This is the last week of our series, Going Vertical. Today we look at How to Make Prayer a Habit. We know that we should pray, and that we should be taking time each day in prayer. In other words, we should make prayer a habit. Today, we look at how we do that.
This message is based on Luke 18:1-8. To read it now, click here.
In the movie, Finding Nemo, Nemo gets caught in a net by guy whose scuba diving, and his father spends the rest of the movie trying to find him. In the scene we just saw, that was Nemo’s dad, who spends the entire movie trying to find Nemo. The other fish in the scene was Dory, who helps him in his search for Nemo. Dory has short term memory loss, she can’t remember anything. I think I heard once that fish have about a six second memory, well Dory fits that to a T, she really only has about a six second memory.
So they find this mask that was left behind by the diver who took Nemo, and inside the mask is an address. So they have an address where they think they can find Nemo. But then the mask falls into this really deep abyss. Nemo’s dad is heartbroken. The mask is gone, and with it, any chance of finding Nemo. He is in deep despair, his son is gone, and now he lost the only clue they had to try to locate him. He now knows he’ll never see his son again.
But Dory comes tries to comfort him. She tells him when life gets you down, when things look bad, there’s just one thing you have to do. And she starts singing this song, “Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming…” She just says that over and over again - just keep swimming, just keep swimming.
Sometimes in life, things do get us down. Sometimes it just feels like no matter what you do, you just aren’t going to get through this. Things just aren’t going your way, life is just too difficult. Maybe you’ve given up, and you just want to quit. Maybe what we need to do when that happens is to take Dory’s song and switch it around a little. Maybe, when things are going bad, we could sing, “Just keep praying, just keep praying…” Let that be the thing that keeps echoing in our minds over and over again as we try to handle the tough things in our lives. Just keep praying, just keep praying…
I think as we consider our passage today, that’s what Jesus would say, Just keep praying, Just keep praying. Jesus wants us to understand what happens when we do that, when we just keep praying, when we make prayer a habit. As we look at this passage in Luke, we’re going to see that habitual prayer reveals faith. That’s the lesson for today. That’s what I want you to take away from this. If you don’t learn anything else this morning, I hope you learn that habitual prayer reveals faith. Just keep praying. Never give up praying for something. When we can do that, it shows our faith. Habitual prayer reveals faith.
In our reading this morning Jesus teaches us that habitual prayer reveals faith. In the first verse, Luke tells us that “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” What did Jesus tell them? Just keep praying, just keep praying…
In this parable, like in many of Jesus’ parables, he gives us two characters who couldn’t be more different. They’re total opposites. On the one hand, we have this judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. He didn’t care what anybody thought of him. He was stubborn, prideful, and arrogant. He did what he wanted, decided things the way he wanted, and he was very secure in that. He didn’t care about anyone else, and he didn’t care what anybody else thought of that.
On the other hand, we see this widow who had no one to look out for her, no one to take care of her. She was totally at the mercy of others. These two come into contact. The judge is ruling on disputes that come up. The widow has come before him before to decide a case, and he has ruled against her. Actually, he probably didn’t rule against her, he just didn’t rule at all, he could care less about her case, he probably just disregarded her attempts to get a ruling. But she keeps coming back to him over and over again. She keeps coming back and throwing herself the mercy of this judge, she keeps begging for justice.
He refuses. He could care less. But she kept coming day after day, time after time, simply asking for justice. and he begins to soften. Not because he thinks she’s right, not because he cares about her or her case, but because she just keeps on coming. He knows the only way to get rid of her is to hear her dispute and grant the justice she sought.
Then Jesus interprets the parable for us. We have a judge that couldn’t care less about anybody, and we have a God that loves us so much he would do anything for us. He didn’t even withhold his own son from us. Essentially what Jesus tells us is that if this judge gave the widow what she needed, won’t God give you what you need?
In verse 7-8, Jesus tells us, “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 will get justice, and quickly.” And I’ll add this, because it’s not spelled out in the text, God won’t answer our prayers because he’s tired of hearing from us or because we’re wearing him down, He will answer our prayers because He loves us and He wants very the best for us.
Still, He asks us to pray for what we want and what we need. And never stop praying for it until we get it. Because habitual prayer reveals faith. We’re going to look a few ways that making prayer a habit reveals our faith.
