Two Lessons on Prayer
September 17 - Nº 260 Luke 18:1-14
Through Lazarus’ death and resurrection, Jesus had taught his disciples (as well as Mary and Martha) that God does not always answer our requests in the time or manner we would like. But His answer is always best! This event also showed them that God has the power to fulfill even their most impossible desires (see #258 - Lazarus is Dead and #259 - Lazarus is Alive). But there were other lessons he wanted the disciples to learn about prayer before he left this earth. So, he told them two more parables. The first one 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. In his hometown there was a widow who kept bringing the same plea to his courtroom. She wanted him to give her justice against someone who had abused her. 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 justice. Then maybe she will leave me alone.” Jesus told his disciples, “You should go to God in prayer with the same determination as the widow. But you have a huge advantage. The judge didn’t care about that woman. God loves you and He wants to help you. He will never send you away, and He will always be sure that you receive justice.” Jesus did not want his disciples to become discouraged when they felt that their prayers were not being answered. Since they were willing to be persistent in earthly matters, they should be even more persistent in things that counted for eternity. Their persistence would not 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 to elevate 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, “Both men went home, but only one of them was justified before God. 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 a 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 there is to know about us. He wants our prayers to be simple, persistent, and humble.