Right next to Bible study is prayer. If we desire to grow in Christ, connect with God, find the direction we desire in life, and see God move in our lives in personal ways, then Christians must be a people of prayer.
What Is Christian Prayer?
Prayer is crucial for the health of a Christian’s heart. But what is prayer? Prayer is not unique to Christianity. Almost all religions have some form of prayer rituals and practices. But when we as Christians pray, we are coming into the presence of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Prayer is more than making requests of God. Prayer is ultimately being in conversation with God through listening and speaking.
There are many types of prayer: praise/thanksgiving, confession, intercession (prayers for others), supplication (prayers requests for self), and meditation/listening. But prayer can be more than all of these things. Essentially, prayer is actively walking with God in a personal, moment to moment relationship.
When we begin to understand the full scope of what prayer can be with God, suddenly Luke 18:1 begins to make a lot more sense, “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.”
A rich, deep, profound, moment by moment relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is exactly what our hearts need to stay alive. Prayer and never giving up are tied together for the Christian. If we neglect God in prayer, our hearts will be hungry, lonely, directionless and we will turn from God in sin.
We were made to listen to him and to talk to him; but because of sin everything got messed up (Genesis 1-3). Ultimately we lose heart not because the world is hard to live in; we lose heart because we try to live in the world without God, which is more than hard . . . it’s impossible.
Luke 18:1 tells us that the reason Jesus shares this parable is so we will be able to pray more and not give up in our Christian walk. But how is this parable going to help us do those two things?
Jesus tells us a story that teaches us about God because the deeper our understanding of God, the more passionate and powerful our prayers will become. In Martin Loyd-Jone’s book called Revival, he states, “Great prayer is always the outcome of great understanding. . . . It is when a man is in the furnace of affliction, it is then, indeed, that he falls back upon certain fundamental truths of which he is absolutely sure and certain. The key to great praying is a deep knowledge and grasp of the doctrine of grace.”
Parables, like the one told in Luke 18:1-8, always compare or contrast something (or someone) in Jesus’ story with something (or someone) in real life. In the case of the unjust judge, Jesus is simply contrasting this judge with God. Everything we will learn about this judge will take us into a deeper understanding of God by seeing how totally different God is compared to the unjust judge. And the more we know God, the more our prayer life will be benefitted.
Why Is Prayer Key for Transformation?
There was a judge in a certain city,” Jesus said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’” (Luke 18:2-3)
Luke 18:1 makes it known that Jesus wants us to always be in communion with God. He then instantly motivates us in Luke 18:2 to passionately pursue this relationship by giving us a picture of God’s absolute goodness, holiness, and love.
The first thing we learn about this judge is that he “neither feared God nor cared about people.” But remember, the whole point of Jesus’ parable is to show us how God is totally different than this unjust judge. Jesus points out the bad and corrupt character of the judge to highlight the totally good and pure character of God. By stating the unjust judge doesn’t care about the widow, Jesus is teaching us that God really does care about us. 1 Peter 5:7 states, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
In Dr. Dobson’s book called Brining Up Boys, he instructs that during the teen years, kids will find it much harder to listen to the advice of their parents if they felt unloved in childhood. He instructs parents, “The best way to avoid this teenage time bomb is to diffuse it in childhood . . . Begin now to build a relationship that will see you through the storms of adolescence.” Dr. Leman, in Parenting Your Powerful Child, also states, “They don’t care what you know . . . until they know that you care.”
Why does this relate to prayer? Just like a child who rebels against her parents because she doubts their love for her, if we don’t believe deep in our being that God really cares for us, we will find it very hard to “always pray” and thus we will lose heart and give up (Luke 18:1).
Luke 18:3 shows us why prayer is so key for our transformation. You see, a widow in the time period of this parable would have been totally helpless in this male dominated society. History shows that widows were not even allowed to be in the courtroom unless there was absolutely no male who could plead her case.
So for this widow to be coming to the judge herself in Jesus’ parable, it meant not only did she have no husband, it meant she had no son, no brother, no uncle, no nephew, no distant male cousin . . . she literally had no one to plead her case on her behalf. She was the most needy type of person in all of society. She had no hope to gain justice against her enemy except for this judge. If the judge did not act on her behalf, she was completely helpless.
