As we slowly emerge from the rigors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I must confess to you that I have grown concerned for our nation because there has not been a more concerted effort nationally to beseech the Lord’s help during this crisis. In times past, our national and local leaders would call for the people of the United States of America to join together in prayer asking for God’s help when great difficulties swept our land. In our day and in this crisis, there have been few calls for prayer and even less commitment to consistently cry out for our Lord’s help for our families, our communities, our churches, and our nation. Perhaps I can, for a moment, refresh your memory about our nation and prayer. I would like to call upon two of our greatest presidents who will give testimony to our nation’s devotion to prayer. One comes from the year 1863 and President Abraham Lincoln, who, during our nation’s devastating Civil War proclaimed:
“Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation. And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
“And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then, to humble ourselves be-fore the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion. All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”
Today, June 6, 2021, marks the seventy-seventh anniversary of the allied invasion of Normandy, France, during history’s deadliest conflict: World War II. As members of the armed forces of the United States stormed ashore, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called all Americans to prayer. Addressing the nation by radio, the President prayed: “My fellow Americans: At [this] moment troops of the United States and our allies [are] crossing the [English] Channel in great operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer: Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
"They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
"Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas–whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice. Because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
"Give us strength, too–strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces. And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be. And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”
I quoted from these two presidents to remind you that we were once a people who prayed to the living God for help during times of trouble. Faith was not as foreign to our predecessors as it seems to be to us today. People humbled themselves before the Lord and recognized they needed His help as difficulties swept over this land. Things have not changed: we are still faced by catastrophes more powerful than we are. People have not changed: we are still overwhelmed by things and events we cannot control. God has not changed: He is still the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, loving, merciful, and gracious God who calls upon His people to trust in Him. I therefore submit to you that just as did those who came before us, we must also become people of prayer. And if our national leaders will not call us to prayer, then may our churches rise up and call those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to solemn and worshipful prayer.
In the verses we will explore today, our Lord Jesus exhorts all of us to pray. He tells us that He always responds when His people pray. Will we obey Him and call upon Him in prayer by faith? We begin with the goal of Jesus’ parable.
THE GOAL OF JESUS’ PARABLE. Luke 18:1
A Parable for Jesus’ Disciples. I remind you that in the present context, Jesus has just concluded a brief discourse on His Second Coming as He answer the question from a group of Pharisees about when the Kingdom of God was coming. In His answer, Jesus told them that when He returned, He would be seen as vividly as lightning is seen when it flashes across the sky. His coming would mark a time of judgment and although most people would unprepared for His return and unaware of His coming, divine judgment will still come upon the earth forcing the separation of those who have trusted in Christ and are therefore saved, from those who have rejected Jesus Christ and are consequently eternally lost. Many will be taken away into God’s judgment while some will be left to enter the Messiah’s Millennial Kingdom. Now in chapter eighteen, as He finished His teaching on His Second Coming, Jesus turned to His disciples and encouraged them to apply His message by being men and women of prayer.
Pray at All Times. For a true disciple of Jesus Christ, prayer is necessary and comprehensive. They should pray at all times because at all times there are reasons to pray. Just as our spiritual forebears had reasons to pray, so do we. We must not only pray for our families during this time of pandemic and social crisis, we must pray for a spiritual awakening to sweep across this land. There are multitudes who are lost and without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and they must turn to Jesus for salvation. They need to hear the message of God’s grace and forgiveness found in Jesus Christ and they need to receive Christ as Savior or they will be eternally lost and condemned.
This is the consistent message of the New Testament. Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) He also wrote, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18) We must pray in all circumstances and for every trial. We are not meant to go through life’s difficulties without knowing God’s will and without being aware of His presence. Jesus’ teaching aim in this parable is to convey the idea that all Christians must persevere and persist in prayer. Our prayers signal our trust and faith in our Savior. We humbly confess the depths of our need for Him. We call out to Him because we know He will help those who pray.
