Prayer can be challenging for a lot of Christians. We don’t totally understand how it works. We ask God for things, but He doesn’t always give us what we want or when we want it. We don’t always know what to pray for or even how we should pray. The truth is that just as Christians struggle to grow from personal Bible study, they struggle with their prayer lives. Some don’t even try, while others want to pray but find themselves too busy to follow through.
But the Bible includes examples, stories, and even some direct instruction on how to pray. Great prayer warriors are also great students of the Bible. If you develop a habit of carefully reading the Bible each day with a heart open to doing God’s will, you will grow in your prayer life. The Holy Spirit will use the Word to connect you to the mind of Christ even if the passage you’re reading is not about prayer.
However, for today I picked two related parables that each offer important concepts to help us pray more biblically. In the first parable, Jesus challenges us to carry on with our prayers continually, even when it feels like God isn’t listening. If you are seeking God in His Word and He keeps putting people or things on your mind to pray about, then keep praying! In this story, the widow gets her request answered because of her persistence, even though the judge she petitions is not a godly man. How much more will God, who is good and loves His children, be willing to answer our prayers when we faithfully bring them before Him each day? He may not answer our prayers as we want, but a lot of times He does – once we have asked Him long enough for it. Even if He denies our request because it is not in His plan, our continual prayers will deepen our relationship with Him as we look for His provision for our physical and spiritual needs. We learn how much we need Him. The second parable builds on this point. In this story, the self-righteous Pharisee is not just blinded to his own sin – he offers fake prayers that express no need for God. By contrast, the tax collector is broken over his sin and knows that he needs God’s mercy and grace. In our prayer lives, we grow as we learn humility before the Lord. Humble prayer is not about dwelling on all of our sins and failures, but fixing our eyes on our kind and loving Heavenly Father as we acknowledge our dependence on His grace.
The Text (Luke 18:1-14)
1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”
6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Questions to Think About
1. How is your prayer life right now? When do you pray? How do you pray? What kinds of things do you pray about?
2. Did you ever have a time in the past when God answered a request that you had been bringing before Him for several days, weeks, or even months? How did it feel and what did you learn from this experience?
3. Do you find your prayers to be more like those of the Pharisee or the tax collector? How can you tell?