Jesus is trying to point out that in reality, we are this widow. Without God showing his kindness, we would have nothing. We have enemies in the flesh, the world, and the devil, and without the power of God working through prayer, we are helpless. We are as powerless spiritually as this widow was physically.
All this is perfect picture of the gospel. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 8:8 states, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” We are all as totally helpless and in need of a redeemer as this widow. We cannot created our own transformation. Just as this widow will remain unjustified without someone helping her, we too would be unjustified without God moving on our behalf through the work of Christ (Romans 8:30).
The clear, simple, and true message of the Bible is that everything good we have is from God, not ourselves: Acts 17:25 (NIV), “And [God] is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” James 1:16-17 (NIV), “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” The widow understood that her hope was in the hands of the judge, just as we must understand our hope is truly in the hands of God alone.
Notice what the widow did not do. She did not seek justice in her own power. She didn’t turn to others once the judge refused her. Why? Because she understood that only the judge had the rightful authority to do anything about her problem. She wasn’t going to take her eyes off the judge because she knew he was the only one who could truly help.
Likewise, when we begin to understand the great power of God and begin to truly believe he alone is powerful enough to help us change and transform, only then will we cry out to him day and night.
The widow is our example, for she was humble enough to know her helplessness. She went to the judge constantly because she knew she was powerless. We too should go to God constantly because we too must realize that without Christ, we really are helpless (John 15:5). A lack of consistent prayer to God is the surest sign of pride in one’s self and doubt in God’s power.
Can I Pray Often and With Power?
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. 2 “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ 4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”
Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
As we have been saying throughout this chapter, the more we truly know God, the more motivation we will have to pray. Jesus is teaching us about God in this parable by contrasting him with the unjust judge. Let’s gather more details about God which will help us to pray more and not give up:
Verse 2: God really cares about us, thus he wants us to talk to him and listen to him in prayer.
Verse 3-5: God doesn’t answer our prayers so we will stop coming to him. God answers our prayers so we will come to him more often. Notice the unjust judge never talks to the widow; he only “said to himself.” God talks to us and listens to us.
Verse 6-7: God is “sovereign” which means he is all powerful and has planned everything for his people. Notice we are a “chosen people.” We should pray day and night because God is all powerful.
Verse 8: Prayer is an expression of faith in God. You can always know how much or little you believe in God by what your prayer life looks like. Limited time in prayer shows you doubt God’s presence and involvement. Small requests of God show you doubt his power. When we have faith in God, we will pray often and boldly.
In closing, there are many more things we could say about prayer. Prayer is one of those topics that we as Christians should always be learning about and practicing. You will never outgrow prayer. But how should we pray? There are at least five different basic types of prayer that God wants us to do daily:
- Thanksgiving and praise: God desires our worship. In prayer we can show him the gratitude he deserves for all the good he does for us and we can praise him for his amazing character and love.
- Confession: God desires us to regularly confess our sins to him. Confession is admitting what you did wrong and asking God to forgive you through the blood of Jesus. Repentance is when we turn away from our sin and turn back to God. Confession is always the first step in repentance.
- Requests: God wants us to come to him for our every need. Asking God for things should not be the only things we pray. But this is a huge part of a healthy prayer life. God only gives us what is good for us, so he won’t answer every prayer the way we asked, but he always hears us and he always does what is best for us.
- Intercession: Not only should we pray for ourselves, but we should also pray for other people. God really does bless other people through the prayers of his people. Praying for others also softens your heart towards people who have hurt you or that you want to love better.
- Listening and meditating: Prayer is a conversation and true conversation involves speaking and listening. God speaks and listens to us and he desires the same. We should regularly quiet our hearts and minds to listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading in our personal lives. We should also pray the Scriptures and sit before God as we meditate over specific Bible verses. Those who consistently still their hearts to hear God are the ones who experience God’s personal leading in their lives.
Just like reading your Bible, prayer is something we should do daily. It has the power to change our lives and help us grow closer to God. If you don’t want to give up and lose heart in life, then as Jesus taught us in Luke 18:1-8, we must pray to God often.