Persevering in Prayer (Luke 18)

john-bunyon-prayer-quote

Persevering in Prayer
Scripture: Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/10/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What can you do with a rubber band?
Rubber bands are elastic. So are Jesus’ parables- stories with a deeper spiritual meaning. They both stretch in many directions.

You can read a parable one day and hear from God. You can read them a month later or even years later and receive another important truth from God.

It reminds us the scriptures are living and active. God meets us exactly where we are in the Word of God.

Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
From the point of view of followers of Jesus as the widow
1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Jesus sets up a contrast between God and the unjust judge.

The judge is powerful, probably the most powerful person in his community. He’s worldly, corrupt, slow to respond, indifferent, disrespectful, unbelieving.

God is more powerful, attentive to injustice, quick to respond, faith-full, compassionate.

Even the ungodly relent in the face of persevering. How much more will God answer you when you pray!

Followers of Jesus are to be like the widow, the person with the least amount of power in the community. Folks would have laughed at the powerless widow getting the judge to do what she wanted him to do.

1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
8 when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

The widow had faith that her persevering would bring a result. Faith looks like praying always and not losing heart. Does God find you resilient and full of faith? Actively trusting in God and persevering in prayer?

How’s your prayer life?

  • Using prayer as a rubber stamp as you make plans to fix whatever needs fixing in your own strength?
  • Using prayer as a last resort when everything else you tried didn’t work?
  • Have you just given up on prayer? You’ve been praying about the same situation for a long time with no change. It’s easy to get discouraged and lose heart.

Luke 11:9-13
Luke 11:9 Jesus said, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

A Translation Closer to the Original Intention- Present Progressive Tense
Jesus said, “Keep on asking, and it will be given you, Keep on seeking and you will find, keep on knocking and it will be opened unto you.  For everyone who continues to ask, receives, and the one who continues to seek, finds, and for the one who continues to knock, it will be opened.  What father among you, if your son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Example of Persevering Prayers Being Answered

Name your persevering prayer. Keep praying, do not lose heart.

  • Reconciliation of relationship
  • The salvation of a loved one
  • An answer to a question
  • Deliverance from an addiction
  • The end of corruption, evil, injustice, oppression
  • Peace and plenty for all

Trust God is good. Trust God is near and attentive to your needs. Trust God will make the wrongs right. It may not be in this life, it may be in heaven. But it may be now.

Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
Stretch the parable in a different direction, from the point of view of God as the widow and we as the judge.
2 Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 

Pleading Widow by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Our gender and power stereotypes told us to assume
the judge is God, which would make us the poor widow.
But wait. Who judges? Who cares neither for God or people?
That would be us. And who continually demands
that we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God?

Sorry, we don’t get the high ground here, denying our privilege,
pretending we’re faithfully imploring God
with our persistent quest for justice.
We’re the ones deaf to the cries of the poor.

God comes in the voice of the vulnerable, the easily ignored
while we in our arrogance easily ignore.

How disconcerting that in this story
the ball is in our court, not God’s!
The demand has been made, over and over.

Jesus warns us: God can outlast us.
But when God comes, will God find us listening?

Prayer and Action
Prayer is coupled with action. If we are praying for that relationship to be reconciled, what are we doing for that relationship to be reconciled? If we are praying for our loved ones to come to faith, what are we doing to create an environment where they could hear the Gospel? If we’re praying for an end to evil, injustice, and oppression, what are we doing to end evil, injustice, and oppression?

The dual truths of persevering in prayer and prayer in action stretch me. I need to pray before I act so I don’t use it as a weapon. I need to persevere in prayer because God is the one who makes things new. I need both.

And I need the Holy Spirit filling me so I don’t lose heart when it seems like nothing’s changing. Persevere in prayer. Prayer and action.

Prayer-
Heavenly Father, we thank you that you hear us. That you want to have a relationship with us. You want to bless us, empower us, encourage us, forgive us.

Help us to talk to you. To talk to you honestly, openly, and often. Help us to persevere in prayer. Help us to not lose heart. Help us to trust you.

