Home > Prayer, Trinity 16-End of Church Year > Courage to Pray and Not Faint. 19th Sunday after Pentecost. Oct. 20, 2019. Luke 18:1-8

Courage to Pray and Not Faint. 19th Sunday after Pentecost. Oct. 20, 2019. Luke 18:1-8


19th Sunday after Pentecost

Emmaus Lutheran Church, Redmond, Oregon

St. Luke 18:1-8

October 20, 2019

Courage to Pray and Not Faint

Iesu Iuva

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Bow down Your gracious ear to me

And hear my cry, my prayer, my plea;

Make haste for my protection,

For woes and fear

Surround me here.

Help me in my affliction.  LSB 734 stanza 2

 

There may be a few here today who are possessed of an iron will, who never quit, no matter how great the pain.  I don’t think Jacob was that kind of man, though he did start wrestling while he was still in the womb, and though he was born into the world grasping his brother Esau’s heel.  But the Scripture says he was a quiet man who stayed near the tents and his mother.  Even in the Old Testament reading, where Jacob is much older, you don’t see great physical courage.  He sends his wives and little ones across the river to meet his brother, who he fears is going to take revenge on him for stealing his blessing decades before.  Look at my wives and my little ones and spare your brother.  Jacob is not a tough guy.

 

But in the night he gets into a wrestling match with an unknown assailant.  And the wrestling match goes until the morning.  I tried wrestling for maybe a month my sophomore year in high school.  It’s hard to wrestle for a few minutes, let alone an entire night.  And wrestling is okay when you are winning, but really, really painful when you are losing.  You can’t really breathe, but you’re supposed to keep fighting.

 

We can be pretty sure Jacob was losing all night.  His opponent, when he is tired of the game, just touches Jacob’s hip, and Jacob has to walk with a limp for the rest of his life.  But even then, Jacob does not let go.  He doesn’t lose heart.  He refuses to let God go until God blesses him.

 

Jesus says we should pray like Jacob wrestled.  He told the parable in Luke chapter 18 to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1). 

 

Jesus gives us courage to keep praying for Him to return and not become spiritless.

 

I know from talking to a few of you and I know from my own experience how difficult a struggle it is not to lose heart in prayer.  You might be the type of person that pushes through physical pain no matter what.  You don’t quit.  You might be a person who stays steady and calm under emotional pressure.  But the kind of strength needed to pray without ceasing, without growing weary or losing heart, is not found in human beings, in their natural power.  To keep praying without becoming listless and depressed and weary is a spiritual contest.  And in our fallen human nature we have no spiritual strength.

 

In our fallen human nature we don’t even know what to pray for, St. Paul tells us (Rom. 8:26).  Listen to what Jesus says God’s elect, His chosen ones, cry out to Him for day and night.  They want Him to give [them] justice against [their] adversary (Luke 18:3).  They want justice against their opponent.  The opponent is the devil, who accuses us and who torments us, together with the fallen world that he controls.  God’s elect cry out to God day and night that He avenge them, that He vindicate them against this opponent who falsely accuses them and who wrongs them when they are innocent.

 

What exactly does that mean, for God to give us justice, to vindicate us?  It means that the elect pray for God to send His Son from heaven to judge the living and the dead, to cast the devil and His angels into the lake of fire, together with all those who did not believe in Jesus.  God gives the elect justice when He declares them righteous before the whole universe and honors them, declaring them to be His sons and heirs, declaring them innocent, sharing His glory with them forever.

 

This is the way the elect people of God pray, Jesus says.

 

But is it the way you pray?  Usually?  With your eyes to the end, looking to the return of Jesus as your hope for everything to be set right?  When you look at all your problems, all your struggle with sin, all your ongoing pain and the things in your life, family, church that are still broken—do you look to Jesus’ return as the answer and pray with a fervent heart for Him to return?

 

No, usually you aim much lower, probably.  We pray that God would give us a blessing here and now that meets our expectations of what His blessing should look like.  When Jacob prayed, no doubt the blessing he wanted more than anything at that moment was that God spare his life from his brother Esau.  But he didn’t ask God for that.  He simply said, “Bless me.”  He did not put a limit on God’s blessing, probably because he had learned that if God blessed him he would be blessed far more and far greater than he could understand.

