Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long to help them?
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The first 8 verses of Luke 18:1-17 tell us about persistence in prayer. The lesson being, if even an unrighteous judge could be convinced to do something by persistence, how much more will God give justice to his people who seek him diligently in prayer.
Easy to understand, and hard to practice, I find myself often getting discouraged in prayer.
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Verses 9-14 consist of a parable Jesus tells about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went up to pray. The Pharisee would have been very righteous on the outside to all who saw him. The tax collector was about the opposite of that. He wouldn’t have been allowed in the same area as the Pharisee for prayer at the temple, he would have been ‘far off’ as the text says, in the court of the Gentiles.
However their prayers are what is most interesting.
The Pharisee prays, primarily about himself.
On the basis of his own good works.
He ‘thanks God’ but it almost reads as false piety because he then goes on to talk about all the things that he has done, in his own power. It kind of reminds me of when actors get awards and ‘thank God’ first.
(some of them probably really mean it, I don’t really know their hearts, but supposedly upwards of 80% of Americans are ‘christians’ too.)
However the tax collector’s prayer is the one that ‘justifies him’, that God delights in hearing. Even though it is from someone who is unclean by God’s own standards.
How often do I go to God, and instead of asking for mercy and revealing my own shortcomings, I talk about all the good I do for him, as if that’s justification for him to grant me things?
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And the last 3 verses, talk about Jesus’ response to children.
Which used to seem super out of place to me the first few times I read it
But it’s actually the perfect picture of how God relates to us, and by that token it makes perfect sense to have it in a discourse about prayer
Here’s my takeaways from the 3 sections:
-Be diligent and expectant in prayer
-Ask on the grounds of who God is, understand I am undeserving of Grace
-And receive the Kingdom of God like a child – with sheer joy and excitement as a child receiving a gift
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I don’t think it’s an accident these three portions all fall right next to one another in this order in Luke’s Gospel. it’s a compilation of some of Jesus’ teachings on prayer. And when all three sit in a progression, it teaches me a lot about how I am to pray.
Putting it into practice is another thing:
Lord, because of your lovingkindness,
because you are faithful to fulfill all your promises,
be not far from me,
humble me in your great mercy,
and allow me to take part in your Kingdom as it advances today.
I thank you for you are the good shepherd, I hear your voice,
but am powerless to obey, I need your Spirit.
Lord have mercy on me,
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