Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Prayers Interrupted
St. Luke 18:1-8
October 20, 2013 AD
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 18th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
A. The faith of a persistent Widow
Our God delights in the small, the low, the common, the foolish things in this world in order to shame the big, the exalted, the majestic and the wise. He chose Israel, not because they were big but because they were small. He chose David, not because he was mighty but because He had a heart after the Lord’s own heart. He chose a lowly handmaiden to be the bearer of God, Bethlehem Ephrathah because it was least among the clans of Judah. He took up a child in his arms and exhorted all to have such faith. And He ascended the tree, despising its shame, embracing the sin and death of all men that all who believe on His Name would be saved through death and resurrection.
Yes, beloved, our God delights in the small, the low, the common and foolish things of this world that you and I would humble ourselves beneath His Word and receive from His gracious hand more than one could ever imagine.
This morning Jesus sets before us a parable. Delighting as He does in the low, small, common, and foolish things of this world, Jesus sets before us the persistent faith of an old woman, a widow, a beggar if you will, one who is in need of vindication. Oh, I know the text we read says she was “looking for justice,” but the word really means “vindication.” And the vindication she seeks is justification against her adversary, her opponent. Therefore, her plea is no different than the psalmist’s who says, ““ O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. (Psa 54:1 ESV) For God’s salvation is vindication. And God’s Name is mighty to save. All who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved. The widow in our parable calls and calls and calls and calls. She boxes the ears of an unjust judge. She will not be deterred. She will not be silenced. She will not go away. She will not lose heart. And then finally the unjust judge surrenders. He gives in. He gives up. He gives her vindication against her adversary. And he is an unjust judge!
B. Persistent distractions, Living in a demanding World
Thus we have the parable concerning prayer that we ought always to pray and not lose heart. Jesus gives us this parable because prayer is not as simple as some make it out to be. Prayer is not as easy as we think it should be. Christians pray. That’s what we do. God first spoke to us in our baptism and we speak back to God in prayer. The whole life of the Christian is to be one of prayer, a listening to God’s Word and the speaking back to God our wants, needs, praises and thanksgivings. But things often get in the way. Our prayer life suffers. We don’t pray regularly. We don’t know what to pray for. We forget even to say grace at meals, or we’re afraid to say grace when out with friends and family.
Wanting to pray, desiring to do better we set goals for prayer. We get a journal and we keep track. We make lists, we measure, we evaluate, we time, and we count. We ask questions like, “how many times a day?” or “How long each time?” And then we mark down if the prayer was answered to see if God was listening.
The parable teaches us several things about our prayer life. First we are like widows. Nothing to be proud of there. We’re beggars, beggars have only empty hands and needing hearts. We bring nothing to the table when we come before our Lord. Actually, that’s exactly what we do bring, we bring our nothingness, our empty hands, our lacking hearts, our hurting souls.
And we have an adversary in this world, an opponent, an enemy. He taunts us. He tempts us. He mocks us when we fail in our life and in our prayers. He accuses of sins we know we have. He reminds of sins we had forgotten about long ago. He urges on to do better, to try harder, to keep going, measuring, tracking, improving . . .failing.
And the world is full of distractions. The baby cries just as we sit down to pray. The Laundry needs to come out of the dryer as soon as we fold our hands. The cell phone rings, Facebook messages pop up, twitter is tweeting, we have work to do, things to get done and when we finally try to pray our minds, our world, and our adversary are all against us. We close our eyes and we fall asleep. The body sleeps but the soul grows weary. We have not listened and we have prayed. We have not rested in God’s Word and we have not returned Him thanks and praise nor asked Him of the things we need.
C. God’s Quick Answer in Christ Vindicates Us and Crushes our Adversary
We Christians will always have the devil, the world and our own sinful nature about us. These are certainly a part of our broken creation, a brokenness that goes to the very depths of our hearts. The vindication for which the widow prays in our parable is the same prayer we pray when we lift up our Kyries or Hosannas. When the heart prays for vindication the heart cries unto God for justification. And though it may seem that He delays, He has in fact acted quickly and decisively in His Son.
Again, delighting in the foolish things of this world, our Lord took upon Himself human flesh. God became man and dwelt among us. He did not despise our lowliness but rather embraced it in all of its common, plain jane, earthiness yet He remained without sin. Assuming all that is human Jesus redeemed every stage of human life from conception to the grave and into eternal life. He who knew no sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of God. He touched lepers, ate with sinners, walked around with tax collectors, forgave prostitutes and welcomed children into His lap. Oh, how our Jesus loves the little ones, the weak ones, the vulnerable, the poor and the beggars. They are dear to His heart for they are under no illusions in this life. Such ones are nothing and He is to them everything, everything He should be to us adults who busy ourselves with the wrong things at the wrong times listening to the wrong words.
Jesus dies for the weak and the low, the beggar and the widow and the children. He takes up His cross and leads us into death, His death, death for the sins of the world. There on the cross God acts quickly, decisively, finally! There on the cross, our greater Jacob wrestles with our God on our behalf. He wins us a blessing. He overcomes by falling down. He wins by losing. He succeeds by failing. He is strong in weakness and through His death, death itself is destroyed. For Jesus is risen from the dead never to die again. The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of Men. The weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men. The low, the weak, the common, the poor, the “less than” shames the wise of this world as Jesus walks out of the grave and takes His seat at the right hand of God the Father almighty promising to return as the apostles saw Him depart.
B’. Demands on Us reason for petitions to Christ
Having secured for us a place in the heavens we Christians are now bidden to pray often and not lose heart. The Devil, the world and our own sinful nature contend with us daily. It is for this reason we ought to seek all the more the blessing of our God setting before His throne our emptiness and the needs of our neighbors. It is precisely the distractions that beset us throughout the day which we should bring before the Lord our God in prayer. For Jesus teaches us to pray by sending needy people to make demands on us. The baby crying is reason and reminder to pray for our children, to preserve them from the evil one and be kept in the true faith. The dryer beeping is cause to give thanks for our vocation and the lives of our loved ones through whom God has blessed us and allowed us to be a blessing to them. The neighbor locked out of their home and in need of rescue is a reminder to pray for those lost in a world of darkness, locked out of heaven because of unbelief. What the reason, whatever the circumstance, no matter what distracts you or would lead you away from the throne of God the Savior would have you turn against your adversary by turning towards the Lord in prayer. Bring before Him your demands, your needs, your desires. Box the ears of Him who is the righteous Judge and promises not only to hear but to answer in due time and for your good. Be like this widow offering nothing but your emptiness, your lacking, begging for the vindication of your God against your adversary the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature. He will not delay. He will not ignore you. He will not forsake you but promises to act, to deliver, and to save you.
A’. Finding Faith on Earth, Beggars keep Begging
Therefore beloved, take courage and do not lose heart. Your enemy the devil is judged. The deed is done. Christ is crucified and Christ is risen. Believe it! Count on it! And Pray. At the close of our text Jesus wonders if the Son of Man will find faith on the earth when He returns. Much of our text had to do with prayer, but Jesus concludes with faith. Prayer flows from faith. Faith believes the Righteous One hears and will answer, not because he has been aggravated, nor because he grows weary of hearing us, but because He loves us. He delights in us. He forgives us through Christ our Paschal Lamb. He is our God and we are His dear Children. Poor redeemed creatures though we are, He takes pleasure in the small, the low, the common, the foolish things of this world, the children, the beggars, and the widows. Therefore pray often and do not lose heart. Your God will answer. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!