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Praying with Persistence and Humility (Luke 18:1-14)

Luke 18:1–14 - 1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2 saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. 3 “There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 4 “For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” 9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” What does today’s passage say? In today's passage, Jesus tells a parable to teach that believers should always pray earnestly and not lose heart (v. 1). He gives an example of a widow persistently pleading for justice before an indifferent judge until the judge finally grants her request just to get rid of her (vv. 2-5). Jesus explains that if even this unjust judge responds, how much more will God, the righteous judge who loves his people, answer those who persistently cry out to him (vv. 6-8). Jesus then shares another parable contrasting two men praying in the temple - a confident religious Pharisee and a despised tax collector (vv. 9-10). The Pharisee proudly thanks God that he is not corrupt or immoral like others, touting an impressive spiritual resume. In contrast, the tax collector sincerely pleads for mercy due to his sinfulness (vv. 11-13). Jesus declares that it was the humble tax collector rather than the prideful Pharisee who returned home justified, showing God cares more about sincerity than outward displays of righteousness (v. 14). How can I apply Luke 18:1-14 to my life? Today, Jesus calls us to reexamine our prayer lives through the lens of two contrasting parables. He shares these simple but profound stories to transform how we interact and communicate with the Father. These parables teach us to pray persistently, sincerely, and with humility. They call on us to be willing to acknowledge our own spiritual poverty, trust in God’s timing and justice, and recognition of salvation by grace rather than external righteousness. How well do our current mindsets and habits of prayer align with the instruction Christ imparts? Ask the Spirit to imprint these teachings freshly on your mind and heart today! Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

  1. Persist in Prayer, Trusting in God's Timing and Justice (vv. 1-8): Jesus tells a parable about a widow persistently pleading for legal protection before an unjust judge to teach us to pray earnestly and not lose heart. Just as this widow kept pestering the unrighteous judge until he finally granted her justice, we should continually bring our heartfelt requests and needs before our perfectly righteous Heavenly Father, expecting Him to act justly on our behalf in His perfect timing. Though God often seems to delay providing the justice, protection, provision, or guidance we seek, He hears our cries and promises to answer according to His will at the right time. What appears as divine inaction is actually God working patiently behind the scenes, using our persistent prayers to produce character within us and arrange circumstances for the perfect, just outcome. So, keep praying earnestly about everything you face, not losing hope! Do not stop crying out to the Judge of all the earth who always does what is right! Keep bringing your cares, desires and pleas for help to your Father. Allow your persistence in prayer to be an expression of deep confidence that God hears you and will justly answer. As you walk closely with Jesus, let your persistent prayers strengthen hopeful anticipation of God’s intervention. Allow the delays to develop godly perseverance and trust in His timing and justice (James 1:2-4; Luke 11:5-10; Romans 12:12).

Food for thought: What persistent prayers have you given up on that God might want you to keep pleading for? In what current situation do you need to pray persistently rather than lose heart?

  1. Approach God with Humility, Acknowledging Your Need for Mercy (vv. 9-13): Jesus' parable contrasting the prayer attitudes of a Pharisee and tax collector warn against prideful self-righteousness and remind us that "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." The Pharisee's lengthy prayer emphasized his moral resume and religious efforts while looking down on others like the tax collector. But God rejects those who exalt themselves before Him while claiming to serve Him. Issues of pride and performance seeking can subtly corrupt our prayers and service too if not vigilant. We must guard our hearts against self-reliance in trying to earn righteousness. The tax collector's simple plea for mercy should characterize our prayers - recognizing our lowliness and need before our gracious Lord. Approaching God with humility requires honest awareness of our spiritual poverty and absolute dependence on Him. We contribute nothing meritorious except receiving Christ’s sufficient work by faith alone. Our service must flow from grace, not striving. As we grow inwardly through communing with Jesus, outward righteousness will follow without pretense. Measure yourself only against His standard, not by comparing yourselves to others. Keep your eyes fixed on His undeserved kindness toward you! (Proverbs 16:18; Jeremiah 17:9; Luke 5:8; 2 Corinthians 10:12).

Food for thought: When do you struggle most with spiritual pride? How might you apply the tax collector's prayer?

  1. Recognize the Power of a Sincere Heart over External Appearances (vv. 14): Jesus concludes the parable by stating the tax collector “went down to his house justified” rather than the religious Pharisee. Despite the tax collector's sinful life and lack of works, his humble plea for mercy is what made him righteous before God. This underscores that we cannot earn a right standing before God through moral effort and religious deeds. Our righteous works are filthy rags before the perfect holiness of God. Paul echoes this parable in Romans 3 when explaining justification by faith. Our part is simply to believe - receiving the gift of righteousness accomplished by Jesus on the cross. Salvation comes not by works or law keeping but by God’s grace appropriated through faith in Christ alone. Because of Jesus’ finished work that satisfied God’s wrath toward sin, the Father now counts us as perfectly righteous when we trust in His Son. Rest in Christ's sufficient work that makes you worthy to stand cleansed before God! Cease all efforts to justify yourself. Simply receive Him as the all-sufficient sacrifice for your sins by faith. As an undeserved gift, allow His complete goodness and righteousness to be your sufficiency before God. Consider every accomplishment as loss compared to this infinite privilege (Romans 3:9-28, 5:1; Philippians 3:8-9; Titus 3:5-7, Isaiah 64:6).

Food for thought: How might you rely on your own goodness versus receiving Christ’s? What role do works play if salvation is by faith alone? As we read today’s passage, let’s reaffirm the core principles Jesus wants us to take away regarding our prayer life. We must pray persistently about everything, anticipating God’s justice and deliverance in His perfect timing. Humility should characterize our prayers more than impressive religious words. We must recognize the poverty of our own righteousness and plead for the Father’s mercy offered through Christ. External righteousness earns no favor with God. Only sincere faith and humility like that of the tax collector will ever open the floodgates of God’s answers to our prayers. When we falter in these areas of prayer and spiritual posture, the Holy Spirit stands ready to intercede so our feeble pleas for help will be heard. God desires intimate fellowship with His children. So come boldly and confidently before your Father’s throne! Pour out your heart to Him. Keep praying in every season with expectant hope. Let your weakness draw you to His mercy. He has made you righteous in Christ - rely fully on that gift! As you walk closely with Jesus, allow this passage to instill new passion, humility, and persistence into your prayers with the Lord who delights to answer them according to His glorious will. Prayer Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that You would instill fresh passion and faith into my prayer life. Empower me to pray persistently about every situation without losing heart. Grant me humility and awareness of my spiritual poverty apart from Christ’s righteousness. Lead me simply to Your mercy seat to receive grace daily. Enable me to rest completely in the justification You have provided through Jesus rather than trusting my own goodness or religious efforts that fall short of Your glory. I long to walk closely with You through prayer that aligns with the precepts Jesus taught in Luke 18. Transform my mind and heart as I meditate on Your Word. Fill me with expectant hope to await Your perfect timing and just intervention as I continually cry out to You, my righteous Judge and Father. Thank You for delighting in me and being eager to answer my prayers according to Your will. I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Luke 18:14 - “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” With His Blessings, Pastor Corby

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