Help to know the path we’re on with you is the path of goodness and glory. Help us to know it’s the path of truth and humility, the path of light and life. We need that assurance so we can persevere.

In our praying, help us to hear if there’s an action we are to take. Grant us the courage, grace, and wisdom to act.

You are making us new. You are making this world new. Thank you for the gift of prayer. Amen.

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Persevering in Prayer © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Learning to Pray- God, please help

God please help October

God, please help… for many of us, it’s our first prayer, our first time reaching out to God. It comes in the midst of tears or as a whisper in the night or a cry of anguish when we are in way over our heads.

Help, I lost my job
Help, I’m losing my mind
Help my kid to love me again
I’m so lonely, help me
I don’t know what to do, help
Help, I have cancer
Help, she’s going to leave me
This pain is unbearable, help me
Help, I can’t do this
help, I can’t stop doing this
Help, I hate my life

We don’t have to be taught how to ask for help. We’re born knowing how. We know how to cry out for a diaper change, or a bottle, or to be burped. Help! It’s as natural as breathing.

But somewhere along the way we grow up and start taking care of ourselves. We start buying into the myth we can become educated enough, rich enough, powerful enough not to need help.

The truth is we all need help. We will always need help.

Even Jesus asked for help. He often went off alone to pray so we don’t know what he said then. But we do know what he prayed on the Mount of Olives in Gethsemane the night before his death. (Matthew 26) He was vulnerable and honest in asking God for help and asking for help from his companions.

In her wonderful book Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers, Ann Lamott said, “There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It’s exhausting, crazy-making. Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through. It is the first great prayer.”

The truth is we all need help. We will always need help. When we know this and accept it, asking for help can again become as natural as breathing. In the asking, we realize God is already there, close as breath.

So let’s learn to pray by re-learning to pray.
It’s not important how you say it.
Just say it – real, raw, honest.
It’s as easy as finishing a sentence-
God, please help…

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Learning to Pray- God, please help © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Blessing College Students as They Leave for School

student college dorm

Blessing College Students as They Leave for School
We offer this blessing during worship the second Sunday in August. This is usually the last Sunday our college students are in worship before they return to school.

The students are invited to stand where they are seated. (Option: If the congregation is small enough, the students could be introduced at this time and/or given a gift.) The rest of the congregation is then invited to stand and lay a hand of support and blessing on the student closest to them.

Option: The blessing may begin with an invitation for the congregation to offer their own prayers for the students silently or aloud. The following prayer concludes the time of blessing.

ONE: Holy One,
Bless and protect these college students
as they leave us to begin another school year.

Keep them encouraged and full of hope.
Surround them with godly influences and opportunities.

Fill them with discernment,
that they may remain focused, disciplined and far from foolishness.

Grant these students the mind of Christ-
that they may grow in your wisdom and truth
that they may serve with both power and compassion
that they may carry your light throughout their campuses

Thank you for these students
and for providing the resources for them to continue their education.
Thank you for family members, friends, teachers, and coaches
who have mentored and supported them so that this day might be possible.
Thank you for creating us with the capacity to think, speak, discover and reason.
We rejoice in these good gifts from you and give you the honor and glory for them.

Receive our thanks and extend your blessing in the name of Jesus,
who saves us and leads us and teaches us to pray…

Finish with all praying The Lord’s Prayer

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Blessing College Students as They Leave for School © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

 

Why you should memorize Numbers 6.24-26, The Priestly Blessing

priestly blessing Numbers 6

Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, 61).

What a powerful reminder of the benefits to memorizing scripture. Let’s add one more, especially regarding Numbers 6:24-26. You will always have something to offer when its time to pray out loud. 

Many people are terrified of praying out loud. Some are scared of public speaking, but far more are concerned they won’t choose the right words, or say them in the right way. (That’s a whole discussion for another blog post!)

Numbers 6:24-26 is an ancient, timeless blessing packed with rich, deep meaning.

Asked to say grace before a meal? Use Numbers 6:24-26.

Asked to say a few words for a graduation, anniversary, birthday, retirement, or other celebration? Use Numbers 6:24-26.

