Prayer & God's Response

The Gospel of Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:31:19
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Introduction: One of the greatest privileges, yet also one of the most neglected and misunderstood gifts we have, is the gift of prayer. Certainly prayer means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some it is an empty ritual they repeat in a religious ceremony. For others it is a time to remind God how awesome they think they are and how bad everyone else is. For others prayer is simply a laundry list of items they want God to do and things they want God to fix. For others prayer is their lifeline. It is a time to talk to their Heavenly Father, to spend time at His feet praising Him and thanking Him for His goodness, mercy and grace. It is an opportunity to ask, seek and knock. For most of us prayer is a combination of several things. Jesus taught us a lot about prayer in His Word and He teaches us a lot in this 18th chapter of Luke. . .
Scripture Introduction: In today’s message we will examine two parables about prayer. Through these parables we will be reminded of this important and vital truth: “We should pray with confidence that God will respond, but our confidence should be in God’s mercy, not in our own goodness.”
As we look at the first parable together notice . . .

The Persistent Prayer of a Child Looking for Justice

This chapter begins telling us WHY Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow. His intention was to teach those in the crowd that they should “ALWAYS pray and not to LOSE HEART.” The term “lose heart” can also be translated “become discouraged.” Do you ever get discouraged? I do! Jesus told this parable about prayer to remind us of some things that will help us not to “lose heart.”
The phrase “lost heart” is similar to phrase Paul used in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 & Galatians 6:9 --”Do not grow weary.”
Galatians 6:9 ESV
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
2 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
So the goal of the parable that Jesus told is so that His followers will not lose heart, or not grow weary, but ALWAYS pray!
He then proceeds to tell the parable about an unrighteous judge who did not fear God or respect people. This unrighteous judge had a problem. A persistent woman constantly asked him to do something about an adversary. We assume that she had been mistreated or taken advantage of and she wanted justice! He refused to do anything about it, but because of this woman’s PERSISTENCE he finally decided to give in. He said, “She’s going to beat me down (literally give me a black eye)” by her continual coming to me over and over and over again. She finally WORE him down and he decided to give her justice.
Then, beginning in verse 6, Jesus contrasts the story of the PERSISTENT widow and the UNRIGHTEOUS judge, with the persistent children of God who bring their requests to the RIGHTEOUS Judge of the universe! It’s a VERY different story! While the unrighteous judge wanted the widow to leave him alone, the RIGHTEOUS JUDGE invites His children to come to Him! While the unrighteous judge didn’t really care about the widow, the RIGHTEOUS JUDGE lovingly cares for His children!
There is a lot we can learn from this parable:
The PERSISTENT WIDOW was a woman of FAITH. The Faithlife Study Bible says:

The widow’s persistence reflected faith that her request would be granted someday. Jesus calls on His followers to demonstrate this same kind of faith as they wait for His return.

Secondly, our Heavenly Father is a RIGHTEOUS JUDGE who is FAR DIFFERENT than the UNRIGHTEOUS JUDGE the widow appealed to. The Bible Guide says:
The Bible Guide The Parable of the Persistent Widow (18:1–8)

Jesus says that God isn’t like that judge. He isn’t reluctant, lazy or indifferent to our requests. He loves to hear from his people, and to answer their prayers.

Herein is the problem from our perspective…God does not always answer our prayers with a “YES.” Sometimes He answers with a “NO” and sometimes His answer is “WAIT.” While His answer will come “speedily” in the big scheme of things, His answer may not always be on our TIMETABLE. We must be like this PERSISTENT WIDOW who had faith that an “UNRIGHTEOUS JUDGE would do the right thing,” our faith ought to be encouraged to know that a “RIGHTEOUS JUDGE will surely do the right thing!” Keep asking and keep trusting, no matter how long it may take and no matter what the answer may be! Let Romans 8:28 and the following verses be the “soundtrack of your life!”
We learn something else about prayer from this chapter as well. We see the prayer of two very different men. In Luke 18:9-12 we see...