 

When we pray, so often we ask God for help in the difficulties that we see and feel, and we ask for help that makes sense to us.  None of this is wrong.  Yet Jesus teaches us to pray for more, because God does not simply want to deliver us from money problems or conflict or even deep grief—just for a season.  He wants to give us justice and set all things right.  And that is why what we ought to pray and look for before all else is the return of our Lord.  That is the goal of our lives; that is the even that is going to make you whole and heal everything that is broken in you and this world.

 

Whenever we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come,” we are asking for this—that Jesus returns, that the devil is thrown into hell, that we enter into the joy of our Lord.  But it is seldom the first thing on our mind when we pray.

 

Those who do not have the Holy Spirit and true faith in Christ can’t pray it at all, not from the heart.  Those who are false Christians are terrified of Jesus’ return.  But even Christians, according to the flesh, fear Jesus’ return.  We pray for smaller things.  We doubt His grace, that He has justified us, that He really counts us righteous.  So we fear what His coming will mean.

 

Perhaps we are still looking to delight ourselves in this world and the pleasure it has to offer, and so we don’t long for the return of Jesus.

 

We pray for other things, smaller things—which are good in themselves, but not the highest blessing God wishes to give us.  When our prayers are not answered as we expect, and when Jesus’ coming is delayed, we become weary in prayer.  Because He hasn’t appeared to answer, we become faint and draw back from our Lord in prayer, doubting that He cares about the pain we bring to Him.

Repent.  Repent of your unbelief.  Be courageous.  God has promised that He will vindicate you.  He will deliver you out of every evil when He appears with His Kingdom (2 Tim. 4:1).  He has promised this.  That’s why He encourages you to keep on praying for His return and not lose heart.

 

He has already proclaimed to you that you are declared righteous by His Father, the righteous judge.  His Father justified you.  He declared you righteous in His court, innocent of sin, because His Son offered Himself to suffer and die for you.   That is why Scripture says, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  He is faithful because He has promised to count everyone who believes in His Son righteous, and to not count their sins against them.  He is just and righteous because His Son has already paid in full for your sins.  If He were to count them to you He would be unjust.  If you believe in Jesus who was condemned for your sins, how can God condemn you for them again?  That would be unjust.  He is just when He forgives your sins because He has already punished them fully in Jesus.

 

Since you are justified, all that remains is for that justification to be made manifest.  That is what Jesus wants you to pray for—for the day when you no longer hear God tell you you are righteous in His sight, chosen and precious in His sight—but when it is made visible.  That day is the day of Jesus’ return.   We will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.  We will see Him in the glory that He had before the world began, and He will give it to us.  He has made it ours when He justified us through faith in Him.

 

Right now the devil accuses us daily.  He afflicts us, just as he afflicted Jesus.  But he had no right to afflict Jesus, because Jesus had no sin.  After He was put to death on the shameful cross, God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead.  He triumphed over Satan and Satan’s servants, like those who mocked his claim to be the Son of God and the King of the Jews as He hung on the cross.   God vindicated Him and made it clear that He truly was the Son of God.  No human being had ever triumphed over the grave before this man.  God silenced Jesus’ enemies.  When Jesus returns, He will silence our enemies as well—in particular the devil, who flings our sins at us, reminding us of our evil thoughts and our evil words and our past, our weakness, our suffering.  Jesus gives you courage against Satan’s attacks.  Keep praying for His return, because God hears you.  He is not like the unjust judge who only helps the widow because she bothers him.  He has declared you righteous and His son for the sake of Jesus.  He hears you because you please Him.  And He will answer you because He keeps His promise.

 

Today Jesus comes with a pledge that God the Father will give you justice.  He gives you His body and the blood He poured out to save you from your sins.

 

Jesus, the Son of God, is precious to His Father.  Just as He did not leave His Son’s body lying in the tomb, but raised Him and vindicated Him against His accusers, so He will not leave you who receive the body and blood of His Son.  He will raise you up and vindicate you as well.  He will make you a conqueror of death and seat you at His right hand.  That is His pledge today—that on the last day He will raise you up and give you justice.

 

So don’t lose heart when you pray and they seem to go unanswered.  Pray for the Lord’s return when He gives you justice against your adversary.

 

With you, O Lord, I cast my lot;

O faithful God, forsake me not!

To You my soul commending.

Lord, be my stay, And lead the way

Now and when life is ending.  LSB 734 stanza 4

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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