Vol. 10 — No. 38 September 21, 1969


In Spite of Everything—Pray!

Luke 18:1-8

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard men; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith, And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Beloved in the Lord:

“Learn of Jesus Christ to pray,” we sing in one of our hymns. Yes, we must get all our learning regarding prayer from Him who is the Lord, to whom, and in whose name, we pray. He gave us the Perfect Prayer. He gave us the perfect example of how to pray. He showed us when to pray, and He showed us what it means to pray always. “Pray without ceasing” came to its fulfillment in Him whose heart was always dependent upon His heavenly Father.

We should also be reminded in a few words of what prayer is, before we approach the lesson which the Lord Jesus would especially impress upon us in today’s parable. Prayer is a speaking to God from the heart (not necessarily in words, you will notice), asking something of Him, thanking Him, or praising Him. Prayer is therefore a reaching out for help from someone outside ourselves. It is therefore not merely meditation. In her statement on her religion one time the First Lady of China, although she missed the essential fact of Christianity (Which is not strange since she belongs to a Modernistic church), did make a right distinction between prayer and meditation. She said that in meditation one seeks strength within oneself; in prayer one seeks strength from God. Yes, prayer is reaching out to God; it is a turning of the heart to God, as a flower turns its face to the sun for the vital rays by which it can grow strong. When a conference on peace was opened, a minute was taken for silent meditation. No doubt the representatives belonging to the pagan religions meditated; no doubt the Christians there prayed. And we are glad that the great principle of the freedom of religion was not violated, but that each might turn to God or to his god or gods, according to the tenets of his own religion and according to the dictates of his own conscience. For remember what prayer is for the Christian: it is the coming to God in the name of Jesus for the things which God has promised. It is not merely a self-hypnotism by which one feels better; it is the holy expectation that God will give that which He has said He will give!

The lesson the Lord Jesus would teach us today is this:

In Spite of Everything—Pray!

Yes, today the Lord wants to teach us that we should cling to His promise to hear in spite of the fact that everything may seem for the present to be against us. The time of our deliverance from all evil may seem long to us, and the reason for it is that we are living in this thing called time—God is not! The apparent delay, from our point of view, has nothing to do with the swift victory which God will give us over our enemies.

Jesus makes this plain with a parable about a widow in a certain city, of whom some conscienceless neighbor or land-agent or other business man had taken unfair advantage. It may be that some powerful neighbor had begun to move the landmarks so as to take her fields away from her. It may be that some jealous relative was trying by devious means to take the inheritance. Someone may have executed some legal document with her, in which the big type said what was right, but farther down some small type, which she had overlooked, prescribed the opposite of what was her understanding of the transaction. We are not told just what the adversary was trying to do, but evidently it was clearly wrong, and she needed the judgment of the court for her protection. To the widow it seemed that everything was against her; she may have been in danger of losing everything that her husband had left her.

Besides, the judge was ungodly and careless of righteousness. He had no respect for God—his conscience would not drive him to do what was right. He had no fear of man—he must have been in position to do just as he pleased without fear of impeachment. What hope was there for the widow in a case like that?

For some time the judge held out. Perhaps for a long time he refused to order that justice be done in the case. But the widow kept coming. Again and again she came. Again and again she insisted that the judge should do his duty. The judge finally did something. But first he made an excuse! He wanted it understood that he did not do this because he had respect for God or fear of any man, oh no! He did not want anybody to think that he had suddenly been prevailed upon to do what was right. But the everlasting vexation of this widow’s continual coming made life miserable for him! It upset his comfort in life. He grew tired of it. So he gave her what she wanted in order to get rid of her—yes, he even says that she might do bodily violence to him, she was so insistent—she might give him a black eye!

Look at the unjust judge, says Jesus. Take a lesson from it! Even if God were like that judge (horrible comparison!) he would listen to the cry of the elect children of God and give them what they ask for! How much more surely will not God give what you ask for! God is the complete opposite of the judge—He is justice itself, the author of it, and there is nothing God would rather do than to give His children the things which He has promised to give them. Besides, He is Mercy, which wants to give good things, and which gives manifold more than we ever think to ask. In the end, you see, God is not compared to an unwilling and unjust judge; God is contrasted with him. As this judge is, so God is not! And just as this judge was finally persuaded to hear, so God is impatient to hear your prayers and give you final deliverance.

