Lord Jesus, we are grateful that you do bind us together in Your love. You give us the gift of prayer, communication with You. We know that the prayer of a righteous man or woman is powerful and effective. Father, give us eyes to see and ears to hear how we can live in You today. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
We are in the middle of this series, looking at the ‘one anothers’ of Scripture together. The ‘one another’ that we are going to look at is “Pray for One Another”. This is a really important topic for us to be wrestling with. Many of us may feel guilty when we hear this, if we don’t pray for one another enough. That is the offer. That is the opportunity that is before us every moment of every day to stay in this constant connection with our Lord. Sometimes it will be this quiet, on your knees, contemplative prayer. Praying the Lord’s Prayer. Praying the Apostle’s Creed. But doesn’t that launch you into a moment by moment moving in prayer kind of existence?
That is what God wants for us. That is why He starts out right here in the Gospel. It is known as “The Persistent Widow” parable. This can really be misunderstood, so let’s make sure we get this right. Luke 18:1 starts out, “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them they should always pray and not give up.” Are you tempted to give up sometimes? Do you get discouraged in prayer? Like it doesn’t seem that God is giving me what I want here. In hindsight, we learn that our Lord is a loving Father who gives us what we need, not what we want. I’m just like every one of you. I can get sucked into that American Christianity vibe, saying “I’m going to go to God, I’ll come to church and I’ll pray so that God will come down and bless my life. He’ll give me what I think is best for me. I’ll sanctify it by going to church.” Aren’t you glad, sometimes, that He doesn’t do that? That He protects us from ourselves? And then again, in hindsight, you see how gracious and merciful and good our God truly is. But when you’re going through difficulties, when you’re struggling, when there is pain and hardship and disease, it’s a struggle, is it not, to believe that our God is good?
C.S. Lewis is one of my spiritual heroes. He wrote “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. He has a very interesting story. He met his wife later in life. They had a couple of great years together and then she got sick with cancer. This is depicted in a movie called “Shadowlands”. There are actually two versions of it. In the newer version, Anthony Hopkins plays C.S. Lewis. There is this scene (his wife’s illness has gotten really bad now) and he’s a professor at Oxford and they are all dressed and doing some formal gathering. They’re in the back before they are about to process in and the Pastor of the college was there and he said, “Oh Jack (this was C.S. Lewis’ nickname), thank God for your faith, thank God for your prayers.” Then he said something that has always caught me off guard. It always makes me think about my prayer life with the Lord. He said, “When I pray, it doesn’t change God, it changes me.” Sometimes you only learn that lesson by praying through difficulty.
Luke 18:2-3 continues, “He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about what people thought. And there was a widow in that town (remember what a widow was; someone without rights, without standing in that society) who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.'” I have no right to ask this, but please help me.
Principle #1 – Persist in Prayer. This first point is very clear. Persist in communicating with God. Even someone, He is using this comparison model, who has no right to be speaking to this judge, no reason to think that he’s going to listen, yet He’s using this as a model for us in some ways. God wants us to remain in constant communication with Him.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 says it like this, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” That last phrase really gets me. When you move out of that place of prayer, that communication, that submission, that walking with my Lord place, we start walking in the flesh. We quench the Spirit. We stop being strengthened by the Spirit.
Continuing in Luke 18:4-5, “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, (he wanted to make sure everybody got that) yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!'” I think that some people are tricked by Satan into believing that that’s how we should approach our relationship with God. If I just try hard enough, if I just overwhelm Him with the volume of prayer, He’s got to do what I want Him to do. So let’s be clear on this; the volume of prayer doesn’t change God. He’s perfect already. Isn’t that good news? He’s immutable. Now the Holy Spirit driving you to continue in prayer will be all about God changing us, teaching us to depend. And we will see His miraculous provision, according to His will, His understanding of what is good, not ours.
Continuing with Luke 18:6-8, “And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Because His will will be done. Then Jesus asked the next question, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Will my people who are called by my name, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, will they believe that I’m good? Will they know that I’m good? Will they know that I know what’s best for them? Or will they turn prayer, or lack thereof, in to this try to manipulate God dynamic? Do you feel the tension? Live by faith. Our God is good. Our God can be trusted. He who has made the promise is faithful and He will follow through.
Principle #2 – Pray with Faith in God. We need to learn how to pray with faith in God, trusting Him. Saying “Father, change me.” He’s the same God who said to treat every hardship as discipline. God’s treating you as sons and daughters. He’s trying to grow us up and sometimes that’s what He uses. Through prayer He will continue to protect you from going into despair. Through prayer He’ll strengthen you, He’ll give you perspective, He’ll give you the energy you need to persevere. So pray continually and pray for one another. Especially when things are hitting someone’s life, pray for them because you know that we have an evil adversary who roams around like a devouring lion looking for people to devour. God wants us to live by faith in Him and this gets expressed in our prayer lives. We are to pray for everything while trusting that His will, will be done. And it will be good. Even if it means our lives, so be it Lord. Thy will be done.
