Why Pray?

ELC October 20 2019

Luke 18:1-8 & Genesis 32:22-31 (a persistent widow & Jacob wrestles in prayer all night long…)

Weird questions that make us smile…

· Why do doctors and lawyers call what they do practice?

· Why is abbreviation such a long word?

· Why is a boxing ring square?

· What was the best thing before sliced bread?

· How do they get the deer to cross the highway at those yellow signs?

· How did a fool and his money get together in the first place?

Now another question; why do we pray?

A toddler climbed up somehow onto the back end of a flatbed truck and could not get back down.  Sitting on the edge of the truck bed, dangling his legs, he started calling out in a matter of fact sort of voice, “will somebody help the little boy, will somebody help the little boy?”  Sometimes our prayers are that simple.  Sometimes not!

Sometimes we get ourselves caught in predicaments that we cannot work our way out of and like that little boy we cry out for help.  Sometimes we see a loved one, a son or daughter or grandchild or nephew suffering and we pray for them.  Sometimes we pray for a group of people, like immigrants or families such as those caught between a rock and hard place on our southern border, and we pray for them.  

And sometimes we feel our prayers go unheard and unanswered.  Does it do any good to pray?  Why do we pray?  

Martin Luther on prayer:

  • “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”
  • “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
  • “Pray, and let God worry…”
  • “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing…”
  • “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”

Never, never, never, never give up. (Winston Churchill)

…so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.

There are so many verses that talk about prayer in Scripture.  Here are two:

1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing…”

Psalm 55:16-17

16 But I call to God, and the Lord will save me.

17 Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.

Prayer; it is a gift to be able to pour our hearts out to God.  He hears and cares for us in all circumstances of life.  Prayer; it is a command as well as an invitation.  Jesus taught us what we call “the Lord’s Prayer,” though it might more appropriately be called, the disciples’ prayer.  It is our connection with God, our soul’s life blood.  It helps bind us together with those for whom we pray.

Why do I pray?  Why do you pray?  What do you expect to accomplish in and through your prayers?  Do you expect to change your circumstances?  Do you think you might change God’s plans?  

Last week’s Gospel reading was about ten lepers being healed, and just one, a foreigner, a non-Jew, coming back to say thank you!  Following that reading Luke quotes Jesus as talking about being ready for the end—the Second Coming.  That is the context for Jesus’ telling us the story of the widow who persists in getting justice from a cold, heartless judge.  

He prefaces that parable by saying, we should always pray and never, ever quit; never loose heart.  Then He breaks into this parable of the unjust judge and the helpless widow.  

Parable is a Greek compound word:  para ballo.  The first word, para, means along side.  The second means to throw.  It is the basis for our word ball.  Paraballo…Parable.  To throw a spiritual concept or truth alongside something more common and earthy.  

Sometimes parables help us to know more about God and God’s love in Christ Jesus.  This parable does not teach us about God.  Rather it teaches about the importance of never giving up hope, never giving up on prayer.  

If we are honest, I think we all want to give up and throw in the towel sometimes.  Job in the book that bears his name did.  He got so miserable at one point he wanted to just die.  He felt it would have been better to never have been born.  Have you ever felt that way?

We live in a world that is filled with evil and violence.  Even when we want to be positive and see only the good, injustice and evil are inescapable and unavoidable.  There are times when it seems that bad days and bad guys outnumber the good.  Thousands and millions even are killed without justice.  Families lose run for their lives, loose family members, loose their possessions, lose their homes and freedom.  Good businesses fail.  Scoundrels and crooks succeed.  Boys of the wrong race and color are lynched with no justice or repercussion.  Girls are raped and the offender gets off scot-free.  

There is no shortage of bad news. We can grow weary and succumb to just wanting to give up!  Life on this side of heaven is hard, harsh and hellish.  

Is it any wonder that Jesus ends this little parable with the question, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”  It is easy to despair and yield to cynicism. 

Our parable is about a woman trying to get justice in an unjust, cruel world.  Her judge could care less about her or her situation.  He had no regard for anyone or even God.  Yet he finally gave in and helped this woman.  

His motivation?  “This woman is wearing me out with her continued battering of me.  It actually has the sense of a boxing match in a boxing ring with the continued battering and beating of the opponents upon each other.  The Greek word is hypopiahdzo.  Paul used this word in 1 Corinthians 9:27 where he says, “boxing as though beating the air.” This woman was determined and would not quit!  

The parable therefore is more about our never giving up on hope; our never giving in to bad thinking and acting; our quitting on faith and trust.  When we fail to trust the goodness of God and give in to evil thinking, speaking, living and just down right bad attitudes ourselves then evil really does win the day.  That is why Jesus ends this parable with the question:  When He (Jesus) comes again, will there be people who still believe and live in faith, trusting God’s goodness, doing God’s will?  

So whether you are like the little boy stuck on a flatbed truck, or like this woman in our text, never give up hoping.  Never stop pouring your heart out to God. Keep praying.  Keep trusting.  Keep believing.  Hit back against evil and injustice.  Keep following Jesus and living for God.  You and I are called to be different.  Let’s not give up on that call! 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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