How’s everybody, doing? Welcome to Hope City, I’m Pastor Peter and I’m thrilled you’re here today for God Box—our brand-new series on the Power of Prayer! If you’re new, you’ve come at a perfect time—we’ve just begun a CHURCHWIDE CHALLENGE. In which our entire church is PRAYING TOGETHER for ONE MONTH 30 days of expecting God for a Fresh Touch in our lives.
We believe a Praying Church is a Powerful Church… And based on ALL OF THE PRAYERS you wrote at last week’s service … there is NO SHORTAGE OF PLACES where we need God’s power. Just a brief sampling:
- Read Quick Examples (Prayer for direction in their career, Prayer for a stronger marriage, Prayer for children and family, Help limit my frustration with the craziness of work and home life, “I want to pray for a friend who is struggling with addiction and depression.”
- In our house:
- Leah’s God Box… All decorated “I hope Cooper doesn’t Puke”
- My God Box: Dive Flag on the front… I’m trying to Dive Deeper into prayer… See what I did there? Huh? Huh? J
Probably every person in this room is standing in the shadow of ONE ISSUE in their life that’s beyond your control or power. It may be a Molehill, it may be a Mountain… but it just won’t move:
A Financial Need; An Impossible Marriage or Work Situation; A Health Concern; A Choice or Decision (college) Character Flaw or Destructive Habit you can’t break.
Q: Where do you need God’s Power most in your life?
- Our theme verse for this series comes from Ephesians 6:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18
For the next 30 days, we are CRANKING UP the Spiritual Temperature in our church—flooding Heaven with all kinds of Prayers & Requests. Not just for ourselves… but all the Lord’s people.
- The Challenge is simple:
- Write 1-2 Prayers every day (no more than a Post-It note)
- Date & put them in your God Box. Decorate it… Keep it in a conspicuous place! (by your bed; on kitchen table; on your desk at school or work)
- And then: Keep on praying! Don’t give up… for the next 30 days. Come before heaven with all kinds of petitions & requests… when you see God give an Answer… thank Him and write it down!
This next 30 days could change your family’s life, your work, your school. And if you’re not onboard, it’s not too late! If you didn’t get a BOX last week, we will give you a God Box today!
(RAISE YOUR HAND) In fact, if you’re here today & you need a God Box (or you didn’t get one last week), RAISE YOUR HAND and our USHERS will bring you one right now. Just raise hand, keep it up… and one of our dream team members will bring it over to you.
We are doing this together! Connect Groups are forming and meeting this week. You can sign up for a group today outside under the tent this weekend.
Luke 18:1-8 // The Parable of the Persistent Widow
Well, today I wanna look at Luke 18:1-8 to see what Jesus taught about Persistence in Prayer. So if you open your Bible and turn there, we’ll jump in.
Last week, we learned that Prayer is a Pipeline to God’s Power. But this week, we’re gonna see that a key to answered prayer is not just God’s power… but our persistence!
Q: Are you a persistent person? Do you live with one? (don’t point at them right now!)
That word “PERSISTENCE” is funny— it’s often closely related to the word Pester. And I think that’s sometimes how some people feel when they pray. That they’re pestering God—that He’s busy running the universe & maybe your problems somehow annoy or wear him out.
Q: Ever feel that way? Like, I pray the same thing over & over. And God must get sick of me pestering him for stuff. And sometimes, we’ll come to God again and again with a stubborn situation in our lives—and when we don’t see any progress—we’ll I guess God’s not willing. Or He’s just ignoring me. Or worse: He’s sick of hearing about my life’s petty problems.
Jesus just addressed this very issue with his disciples in Luke 18, let’s read this together:
Luke 18:1-8 // The Parable of the Persistent Widow
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
And this is a fascinating story. Bc it teaches us something about our Heavenly Father: He is NOT put off when His children pester him… rather, he is God is MOVED by our persistence.
- The Woman –
This is called the Parable of the Persistent Widow. Widow & Orphans were among the Most Vulnerable of God’s People. In Jesus’ day, a widow typically had no education, no job, no money, no property, no status and no power. Her survival was critically linked to whether she had a son, or brother-in-law, or Father who agreed to care for her. If not, she likely would become a beggar—the first-century equivalent of a homeless person. A social outcast.
Which is why Scripture says God’s heart is especially sensitive to the needs and cries of those who lack a biological family like this woman. She was powerless & penniless—which is why she goes to the Local Judge with a Request:
“Grant me JUSTICE against my adversary.” Justice – IOW, she was asking for care & protection; we don’t know if she’d been harassed or cheated… widows were easy marks for swindlers. But she had a need—some sort of conflict in her life– and said “Grant me justice!”
Guys, what is that for you? Where in your world are you crying out for care and concern?
- The Judge –
There was just one problem: The judge “neither feared God nor cared what people thought.” He didn’t respect God’s Word, His wisdom or divine justice. Maybe he was overworked and had a large caseload. We don’t know. He just decreed whatever suited his fancy. He didn’t give consideration to God or people … not even this poor widow who begs him for protection.
