect God to hear and respond because of His amazing love. We expect Him to listen and respond because He is wonderful, caring, loving, merciful God who chose us.
As we close this morning I want to share with you one more quote. E.M. Bounds writings have taught me so much about prayer, and one of my mustard seeds is that: Prayer is not supposed to get man’s will done in heaven. But prayer is supposed to get God’s will done on earth. We are committed to prayer because our greatest desire is for His will to be done in our lives. That’s the only way we will find lasting joy, peace, and contentment.