First, God sees our faith when we make prayer a habit when we humble ourselves in prayer. In this parable, the widow was helpless. She knew that no one was going to help her. She was helpless and completely at the mercy of this judge. She had nothing to offer the judge to get her case heard. We come to God with absolutely nothing to offer Him. There is nothing in our lives that would make God stand up and take notice. We come before God with this massive debt.
When we consider our sins, when we consider the ways we’ve dishonored God, when we consider the ways we’ve disobeyed his commands. We have this enormous debt, that no matter what we did it we couldn’t make a dent. When we come before God, the only thing we have going for us is his mercy and love. His grace and forgiveness. When we realize this, and come before God with complete humility, we begin to see how desperately we need God. Our making a habit of humbling ourselves and coming before God in prayer shows that.
The second way we show our faith when we make prayer a habit is when we pray with persistence. When we keep on praying and don’t give up. When go to the judge and plead our case over and over until we receive our answer. This widow could have given up, she could have said justice is out of reach, but she didn’t do that, she kept on going until she got her request answered. And notice she didn’t ask for vengeance, she didn’t ask to make an example of the other person, she just asked for justice.
I believe that God wants us to demonstrate persistence because persistence develops our faith. If we got everything we wanted first time we asked we would probably get pretty spoiled pretty quick. It would be like having a genie in a lamp. What do want, poof, here you go. You need a new car, poof, here you go. You need a new house, poof, here you go. Need a new job, lots of money, poof, poof. Sick and need healing, poof. We would begin to see God as a sort of dispenser for everything we want.
God wants to develop our faith. He wants to see our faith grow. He wants to see our love for Him grow. He wants us to trust in Him, to turn to Him when we are in need. So God wants us to persist in our requests, so that when He steps in and gives us the answer, we will know it was from Him.
If something is weighing heavy on your heart, you should offer it to God in prayer; passionately and persistently, until you receive an answer. If you’re praying for your children, pray over and over and over again, every day. If you’re praying for a family member or a friend to come to faith in Christ, pray over and over and over again until they do. If you’re praying for your church, pray for it over and over and over again. Keep praying, don’t give up. If you have a difficult decision to make, pray for it over and over again until it becomes clear.
The third way we show our faith when we make prayer a habit is by coming to God with complete patience. The widow showed great patience. She knew the judge was the only one who could help her, and time after time when he refused, she went home. We don’t read of her losing her patience with him. We don’t hear of her carrying on and pitching a fit. No. She was very patient. She came back again and again, and each time he turned her down, she demonstrated patience as she quietly left, only to come back next time. She seemed to know that she would eventually get justice, and was very patient during the process.
I don’t know about you, but this is one I struggle with. Patience is one of those virtues that society rarely values. And even in prayer, the Bible makes it clear God will give us everything we need, so why do we have to show patience? I don’t like to wait. And I bet I’m not the only one here that feels that way. But patience reveals our faith. It’s like God is asking if we are willing to wait for it. Are we willing to be patient waiting for God to answer? Are we willing to admit that God’s timing is better than our own? We have to wait on God for the answer. And when we can do that, we demonstrate our faith.
The last way we show our faith when we make prayer a habit is when we truly trust God’s promises. The widow trusted God’s promises. The disciples trusted God’s promises. The Bible teaches us that God is a much better judge than the judge in the parable. We need to show that we trust in God’s promises. If we can trust those around us who aren’t perfect to help us, if the widow can trust the judge who was far from perfect, then it should be really easy for us to trust a God who is perfect. God promises to answer our prayers. He promises to forgive our sins. Jesus promises to that whenever two or three are gathered in His name, He is there.
In Romans 8:28 Paul wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If you love God, and if you’ve put your faith in Jesus Christ, then that passage is talking about you. All things will work out for the good for you. For the best, for you. It doesn’t say God works out all things the way we want them to. But when we trust that God knows what’s best for us, we know He will work out all things according to His gracious plan for us. In prayer, we pour out our requests, and we trust that God will keep his word. Prayer reveals faith when we trust God’s promise to answer.
When we can make prayer a habit, it reveals our faith in God. Habitual prayer reveals faith. Because when we pray in humility, with persistence, showing patience, and trusting in God’s promises, we show Him our love for Him and our faith is evident.