5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And it’s funny—bc basically this woman basically keeps BADGERING him. She was like: “I’m just gonna keep knocking on his door…. Help. Ringing the doorbell… Help.” Tapping on his window… Help.” She wears him down with PERSISTENCE…. By literally becomes a PEST!
I’ll follow him to the parking lot… Help. When he’s out for dinner… Help. Will you help? Help! I’ll stay in his face until he gives up!
I like this NLT translation:
4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”
JOKE: Some of you husbands are like: That woman isn’t a widow… she’s my wife!
I had a situation at home with Tiffany like this recently. About 2 months ago, our clothes dryer started acting up.
- It would kick on, and only run for about 3 minutes and then shut off.
- It wouldn’t start turning… It needed to be jumpstarted. Like popping the clutch on a car. 😉
Well, Tiffany asked me to fix the problem about 2 months ago, and so I ordered the part, and wouldn’t you know as soon as I ordered it, it started sporadically working… It was all good.
Well it began working intermittently and so it got bumped to the bottom of my honey do list. She kept asking me… when do you think you’d be able to fix the dryer?
Finally this week, her persistence or possibly the lack of underwear in my drawer led me to tear it apart and fix it. Took me about an hour and we were back up and running.
And that’s what happened with this widow in Luke 18: She kept pestering this Stingy Judge… and even though he wasn’t willing; her badgering BENT his will!
I told you last week, I want to help you increase your prayer life. To take a baby step, and see your prayer life grow. One practical way that I can help you grow in your persistence in prayer is that during this 30 day campaign, I would love to text you a daily prayer prompt.
Take out your Cell Phone … and text “PRAYER” to 797-979.
And I will text you a DAILY PRAYER PROMPT to remind you to pray during the week. We just started this last Sunday—did you enjoy this week? It’s not to be annoying—just a nudge! Sometimes we’ll send you a verse… a specific thing to THANK God for… So if you’d like a Daily Prayer Prompt… just text PRAYER to this number. (We won’t spam you; but encourage you to build this spiritual discipline into your daily life). We need to grow in persistence in our prayer life!!!
What do you want to ask God for, but maybe you are too afraid to keep asking?
If you flip back to Luke 11, Jesus told a similar story about a guy who tried to borrow some bread from his next-door neighbor. He knocks on his door late at night… and his neighbor is like “Whattya want?” Can I borrow some bread? “Are you crazy? It’s past midnight… Go away!”
But the guy keeps knocking… knock, knock. “What?” Can I borrow bread? “Everyone’s asleep… you’re gonna wake the kids…” But bc the guy keeps knocking, he finally gives him the bread. Here! And Jesus makes a point about persistent prayer:
9So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
A-S-K is a good acronym for prayer. Ask… make the request. Seek… really press in & look for God. Knock… if you don’t get an answer, try again.
// The Problem
But this is also confusing. Bc you hear these stories and assume:
Ok, so we’re the guy knocking on the door, we’re the gal pestering the judge… because these parables are about prayer… and prayer is trying to get something from God, right?
See: this is the problem with prayer for a lot of Christians. They misinterpret what Jesus is saying.
In Luke 18, they assume we’re the WIDOW—and that makes God who?
A: The Judge! IOW: God’s the ill-tempered, tight-fisted tyrant, I guess. He’s got a universe to run & isn’t really interested in our puny little requests. Wait a minute… that’s not who God is? Is it?
Think about it: It doesn’t even make sense. Luke says “The judge neither feared God nor cared about people…” It’s the exact opposite of God’s character & heart!
Folks: Don’t miss what Jesus is getting at! After giving us this prayer acronym in Luke 11: Ask… Seek… Knock. He says:
11Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
One of the things we learn about prayer is that: God is not an unjust judge but your generous Father! This is our second point this morning. God is a Generous Father. And He loves to give his children good gifts!
- Knowing Abba
Do you relate more to God more as a tight-fisted Judge? Or as your open-handed Father?
The word Jesus uses here for “Father” in Aramaic is ABBA. Means PAPA. In our language, it’s best translated as DADDY.
ABBA is a very tender, very childlike name by which to call a beloved Father… and Jesus’ Jewish audience would’ve been SCANDALIZED by it! “Your Daddy in Heaven?!?”
To refer to the Sovereign Lord of the Universe by the name “Daddy”— was UNPRECEDENTED!
Jewish people had such respect, reverence, even fear of God that they wouldn’t even write-out his name. You still see that today: orthodox Jews spell God “G-d”… (they omit the middle letter out of reverence… or fear of becoming too casual or familiar with the Lord Almighty!)
But here comes Jesus teaching his followers to address their prayers: Our Father… our ABBA… our PAPA who is in heaven….
When you pray, who are you talking to?
A: Well to begin with… he’s your Daddy! (PIC: My daughter Leah on my shoulders—the squeals & joy as I delighted in her!) That’s a picture of how God feels about you—Your Abba loves to hear his daughter’s voice & cares deeply about her needs!
