PRAY

AND DO NOT LOSE HEART

 

Abraham answered, "Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.
Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Wilt thou destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there."
Again he spoke to him, and said, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it."
Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there."
He said, "Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it."
Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."

                                                            Genesis 18

Abraham haggling with God?  Negotiating?  Where did Abraham find the audacity to do this?   And how come God doesn't strike him down for his chutzpa?

 

Because God sees Abraham's heart.  Abraham is not being cheeky.  Abraham is interceding for the protection of his nephew, Lot, and his family.  This awesome episode is preserved to us to teach us how to intercede.  How to plead with God for others.  How to pray, and not lose heart.

 

Each of us, as a follower of Jesus, has been called into a ministry.  The root of that ministry is prayer.  Yet many of us feel inadequate.  Deep in our hearts, we don't think we're up to it, when it comes to prayer.

           

"I can't pray. I just can't pray!",  people will often say---people  who are serious about following Jesus – people who have committed their lives to him, who are trying to walk in his will.   Something seems to be hindering their prayers, discouraging them.

 

It's like the spirit inside has become dry and heaven above has turned to brass,

the soul itself is paralyzed, and "I just can't pray!"

 

Sometimes all conscious prayer has come to an end – the mind can't even think of words to speak in God's direction.

 

It's like the experience people have after a bad accident and they don't even want to get back into a car.

 

Perhaps they continue doing the things that need to be done.   They go to work, eat their meals, watch TV, and tumble into bed.  But they cannot get up the courage to pray.  

 

Others say their prayers, but their prayers seem hollow, empty, barren – like they are talking to thin air.

 

Still others won't admit they can't pray – not even to themselves.

 

Why is it so difficult, even to find time alone with God every day when we know that there is no other way to stay spiritually alive in this cynical world? 

 

When we're alone in our room with the door shut, that precious time, which should be really the most delicious hour of the day, our spirit becomes blank.   What's going on here? 

 

Perhaps we're discouraged.   Perhaps disappointment hangs over us like a cloud.   Does the Master sympathize with us?  No way!  He commands us to get over ourselves and start praying with persistence.

 

And he taught them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Vindicate me against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.' And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes will he find faith on earth?"                                                              Luke 18: 1-8

 

The widow didn't lose heart.  She refused to give the judge any peace.  She persisted in wearying him down, until he yielded to her pleas.

 

In the same way the elect of God, these people who cry to him day and night, know that they are going to be vindicated.  God will not let them down.  We need to join them.

 

Of course, this world does not support such faith. "When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?"  Don't expect this world to encourage your prayers.

 

The faith which cries out to God and never loses heart, does so surrounded by an atmosphere of despair, that considers faith to be absurd.  But faith goes right on praying.  And God hears.  And God answers.

 

The word of God to each of us, even in our most hopeless circumstances is : 

 

            Pray, and do not lose heart!

 

Never mind how things are going, whether they are going great or falling apart. Never mind how you feel.  Forget about what people are saying. Get on with the one thing which is within your power to do, the one thing where heaven's help is guaranteed:

 

             Pray!

 

            And keep praying!

 

When we feel guilty before God, and we want to repent, we want to get things right, but we just can't seem to do it, the one effective thing we can do is to pray and not lose heart, even if the only prayer we can pray is: "God be merciful to me a sinner".

 

When I kept silence [that is, when I didn't pray], my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long [still not praying].  For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. [Then I finally decided to pray...] I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found.                                           Psalm 32: 3-6

 

When our spirits are heavy with guilt, this is no time to run and hide in the bushes like Adam and Eve.

 

We follow the example of David and go straight toward God, crying out for his help:

 

Have mercy on me, O God according to Thy loving kindness, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight; that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.   

  Psalm 51: 1-4

 

 

We often say, "Yeah, but I've committed the same stupid sin a million times. God must be getting tired."

 

And it's true, he is getting tired ... in the sense that we just can't keep on and on and on, and think that he'll put up with us forever. There is a limit.

 

But this doesn't change the fact that the one helpful way to begin to change, is to bring the whole mess, and dump it before God in prayer without losing heart.

 

We're up against an obstacle that just won't move out of the way ...

 

            - an impossible work situation,

            - a problem in a marriage,

            - a flaw in our own character that just won't change ,

... and we can't see a way out of it.

The one thing we can do is pray and not lose heart.

 

The grouchy old judge is standing between the widow and justice. There's no one to take her part.  Never mind, she knows what to do!  Pester the man!  Don't give him any peace.

 

This is precisely what Jesus is telling us: Keep praying, and keep praying, and keep praying until God himself moves the mountain. He will. He will move it.

 

What if we feel totally dry inside? "How could God ever listen to my prayers? I don't even know if I have any faith."  Answer:  pray and do not lose heart.   Keep praying, even if you feel like you're praying into thin air. 

 

I will say unto God, my Rock, Why hast thou forgotten me?  Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?  As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me, saying "Where is thy God?"

 

Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why are thou disquieted within me?  Hope thou in God.  For I shall yet praise thee, who art the health my countenance, and my God.

                                                                        Psalm 42

 

To hope in God is to pray without ceasing.  

 

Pray out loud.  Let the words flow from your heart to your mouth.  

 

Sometimes we get the idea that we cannot pray until we feel the presence of God.  Big mistake!  We pray in faith when we feel nothing.  When we see nothing but darkness, we pray.  We just keep praying, refusing to lose heart.

 

And here's what we often forget:  The instant we start praying---even if we're stumbling and fumbling and confused---heaven comes to our aid.  The Spirit of God visits us in our weakness and helps us to pray.  

 

But the Spirit can only help us to pray when we make a start.   The Spirit can only strengthen our prayers when we keep praying.  

 

Those mountains will begin to move.  Those doors will begin to open, when we take our Lord at his word, and act. 

 

            Pray, and do not lose heart.

 

                        Pray, and do not lose heart. 

 

And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily.

 

 

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