Most of us at RML are in our 20s. Given average life expectancy, and assuming Jesus doesn’t come back beforehand, most of us can expect to live for another 50 or 60 years.
[Pause while you digest this fact, which is what we’ve all just taken a few minutes to do here in the office.]
Do you ever ask yourself ‘How will I keep going to the end?’ Even if I feel like my relationship with God is strong at the moment, how is it ever going to stay that way? Life is messy, and this world is broken. Persecution of Christians in the UK is increasing. Suffering will certainly happen. How am I going to make it to that last day, when I’ll get to see Jesus? What’s going to stop me from giving up?
Here is one answer from the New Testament that we may not have expected: we need to persist in prayer.
Jesus tells a parable with this very intention—he wants people “always to pray and not lose heart.” That’s another way of saying “so that they don’t give up.” You can find it in Luke 18:1-8.
It goes something like this. Imagine a judge, who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him, neither God nor man. In the same city there’s a widow who keeps asking him for justice, again and again and again. He ignores her for a while but eventually he decides he’s going to give the widow the justice she wants. He still doesn’t care what anyone thinks, but just wants her to stop bothering him.
Here is Jesus' point: If a really rubbish judge eventually gives in to persistent pleading, don’t you think that God our Father, who is perfectly righteous, as well as just, will be even quicker to answer? So does this mean that if I pray every day for the thing I want (a husband, a wife, that job, that house) that God will certainly give it to me?
Not necessarily. Remember the point of the parable? It’s about not losing heart, or giving up.
The thing that Jesus wants us to keep pleading with God for is justice. And Jesus tells us that he will give it speedily. So whatever it is that might make us lose heart—grief, suffering, discouragement, persecution, trials—we will keep going as we pray for justice. This prayer lifts our eyes to the one who will put all things right, and who will judge with fairness all those who persecute or reject us.
And so in this last post in our series on prayer, the point, really, is the same as Jesus': How will I keep going to the end? By persisting in prayer, because I know that God won’t delay in answering.
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2
Image: Tim Davis (CORBIS)