Sermon 20th October 2019 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Luke 18:1-8 – Persistent in prayer
Last week saw a week of disruptions in the city, including other states around Australia, and in fact around the world to demand what they call “climate justice”.
Despite the disruptions that it caused to many people going to work or going home from work we are a society that respects people’s right to protest for justice.
Whether it’s climate justice or justice in the work place or justice for persecuted countries – protesting is a way to get our message across and hopefully to bring about change.
Jesus today tells a story about a widow who was demanding justice.
We don’t know what sort of justice she was after but she went to the one whom she knew could grant her the justice she needed.
We don’t know what she was after but what we do know is that even though this judge she went to didn’t fear God and had no respect for her or any human being, he was the one who could grant the justice she needed.
Even though she had no certainty whether he would listen to her or whether he would grant her request, she knew that only he could do it.
Whether he “would” wasn’t the issue – whether he “could” was the issue.
Jesus tells this story as a way of encouraging us to remain confident in our prayer life.
Maybe sometimes we’ve prayed to God and nothing seems to have happened.
Jesus says – keep praying.
The difference between the judge in our story and God is God’s love for humanity.
This judge had no fear of God and no respect for humanity.
In our prayers it’s different – we pray to God and not only does God have respect for humanity he has unconditional love for humanity.
He created us.
He loved us so much that he sacrificed his one and only Son to assure that we would live with him in heaven.
So if there is something we need, then God is certainly the one to whom our requests should go.
Prayer has always challenged people.
I pray but I don’t see any results, is one that I often hear.
Sometimes when people protest the results aren’t always seen or they don’t see the results immediately.
Prayer is communicating with God – both speaking to God and listening to God.
We know that in any relationship that communication is how that relationship grows.
I speak with my wife – I listen to my wife.
We don’t always agree on things but as we communicate we grow in our relationship and in our understanding of each other.
That’s how prayer works with God.
We communicate with God – we speak with God – we listen to God.
We don’t always agree on things but we work towards understanding each other.
Sometimes God answers our prayer – sometimes God changes us to understand a certain situation.
Like St Paul in 2nd Corinthians.
Paul had a suffering in his life that tormented him.
He prayed to God to remove it.
He prayed a second time to God to remove it.
He prayed a third time and received an answer from God – but not in the way he had requested.
Through that time of prolonged prayer God worked with Paul in a way that while his suffering didn’t change – Paul’s understanding changed.
Paul grew to trust in God’s love and grace in his life for strength to cope with his suffering.
Parents have to deal sometimes in the same way with their children.
Children can sometimes demand things from their parents which their parents know is not in their best interest or for their wellbeing.
It doesn’t mean they don’t love their child but it’s because they love their child that sometimes as a parent we say “no” to those demands.
But we’ll explain why and teach our children through that “NO”.
You can’t have that biscuit because you’ll spoil your dinner.
You can’t stay up because you need your sleep.
You can’t go to that party because I’m not sure about the adult supervision.
They may challenge that “no”, like the widow challenged the judges persistent “no” to her request for justice.
They may throw a tantrum and are especially good at choosing situations where they know that tantrum will get maximum effect – like at the check-out in the supermarket.
And sometimes there’s some negotiations as the parent may even begin to learn that their child is growing up and needs extended boundaries.
Maybe a curfew is negotiated to allow the child to stay up later.
And this is what persistent prayer to God can be about.
Prayer is about growth.
Growth in us as we grow in our trust in God.
But also growth in God’s understanding of our needs.
God is not a genie whose bottle we can rub every time we want something.
God is our loving Father who cares for us and loves us like no one has ever loved us.
God only wants the best for us and sometimes God says “no” to our requests.
Or sometimes, even though God has said no he has later said yes.
Prayer is a special gift of God that enables us to get to know him better.
But even more important than that, prayer is an opportunity that enables us to get to know ourselves better.
If God said yes to everything we asked then how would we ever develop and grow.
Can you imagine if every time a child asked a parent for something they got it – we would probably have a very spoilt child on our hands and one who never matures.
So here we have an opportunity through prayer with God to develop ourselves and develop our relationship.
In the story Jesus told we also see that through the persistence in prayer that the unmerciful judge finally changed and showed her mercy.
So in prayer there is also an opportunity for God to grow in his understanding and relationship of us.
I know that to many that might sound strange, or even wrong – but that’s what Jesus has asked us to do.
And we have many examples in the bible where God did just that.
Abraham was able to convince God that wiping out a whole town because of a few was wrong.
The people of Nineveh were able to convince God that people can change their lives without him destroying them.
Moses was able to convince God that destroying all the people of Israel because of their disobedience was not a good look to the surrounding nations.
God is not some autonomous unfeeling overlord who is sitting up above with no care for the people of this earth.
No, Jesus says that God knows the very hairs of our head.
But neither is God some genie who is at our beckoning.
God is our creator.
God is our Heavenly Father.
God cares for us and wants the best for us – and he wants the best from us.
But the best for us comes by our lives growing in our trust in God – by our relationship with God growing.
We don’t always understand everything that goes on in our lives and in the lives around us.
But neither does a child always understand and accept the decision of their parents.
But they learn to trust that their parents love them and want the best for them and they learn to trust in them.
That’s what Jesus is wanting to teach us in this story.
If an unmerciful and uncaring judge can eventually come around and give this widow what she needs – how much more will a loving, caring Father graciously give to us all that we need.