The Empty Prayer of a Full Man Looking for Nothing

Explanation: Before Luke shares the parable he once again provides a bit of commentary regarding who this parable was directed to. It was directed to those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” In other words this parable was directed to those who did not feel as if they needed God’s grace and mercy because they were “good in their own eyes.” Not only did they have a high view of themselves, but they had a low view of others that did not measure up to their standard. The Bible says they treated them with contempt. They despised and rejected those whom they did not consider as righteous as they were.
Jesus proceeds to tell a parable about two men who went to the temple to pray. We are simply told that one of the men was a Pharisee and the other man was a tax collector. A Pharisee was considered to be a very strict, religious person who was all about “rule-keeping.” A tax collector, in this day and time, was a man who was absolutely despised by the Jewish people and the Pharisees in particular. Tax Collectors worked for the Roman Government and were considered to be the enemy of the Jews. Not only that, tax collectors of this day and time were known to extort those they were collecting taxes from to line their own pockets.
I refer to the Pharisee’s prayer as “The Empty Prayer of a Full Man Looking for Nothing.” He begins his prayer by “thanking God” that he isn’t like other men.
“God I’m so happy I’m not guilty of extortion! God look at me, I’m not unjust like other people are! God I’m not an adulterer! God I should get some extra brownie points because I am NOTHING like this tax collector over here! I mean God look at all the good things I do . . . I FAST TWICE A WEEK! God aren’t you impressed with my resume? God not only do I fast twice a week, but I give TITHES of all that I possess!”
This prayer was as spiritually empty as he was! He was full, but he was full of himself! He wasn’t full of God’s righteousness! He wasn’t full of humility. He wasn’t full of God’s love, or mercy or grace! He was full of his own accomplishments and pride and never asked God for one thing. He simply came to God advertising his qualities and attributes, thinking to himself that somehow God would be impressed.
Illustration: I like what William Barclay says in his commentary on this passage:
The Gospel of Luke The Sin of Pride (Luke 18:9–14)

True prayer comes from setting our lives beside the life of God. No doubt all that the Pharisee said was true. He did fast; he did meticulously give tithes; he was not like other people; still less was he like that tax-collector. But the question is not, ‘Am I as good as my neighbour?’ The question is, ‘Am I as good as God?’ Once I made a journey by train to England. As we passed through the Yorkshire moors I saw a little whitewashed cottage and it seemed to me to shine with an almost radiant whiteness. Some days later I made the journey back to Scotland. The snow had fallen and was lying deep all around. We came again to the little white cottage, but this time its whiteness seemed drab and soiled and almost grey in comparison with the pure whiteness of the driven snow.

It all depends what we compare ourselves with. And when we set our lives beside the life of Jesus and beside the holiness of God, all that is left to say is, ‘God be merciful to me—the sinner.’

2 Corinthians 10:12 very specifically warns us against the very thing this Pharisee did:
2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV
Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
Application: We dare not approach God with the mindset that we are better than ANYONE else on the faith of His earth! There are some who would say that you should never say anything negative about yourself but I think the Apostle Paul would disagree! He said in Romans 7:24-25:
Romans 7:24–25 ESV
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
He also said he was the “foremost of sinners”...
1 Timothy 1:15 ESV
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Dear friend when we come to God in prayer we should lay our lives beside the lovely Lord Jesus and realize how far short we fall from His glory and praise God for the mercy and grace that not only allows us to live in this world that God has created, but has secured for us a place in God’s Kingdom by providing Jesus as the sacrifice that would forgive us and cleanse us from all of our own unrighteousness.
If you come to God full of yourself, full of your goodness, full of your accomplishments you will leave EMPTY! However, we find there is another way to come to God from the example of another man’s prayer . . .