That’s what leads us to our wonderful Ephesians passage: Spiritual Armor of God. Because in prayer, we are recalibrating our lives with our Lord and He’s repositioning us, putting that armor of God on every day. In Ephesians 6:10-12 he says,” Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full Armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” So I’ve got this sin that lives in me. We’ve got this world system for those who are not walking by the Spirit who will be used as agents of evil to create ways that are not of God. We’ve got the spiritual forces of evil attacking us. Well, here’s the good news; the Holy Spirit who lives within me and you, and God and His angels come to fight for us. He who is in us is way stronger than he who is in this world. But if we are not living by faith, if we are not staying connected, then we are fair game. I cannot stand apart from God.
Principle #3 – Prayer will be Discouraged by Evil. Did you ever feel that your desire to pray goes down a little bit from time to time? Well, that is definitely the tractor beam of evil, trying to weaken me and you, trying to disconnect us from this life that God has for us. Satan and the forces of evil will fight against us and discourage us from praying to God and definitely discourage us from praying for one another. Because when that starts happening, it gets exciting.
I just got back from a six day trip. Two days down in Dallas, two days in New York and two days with a great Lutheran church in Nebraska and I’m exhausted. I can tell you that I feel the power of people praying. We have intercessory prayer warriors that are praying for what God’s doing through the ministry. Thank you for praying for us, for all the Pastors, for the Leaders of this church as we’re commanded to pray for one another. God cannot do great things without the power of Him moving through community. God is getting ready to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine through this church. You’ve got to see it, it going to get awesome.
Ephesians 6:13-14 says, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” I love this phrasing actually because it’s not ‘put on’ the breastplate, we’ve been clothed in righteousness. It’s already in place, you see in prayer, I remember. When I am not walking in the Spirit, I don’t remember. I think maybe I need to work hard, maybe I can do it for myself. I’m nothing without Him, therefore I need to remember that it’s His righteousness that he purchased for me on the cross. That is how I live.
Continuing with Ephesians 6:15, “and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. ” I’ve been forgiven and I can be one who forgives. I can give grace because His grace has been given to me. I can run into any relationship and be God’s man or woman of peace. Peace comes through forgiveness. Ephesians 6:16 says, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Think about this, back then there was pretty much two instruments; the sword (and spears) which was up close and personal and then there were the arrows. With the arrow, the idea is that it is shot from a distance. The shield of faith makes me not have to worry about my future. I have faith in Him. He who has saved me will take care of us. I don’t have to worry, therefore I do what He commands me. I cast all my anxieties upon Him, through prayer and petition. He guards my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. That’s faith. Then I put on the “helmet of salvation”, remembering that I am saved by grace through faith and I remember what my Lord has done for me and that nobody or nothing can take it away. I remember that it has His insignia on it and I am part of His team now. The one offensive weapon, I pick up the “sword of the spirit”, which is the word of God and we proclaim God’s truth in this world, which cuts through the error of the evil one and says God is good and He loves you and wants you to know this life. He wants to talk with you, so pray. Pray to Him, don’t disconnect. Stay constantly connected to your Lord.
Principle #4 – Through Prayer we put on the Full Armor or God. When we pray and recalibrate our lives with God, the Holy Spirit enables us to engage in Spiritual Warfare, which is every day, and thrive. When I disconnect, I’m fair game and I am not good at fighting the evil one in my own strength. But in and through faith in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, there is strength. Finally, in Ephesians 6:18-20, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me (Paul writes), that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains (he was in prison). Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Principle #5 – Prayer is Powerful and Effective. I believe that communication with God is an amazing gift that we do not want to squander. We will find strength and we will find guidance. God will illuminate His word and lead us to life. I believe that we are to do everything in the Spirit, especially prayer, trusting in God’s guidance and power for everything. Remember the Scripture from James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” If this is true and we are His redeemed ones, baptized into His name, with the Holy Spirit living in us, let’s pray for one another and become, as Jesus said (Matthew 21:13), “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus, we are so grateful for this gift of prayer. To be able to bring our lives to You and to know without a shadow of a doubt, though we might not understand it, Your will will be done. You’re our loving, good God. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for this body. Thank You for the way that You move us by Your Spirit to intercede for one another, to watch each other’s backs, to stand in Your Spirit together, that Your name might be glorified, Your Gospel might be proclaimed and people might know the life that is truly life. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.