Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thirty Days of Prayer in the home:

Day I

Luke 18:1-8 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'"For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!' "And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 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? 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?"

Thought #1 -- Pray for the faith to pray persistently and to never give up!
Thought #2 -- Pray persistently!
Thought #3 -- Help your children to pray persistently!

Have you ever been attacked with the temptation to quit praying, either with regard to a specific request or just in general? I know that there are times when I am eager to pray and times when I have to repent of a lack of devotion in prayer. I'm so thankful that the Lord taught His original disciples this parable about the persistent widow and that the Holy Spirit recorded it for us, who are the Lord's disciples today. In this parable, Jesus teaches us to be faithful in prayer.

There are many reasons why we might flag in our prayer life. In this parable, Jesus deals with two major temptations to prayerlessness: faithlessness and discouragement.

When we are beset by temptations to slack off in prayer, our thoughts might run along these lines:

1) I prayed and prayed for my family member to love the Lord, but he's still not interested in spiritual things. I just don't think he'll ever change.
2) I've prayed for help with my temper, but I just blew it again. I don't think I can ever change.
3) I've prayed and prayed about situation X, but it's still here. I don't think it will ever change.
4) I have so much to do today. If I take the time to pray deeply, I won't get it all done.
5) Does the Lord really want to hear from me? I am so weak and have so many shortcomings.

Or, we might faithless in prayer, because deep down, we are afraid that the Lord will actually answer our prayers with a "Yes"! We might fear that a positive answer to our requests will require us to take new steps of faith or to deny ourselves in some area.

Most of us know that these are not the thoughts that we should be thinking. As a result, we might not fully acknowledge a faithless mindset even to ourselves. Instead of letting fearful or discouraged thoughts rise to the surface so that we can pray about them specifically, we stuff them down and end up feeling generally blah without quite knowing why. The effort to pretend that we are not facing faithlessness or discouragement only harms us. Any type of fear or doubt -- whether it be at the back of our mind or in the forefront of our consciousness -- can interfere with our faith in the Lord's concern for us. We can begin to doubt God's perfect wisdom and power in answering prayer. The antidote is to recognize our temptations and sins in this area and to pray specifically about them.

It takes faith to be persistent in prayer. It takes faith to keep praying no matter what our circumstances are, especially if we do not see by sight that God is working in our circumstances. It takes faith to believe that whatever time we devote to the Lord in prayer is never wasted. It also takes faith to seek God, His kingdom, and His righteousness first in our lives. (Matthew 6:33)

So, what do we do if we find that our practice of prayer is faltering? Jesus tells us to pray and not lose heart. We need not fear persistently asking Him to help us. In fact, the faith that it takes to pray persistently, without giving up, pleases Him. We can ask God for the faith to help us keep praying persistently. We can pray, as the father who was troubled for his son prayed, "I believe, help me in my unbelief". Mark 9:24

We can also identify and pray through any twinge of anxiety, fear, faithlessness, or discouragement. We can beg God to change our hearts so that we will not be anxious or doubtful. If we are not sure why we are being down or faithless, we can ask Him to reveal to us anything that we need to see. We are to pray about everything, even our difficulties in praying. (Phil. 4:4-8) Once we've laid out doubts, anxieties, and discouragement before the Lord, we can turn our thoughts to matters that build faith.

It's also helpful to remind ourselves of the ways that the Lord has answered our prayers in the past. Also, it's vital to study the scriptures with the desire to know the Lord to whom we pray, as well as to remind ourselves of His infinite wisdom, justice, love, and power. We can gain strength from meditating on His mighty works.

We must remember that our faith rests not in prayer itself, but in the Lord who answers prayer. We must also keep in mind that the Lord works through even a mustard seed of faith. Matthew 17:20

To keep on being persistent in prayer, it must be one of our core convictions that God is good and that He deserves our prayers and praise whether we "feel like it" or not. It must also be a deep belief within our heart that our relationship with the Lord is to be desired and cherished above all other relationships and pursuits in our life. We must also believe, as Jesus teaches us in this parable, that God will bring about justice for his chosen ones. Most of all, we must have deep convictions about what God accomplished through the cross of Christ.

In praying persistently, we must be open to whatever answers the Lord gives. The Lord knows what is best. Sometimes, He will answer our requests with a resounding "Yes". At other times, His answer might be "No" or "Not now". If this is the case, we must rest in the Lord's sovereign wisdom and perfect timing. We must that He is working all things, even suffering, for the good of those who love Him. We must trust that, ultimately, God withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11.

Paul prayed earnestly for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. Yet, for Paul's own good, the Lord chose not to remove the thorn -- at least not during that portion of Paul's life that is recorded in the scriptures. Paul accepted the Lord's will. He realized that God's grace was sufficient for him in all circumstances, including dealing with this particular problem.

We can follow Paul's example of resting in the Lord's grace. We must guard our hearts, though, to make sure that we truly are submitting ourselves to the Lord's will and are not just throwing up our hands in faithlessness and discouragement. We aim in our prayers to surrender out of trust and loving obedience, not out of joyless and disgruntled resignation.

Children, especially older ones, can be attacked with temptations of faithlessness and discouragement, just as we adults can be. Because of their tender youth and inexperience, children may be even less equipped to handle doubts or fears than we are. They may be inwardly frightened by temptation and also may not be able to differentiate between temptation and sin. We help them by listening patiently to them and by asking questions that draw out their deepest thoughts. We help them by loving them, even when they express things that surprise us. We also help them by praying with them and for them, and by lovingly encouraging them to remain faithful in prayer. We must maintain faith that the Lord is working for good in their lives, even if they are struggling with their own faith about this.

Jesus asks a question at the end of the parable about the persistent widow. "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" The question for each of us is, "Will he find faith in me?" Persistence in prayer has everything to do with the answer.


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