Pray and Do Not Lose Heart. Did you notice the cause-and-effect sequence here? If we do not pray, we will lose heart. Difficulties and troubles in life can overwhelm us and bring us to spiritual exhaustion. By losing heart Christians can fail to pray assuming God must not be listening or will not give us what we seek. Jesus knew that this spiritual weariness would develop because of the interval between His first and second coming. It is therefore vital that those who have trusted in Christ as Savior continue to pray.
THE CONTENT OF JESUS’ PARABLE. Luke 18:2-6
An Unrighteous Judge. The judge in Jesus’ parable was evidently a civil rather than a religious judge. We are told that he did not fear God. He had no relationship with the Lord and no desire to judge according to the Old Testament Law, preferring instead to follow his own judicial reasoning. He is morally and ethically ungodly and entirely humanistic. He also has no desire for social justice because he does not respect man. He has little if any compassion for the difficulties of others and ignores his requirement to administer his decisions with justice. He is completely self-serving and apathetic. In this parable, the judge is pictured in contrast with God, who is nothing at all like this judge.
A Widow’s Request. The widow asks for legal protection. In the first century, widows lived in almost complete dependence of others. Women married at a much younger age than they do in our time, so this widow may have not been very old. She clearly had no other family members who would take up her case, so she had to do it herself. She seems to be facing some sort of financial difficulty that likely will have serious repercussions in her life. She has only one course of action. She must go before this unrighteous judge and appeal for relief. Court officials of that time often took bribes which she could not afford. She must find a way to convince this judge to hear her case.
The Widow’s Persistence. We note her persistence. Even though this judge had such a poor reputation, the widow kept coming to him pleading for him to rule in her favor. Finally, after much pleading by the widow, the judge relented and gave her the legal protection she requested. We must also notice that this judge did not help the widow out of compassion, but because he was worried about himself. He did not want to be worn out.
THE APPLICATION OF JESUS’ PARABLE. Luke 18:7-8
God Hears the Prayers of His Elect. Unlike the unrighteous judge in His parable, God is merciful and compassionate and hears His people when they pray. When we pray, we realize that we are in great need and we recognize that our only hope is in our Lord. Jesus separated the elect from all others in terms of hearing their prayers. Those elected are those who have been chosen by God and who have chosen Jesus Christ as their Lord and Master. This fact places them in a unique position as the saints of God and as such, God always hears their prayers.
He Will Bring Justice. Ultimately and inevitably, God will see to it that the elect are fully vindicated. God has not and will not forget His elect. And unlike the unrighteous judge, He does not need persistence or badgering. He loves His own and will bring justice. When the time of His judgment fully comes, He will not delay to dispense true and holy justice on behalf of those who have placed their faith and trust in Him.
When Jesus Returns, Will He Find Faith on the Earth? The Apostle Paul has told us that in the last days difficult times will come. (2 Timothy 3:1) Conditions of life may be so troublesome that people will not trust in the Lord and fail to pray. They will not be praying in anticipation of His return. As Christians, we should not allow our faith to waiver as we wait for the Lord Jesus to return. We must continue to pray and serve until Jesus comes.
Do we have the persistent widow’s faith in seeking God? With troubles and difficulties swirling continually around us, we do far more on our knees with our voices lifted up to the Lord in prayer than anything else. Certainly, you and I should pray at all times and not grow weary, distracted, disappointed, or lose heart. We serve a just and sovereign God and He has promised to hear and answer our prayers according to His perfect will. You and I are called upon to trust Him. What is going on in your life right now that you need to bring to the Lord in prayer? Do you have health problems or financial difficulties? Take it to the Lord in prayer! Are you experiencing troubles in relationships or conflicts with others? We serve the God of grace who hears your prayers. Come to the Lord in prayer and have faith and confidence in Him.
Updated by Pastor Vernon Welkner, 6/9/2021