The Full Prayer of an Empty Man Looking for Everything

Explanation: Verse 13 begins with the word “but.” Here we see a contrast between the prayer of the Pharisee and the prayer of the Tax Collector.
First, we see the tax collector does not go bounding with pride toward the temple, but rather is “standing far off.” Rather than looking around and seeing who else is there or proudly looking up to Heaven, Jesus says he would not lift his eyes to Heaven. He beats his chest, which is one way of expressing deep grief and sorrow. It was a grief so deep that it was usually reserved for those who were mourning the death of a loved one (The New Manners and Customs of the Bible).
He then calls out to God for MERCY! He realizes that he needs a pardon that only God can provide! The word he uses for mercy is a very interesting word. It’s a word that means “propitiation—or reconciliation through a sacrifice.” He realizes his need of reconciliation to a holy God. His sins have separated him from a holy God and he has a passionate desire to be reconciled to God. He desperately wants a relationship with God. So he comes broken and humbly as he knows how to the only ONE who can do something about his need . . . that is God almighty and he pleads for mercy!
Jesus says this humble, tax collector went home that day JUSTIFIED (he was made RIGHTEOUS before God)! The Pharisee, who walked in pride, who didn’t recognize his own sinfulness, who was full of himself, went home just as spiritually bankrupt as when he came. But the empty, broken, tax collector went home FULL and made WHOLE by God’s amazing grace!
Illustration: In the song, “Rock of Ages” the song writer put it this way:
Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Application: I believe one of the things that is missing from our church, yes OUR CHURCH, and one of the things that is missing from the American church is general is a DEEP, heart felt brokenness over our sin. I’m talking about “Godly Sorrow” as found in 2 Corinthians 7:10:
2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
I’m talking about the kind of brokenness that Isaiah experienced when he came face to face with God and face to face with his own sin in Isaiah 6:5 that says:
Isaiah 6:5 ESV
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
These words from Isaiah’s lips and the brokenness that he felt in his soul came only after he spent time in the presence of a HOLY GOD! I’m afraid the American Church has gotten away from the reality of the holiness of God. Is God love, yes He is, but His love does not diminish His holiness. Is God a God of mercy, yes, but He is also holy! When the heavenly beings around the throne cried out in Isaiah 6, they cried out, “Holy, holy, holy!”
I believe if we will spend time on our faces before a holy God and feeding upon His holy Word sin will not be something to be embraced, something to be joked about, something to be excused, something that is trivial, something that is made light of, but I believe we will learn to see sin for what it really is!
Do you realize how costly sin is? “The wages of sin is death.” The wages of sin is ETERNAL SEPARATION FROM GOD IN A PLACE CALLED HELL! That’s what our sins have earned us! But Jesus Christ stepped in, and it pleased the Father to bruise Him in our place and pour out the wrath that our sins had earned us upon His Son, so that we could be justified, forgiven and set free!
Final Applications

Take Time to Examine Your Life

Ask yourself the following questions:
Who or what are YOU trusting in for YOUR righteousness? What Jesus has done or what you have done? What Jesus has accomplished on your behalf, or what you are trying to accomplish?
Why do you despise others, when you need the same mercy and grace they do? If you spend your life looking down your noses at others and their sin, it is probably because you haven’t seen YOUR sin the way God does. Spend your life pointing other sinners to the ONE that helped YOU, rather than spending your life pointing at their sin and pretending that you weren’t guilty!
Are you genuinely following Christ and do you know Him as your Savior, or are you just a modern day Pharisee who is following a list of rules and codes to make you right with God?

Cry Out to God TODAY for His Mercy & Grace and Go Home FREE!

The prayer of the tax collector was a simple one, but it contained some important elements:
He realized his condition. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t compare himself to anyone else. He was broken and realized what he deserved. He realized his condition.
He went to the ONLY ONE that could help him. He came to God and God alone. His prayer was directed to God and God alone.
He pleaded for MERCY! He knew he needed God’s forgiveness and God’s pardon.

Keep Trusting and Keep Praying!

Just like Dory needed to “keep swimming” you need to keep trusting! You need to keep praying! You need to keep seeking and asking and knocking! (Read Luke 18:1 again)
Luke 18:1 ESV
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
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