Yes, it is to that big subject of final deliverance from all evil to which this lesson on prayer refers. Jesus is not here talking so much about all those little items that we pray for during our life, those things that we include in the Fourth Petition. Most of those things He has showered upon us long before we asked for them, and in most cases long before we were born. Jesus spoke this parable in connection with what He said about His Second Coming to put a final end to all sickness and sorrow and death. And that, after all, is the thing for which we most yearn, is it not? The evil for which we seek deliverance is all this misery which rules the word, and which catches us, too, in its clutches and calls for the blood of our sons and brothers, which eats at the vitals of our life and robs us of rest and peace. It is also the evil of sin, of misery and poverty that comes from drunkenness, unchastity, and dishonesty. Yes, it is all the evil which you can mention, which today causes the world to groan in pain, and which makes even the creatures sigh for the day of release from the bondage of sin.

But we wait and we wait! Centuries come and go, year after year comes and goes; yes, some of us count off the time week by week, even day by day, hoping for the rest which the good Lord Jesus Christ has promised. We hope that tomorrow will be better; lo, the pain grows worse. The church hopes for peace to grow and serve the Lord, but the enemies of the faith only become more vicious in their attacks. We hope that the powers of the world will learn their lesson and stop some of the misery, but wars become only more frequent and more terrible every time they are fought.

Don’t think that God does not realize all this. He has foretold the times when men’s hearts shall fail them for fear. He has foretold the desolation when the four horsemen shall ride through the length and the breadth of all lands. He asks in our very text: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Shall He find unshaken confidence in the certainty of His Second Coming? The point is, yes, He shall find His children trusting in Him until the end, but their confidence shall be sorely tried, their patience shall be tested to the uttermost. So hard shall his children be put to it to remain faithful, that in His great mercy He shall, for the elect’s sake, cut the days short. “Shall not God,” asks Jesus, “avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” God realizes how things are, and his deliverance shall be swift and complete. But because of the difficult trials, Jesus says that men aught always to pray and not to faint. Therefore we said at the beginning IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING—PRAY! Cling to the promise God has made; He is not a man that He should lie. Has He promised, and shall He not fulfill it? Even if God seem not to hear for a time, He will give ear to His Church when His own hour has come; and His hour will be the right time.

“But, beloved,” writes Peter, “be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shell halt with fervent heat, the earth also and works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation. II Peter 3:8-15a.

The Lord’s delay is for reasons of salvation! The Lord’s delay is for our good! The Lord’s delay is for the good of others! The Lord lets time slip by in times like these because today souls must be learning not to trust in men but in the living God! He is stablishing and strengthening the faith of His own people. He is purging them like in a refiner’s fire. “God is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” “The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.” Why did Jesus delay four days in coming to Mary and Martha when their brother lay in danger of death? You and I might say that Jesus should have come right away! But Jesus delayed, and He said He was glad He was not at Lazarus’ sick-bed so that the disciples might be led to believe,—believe in the resurrection which He should perform. And when Martha blamed Jesus for not coming in time to save Lazarus from dying, Jesus told her that He would let her see something greater than a mere healing,—she should see a resurrection! Yes, God has reasons for delay.

Or didn’t Jesus know of the dire needs of His disciples that night He left them toiling against the waves and winds of Galilee? But He waited unto the morning, did He not, to show them the majesty by which He walked upon the sea!

So let not us presume to tell the Lord what time it is! Let us but open our eyes and see what time it is getting to be! It is time to PRAY, IN SPITE OF EVERYTHIHG! The very signs we see of terrible things beginning to come to pass are for us but signs for lifting up the heads, and looking up, because our redemption draweth nigh! Yes, as Jesus says, we ought always to pray and not to faint. We need constantly to hold tight to the promises of final salvation. His are Yea and Amen.

“He will avenge them speedily.” The vengeance of God in defense of His children will be with the swiftness of lightning. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly,” we read in Romans 16:20. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” I Cor. 15:32. As a violent storm clears the air, so shall the Lord speedily avenge those who cry day and night unto Him; and as on a clear morning all is peace with the sun at its brightest, so on the Lord’s great morning all shall be—PEACE! “He that endureth to the end shall be saved.” Matt. 10:22. Amen

—Pastor Martin Galstad

Immanuel Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, Florida

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