Think about that: Bc of your faith in Christ, the Bible says your debt’s been paid & you’ve been ADOPTED into the family of God. You’re no longer a widow or orphan without a family. Rather, your DADDY is the CREATOR, LORD, and MASTER of the UNIVERSE! And as his child, you have all the rights & privileges of Heaven. You are free to enter His throne room at any time to enjoy your Abba’s presence & power.
- OVAL OFFICE
Just over 50 years ago these pictures were taken in the Oval Office while President John F. Kennedy is sitting behind his desk. He was the President of our country—the Leader of the Free World by virtue of his office.
And here is John John, his little boy playing at his feet. Peeking through the desk. In fact, historians tell us that JFK Jr. referred to that space under his dad’s desk as his home! This clearly wasn’t a one time thing… And he was so comfortable at the feet of his daddy, he called it home.
To others, JFK is “Mr. President” or “Sir”. But his kids simply call him “Daddy.” And they are comfortable spending time at his feet!
In many ways: that’s a reflection of the privilege we have in prayer! As an adopted child of the Lord of the Universe, you have the FULL RIGHTS & PRIVILEGES to enter His presence & take hold of His love & strength. And when we come into His presence, and sit at his feet, your ABBA is not BOTHERED by your requests. In fact, just the opposite: He is MOVED BY THEM! Those of you who are daddies may naturally get this.
- Football Story with Noah
This past Monday Night, I was Tired and sore from the day… jetting in a well
This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done… J Matt conned me into helping him jet in this well.
Came home and just wanted to lay on the couch and wait for sleep to take over.
Dad… Let’s play football…
Dad… let’s play football.
Dad… I’ve got the football.
Then I realized… It was trash night. Let’s go… Noah, and I set out to get the trash to the curb. He’s carrying the can with the football in his hand.
“I can just hear it in his mind, ‘I’ve got you now…’ “Dad… Catch!”
“Let’s throw the football. I want to spend time with you.”
What moved me to action?
My son’s persistence— he had a deep desire & I was in a position to do something about it. Parents, you know this: every once in a while your son or daughter will keep bugging you, bugging you, bugging you, bugging you. Until you finally think: You know what? If it’s a reasonable request—and isn’t harmful to them or others—I’ll do it.
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
I’m a flawed, earthly Abba… but it took my sons persistence to MOVE ME. And I did it out of AFFECTION— not annoyance. I actually felt a degree of pleasure limping back in the house after playing football with my boy!
And that’s what Jesus is saying: If that’s what broken, imperfect Earthly dads do for their kids… how much more does your Heavenly Father (who’s perfect!) delights in answering your prayers?
So ASK – SEEK – KNOCK Be persistent! Notice each word is a more intense than the one before it.
ASK – is a simple request. I need this, Dad.
SEEK – is stronger. I’m searching, I’m looking, I’m committed to laying hold of what You have for me.
KNOCK – is the most INSTENSE! Not going away, Daddy! CATCH!!!
Keep knocking, and don’t give up! Keep at it bc your Father is not bothered by your persistence— just the opposite: He is MOVED bc you are His treasured son or daughter!
Jesus teaches us that In prayer we should be Bold and Persistent.
Be Bold! Be Persistent! For the next 30 days, I want you to be a PRAYER PEST! So part of your Prayer Challenge this week is answering: “How bad do you want it? Are you willing to UP YOUR INTENSITY this week and Press into your Heavenly Father!”
Not bc God’s waiting for us to hit some “magic number” of asks so He can respond… it’s more like Jesus is wondering: Why don’t you ask more? Why do you give up so easily?
That’s one of the things I use as a parent to gauge the sincerity of my children’s desires—when they just let something go, I know it’s not really close to their heart. But when they lock on like a pit bull, I know they’re serious. And my Abba’s heart is moved by their passion.
And listen: Your Abba loves you. That’s why He tells us to keep praying—keep pouring our heart out to Him– and never give up.
I don’t know what you’re struggling with. I don’t know what’s in your God Box… Infertility, a difficult marriage or family life. Maybe you need a new job. You need to set your request before God with fresh passion this morning. Bc a year from now, you may look back to this moment. That you leaned in with a bold request… and touched the Father’s heart like never before.
Maybe you had an earthly dad who tainted your view of your Heavenly Father. You can’t imagine God “delighting in you.” You don’t feel love– you feel distance… rejection… anger or shame. That is a spiritual wound in your soul—I believe God can heal today through prayer. He can break that spirit of Fear and replace it with a spirit of Sonship. Of Daughtership. Of Adoption.
Don’t give up… As sons and daughters of God, we are right at home in prayer. Sitting at the feet of God, we can comfortably, and safely bring our deepest hurts, anxious thoughts, and our wildest worries to Him.
This is a holy moment… God may be tugging on your heart right now saying, Ask me… Seek me! Keep Knocking… Don’t give up. Your heavenly Father cares for you and hears our prayers.