PRAYER CHANGES LIVES
What is prayer?
How do we grow our relationship with God?
Word and prayer
How do you pray – when do you pray?
Persistence, prayer and being open to the coming of God’s presence into our lives to write God’s law on our hearts – these are some of the thoughts that stand out in the various readings that are set for this Sunday. The word of God connects today’s readings. Jeremiah paints a beautiful image of the word being written on the very hearts of God’s people, a foreshadowing of the beginning of John’s Gospel, where Jesus is described as the Living Word come to dwell within us. The psalmist declares the importance of the word as the source of understanding, wisdom, and guidance. Paul writes to Timothy about the word as the basis for sound teaching, reproof, and correction. In Luke, Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow to teach us about patient, persevering prayer. Throughout these readings God’s word is revealed as the foundation of our relationship with God. All of these ideas are related. When God comes into our lives, it is to save us, but a significant feature of God’s salvation is that God changes us so that we stop doing to ourselves and others what brings us into bondage and brokenness. This is why we need God’s law – God’s way of living – written on our hearts. It is only when we naturally and automatically live the Jesus way that we are truly able to bring life, love and liberation into our corner of the world. And, of course, one of the primary “tools” we use to ask God to come to us is prayer. When we pray persistently, we constantly open ourselves to encounter with God, and the result is that we are changed – we slowly begin to align our values, our goals, our attitudes and our behaviours with those of God’s Reign.
Ultimately prayer is not about the words we speak.
It’s about bringing our entire lives under the Reign of God – which is how we pray without ceasing. When we move away from seeing prayer as a way to manipulate things according to our desires and embrace it as a way to change ourselves according to God’s desires, our prayers, and our lives, are filled with amazing power.
Gospel: 2 principles that Jesus does seek to communicate through this passage, and they come through in his final words.
To begin with, he shows how persistence can get even an unjust judge to give justice to this widow, and then contrasts this with how God (who, he implies, is just) will certainly bring justice to God’s people when they persistently cry out to God.
These words were spoken as Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to die, which tells us that, even when all seems hopeless, we are not to lose heart and stop working and crying out for justice.
The second principle that Jesus is trying to communicate relates to faith. He asks whether, when he returns, he will find faith on earth. It is impossible to be persistent, and to constantly work for justice (both in our lives and in our world) if we lose faith.
It is our conviction that God is just and desires justice, and our commitment to stay faithful to the cause until justice comes, that sustains us and ensures that we don’t give up before we see the justice of God
manifest among us.
18:1 To persist in prayer and not give up does not mean endless repetition or painfully long prayer sessions. Always praying means keeping our requests constantly before God as we live for him day by day, believing he will answer. When we live by faith, we are not to give up. God may delay answering, but his delays always have good reasons. As we persist in prayer we grow in character, faith, and hope.
18:3 Widows and orphans were among the most vulnerable of all God’s people, and both Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles insisted that these needy people be properly cared for. See, for example, Exodus 22:22–24; Isaiah 1:17; 1 Timothy 5:3; James 1:27.
18:6, 7 If unjust judges respond to constant pressure, how much more will a great and loving God respond to us? If we know he loves us, we can believe he will hear our cries for help.
18:10 The people who lived near Jerusalem often would go to the temple to pray. The temple was the centre of their worship.
18:11–14 The Pharisee did not go to the temple to pray to God but to announce to all within earshot how good he was. The tax collector went recognizing his sin and begging for mercy. Self-righteousness is dangerous. It leads to pride, causes a person to despise others, and prevents him or her from learning anything from God. The tax collector’s prayer should be our prayer because we all need God’s mercy every day. Don’t let pride in your achievements cut you off from God. This is a basic principle of God’s Reign – that we are to remain faithful in our commitment to bring love and justice into the world, in whatever small ways we can.
When we remember that prayer is about changing us to conform with God’s desires, we can’t help but see how important it is to persist faithfully in prayer for justice. As we constantly pray for God’s love and mercy to fill our world and lives, we are changed to be channels of that justice in our community. Today, make time to pray for specific justice issues in your world.
May your justice prevail in the world, O God, and in my life
If the request isn’t right He answers ‘No’
If the timing isn’t right His answer is ‘Slow’
If you aren’t ready yet His answer is ‘Grow’
When everything’s ready and right…
His answer is ‘Go’.
Dr Robert H. Schuller
WAITING FOR GOD?
God is near
God will act,
but is hope here
to meet him?
God will hear,
God at hand,
but is faith here
to greet him?
God is dear,
God with wounds,
but is love here
to treat him?
May the living word of the Lord dwell with you.
May it live through you.
May it fill your thoughts and deeds.
May it fill your mouth with God’s message of love.
May it sustain you in good times and bad.
May it equip you for a ministry of peace and hope!