Use it when someone just shared their troubles with you.
When someone is ill or headed for a medical test.
At the birth or adoption of a child.
When its the last time you’ll see a dear one before a move or a trip…

It’s always the right thing to say because its a blessing straight from God’s Word. 

The easiest way to always have Numbers 6:24-26 at the ready is to memorize it. Then you can look the person in the eye, and offer the blessing with every ounce of your being.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NRSV)
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The Meaning of Numbers 6:24-26
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;

  • May the Lord constantly bring good into your life
  • May the Lord protect you and guard all that is sacred and precious about you

25 The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

  • Imagine how a person’s face lights up when they hold a baby. God’s face shines on you in the same way. This is a reminder that God delights in you. May you know how beloved you are.
  • Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting better than what we deserve. We all need grace. Grace upon grace.

26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

  • Imagine you walk into a room and a person is working at a computer. She stops what she’s doing and looks up at you, giving you her full attention. God is fully attentive to you. God is here, already at work, already reaching out to you, already loving you.
  • May you know God’s presence and peace

Fun Facts: In ancient times, God through Moses instructed Aaron and his sons to give this blessing to God’s people. Aaron and his sons served God’s people as priests, thus the name priestly blessing. This blessing is still used today by both Christians and Jews.

HOW TO MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE
Dr. Andrew Davis memorizes entire books of the Bible. In his free, online memorization method booklet, he says, “Saying a verse one hundred times in one day is not as helpful as saying it every day for one hundred days. The absolute key to successful Scripture memorization is repetition over a long time period. This is how you retain old verses while learning new ones.”

Applying Dr. Davis’ method to Numbers 6:24-26

  • Day 1
    • Read Numbers 6:24 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 2:
    • Recite Number 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Read Numbers 6:25 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:25 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 3:
    • Recite Number 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Recite Numbers 6:25 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Read Numbers 6:26 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:26 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 4
    • Recite Numbers 6:24-26 from memory and continue to do so daily.

Other helpful memorization techniques

  • Write the scripture you want to memorize several times for several days
  • Post the scripture where you will see it often- on your refrigerator, on your bathroom mirror, in your planner, on your calendar, etc.
  • Make up a tune or find a tune so you can sing the scripture. If you aren’t a singer, say the scripture rhythmically.
  • Create hand motions or use American Sign Language to help you remember the scripture.

What other scriptures have you memorized and how have you found it helpful?

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Why you should memorize Numbers 6:24-26 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern, incorporating verses of America the Beautiful

mlk prayer pilgrimage

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the 1957 ‘Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom’.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern
ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, first verse

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

ONE:
Lord of All,
As we draw near another Independence Day,
we confess our dependence on you.
Thank you for extending abundance, mercy, and protection
to our nation through the years.
Every resource, freedom, and opportunity we have is a good gift from you.
Without you, we are lost.

ALL:
In humility, we seek your face.
In repentance, we turn from our ungrateful, destructive and selfish ways.
In faith, we call on your power to forgive our sin and heal our land.

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, second verse

O beautiful for heroes prov’d in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov’d, and mercy more than life.
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness and ev’ry gain divine.

ONE:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on those who govern our land,
Leaders of our nation, our state, and our community
and all who are running for office.

Grant them a love of justice.
Open their minds with wisdom and compassion,
so all people may be treated fairly and with dignity.

Open their ears to the cries of the desperate and powerless
so cycles of poverty, disease, and abuse may be broken.

Open their eyes to see how best to respond
and open their hearts with courage to do the right thing,
even when pressured to do otherwise.

Dawn a new day of integrity and servant leadership upon our land.
Shower down your Spirit of collaboration for the common good
that there may be lasting peace and plenty for all.

The congregation is invited to lift up their own prayers for our nation

ONE:
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, Amen.

Option: We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, who taught us to pray, Our Father, who art in heaven….

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, fourth verse

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

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For other prayers suitable for Independence Day try A Prayer for our Country or Independence Day Prayer or A prayer of examen for our national holiday, all by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

America the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel A. Ward.
Public Domain.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Leave a comment for posting and publication considerations.