Two Lessons on Prayer
SEPTEMBER 17- Nº 260 Luke 18:1-14
Through Lazarus’ death and resurrection (see #258 - September 15 and #259 - September 16), Jesus taught His disciples (as well as Mary and Martha and us) several lessons about prayer. He demonstrated that not all of God’s answers will make sense to us. They won’t always seem right or loving or fair, but they will always result in what is best! This event also illustrated that nothing we request is too hard for God to answer! But there were other lessons that Jesus wanted the disciples to learn about prayer before he left this earth. So, he taught them using two more parables: The first parable was about a judge. The judge was not a good man. He did not worship God, and he really didn’t care about the people he served—especially a certain widow who kept bringing the same plea into his courtroom day after day. She insisted on receiving justice for an abuse she had suffered. The judge kept refusing to hear her case, but she came back again and again. Finally, the judge said, “I don’t really care what happens to this woman, but because she keeps bothering me, I will give her the justice she is demanding. Then maybe she will leave me alone.” Jesus told his disciples, “You should go to God in prayer with the same determination as that widow. But you have a huge advantage. The judge did not care about that woman. God loves you and He wants to help you. He will never send you away, and He will always grant you justice.” Jesus did not want his disciples to become discouraged when God’s answers seemed delayed. He pointed out how willing they were to be persistent in earthly matters. He wanted them to be even more persistent in things that counted for eternity. Their persistence would not necessarily change God, but it would change them as they learned to communicate with Him and rely on Him. Jesus also wanted his followers to be humble when they prayed. He did not want them to use prayer as a way of elevating themselves. So, he told another parable contrasting two men who went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood in a prominent place as he prayed, and his prayer was all about himself. “God,” he prayed, “I thank you that I am not like all other men who are robbers, adulterers, and sinners. I’m especially glad that I am not like that tax collector over there! I fast twice a week and give a tenth of everything I earn to the Temple.” The tax collector, on the other hand, stood away from everyone. He would not even look up to heaven. Instead, he beat his hand against his chest in shame and said, “God, have mercy on me because I am a sinner.” Jesus concluded the story by saying, “Only one of those men went home justified. It was the tax collector!” Then he added, “God will humble those who exalt themselves, but He will exalt those who humble themselves.”
Too often, when we pray, we are like little kids who knock on someone’s front door then run away. By the time God opens the door, we are no longer there to receive the blessings He has for us. Other times we try to justify ourselves before a God Who already knows everything about us. God wants our prayers to be simple, persistent, and humble.