Text: Luke 18
Summary: Be persistent in prayer. Be humble in prayer. Be simple in prayer. Be open in prayer.
Father, we want to learn how to pray from Luke 18. There are many different portraits of people coming to Jesus and many parables that were shared by Jesus. Lord, we want to learn how to pray. Lord, I pray that you would speak your words through this time. I give you my tongue. I give you my mouth. We give you this time. We’re all of your children, your sheep, and we want to hear the Shepherd’s voice. Holy Spirit, come and open up eyes and ears and soften hearts. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen
I want to talk about prayer today and let me give you the conclusion first. Be persistent in prayer. Be humble in prayer. Be simple in prayer. Be open in prayer.
Luke 18 begins with the parable of the persistent widow. I won’t read that section because we covered it last week but it’s a widow who is coming before an unrighteous judge. She’s bringing her case against her adversary who is tormenting her and bothering her, and she wants justice from her adversary. Jesus gives this parable after Luke 17 about the coming of the kingdom and how difficult it will be in those days. He’s trying to encourage the disciples of Jesus saying, do not lose heart. Be prayerful. Pray and don’t lose heart. Then He talks about persistence.
When we pray, we are holding on to Jesus. In the end when Jesus returns on the earth, v.8 says, nevertheless when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith or trust on earth? Will people who are the last men and women in the body of Christ standing, will they have faith? Will they have trust in Jesus?
So be persistent, brothers and sisters, because this has been a difficult year. And I know that our prayer life can take a backseat when we’re under attack. When you’re worn down, the first thing to go is prayer. I want to remind everyone, Jesus doesn’t say be persistent in attending church meetings. He doesn’t say be persistent in evangelism. He doesn’t say be persistent even in Bible reading. He says be persistent in prayer.
That’s how you guard your heart so that you do not lose your heart. Trust in Jesus. The number one thing is that we are persistently trusting in Jesus. That is the first point. Be persistent in prayer holding on to Jesus. The next one is to be humble in prayer. As we pray, the first thing we do is humble ourselves. It is a choice. It is not an adjective, it is a verb. We are humbling ourselves and bringing ourselves low.
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
This reminds me of Luke 17:3, the opening verses where Jesus is saying don’t stumble the little ones. If you stumble the little ones, tie a millstone around your neck, you should be cast into the sea. That’s how serious it is. What we say, what we do, it stumbles people. When we are harsh and somebody is angry and they lash out at you, they’ve sinned, and you’re the cause of their sin. Your moodiness, your harshness, your tone, your words, your actions. It has consequences to the little ones.
And Jesus says very clearly pay attention to yourself. If we paid attention to ourselves, I think we would be much more like the tax collector than the Pharisee. It is because we are much more like the Pharisee. We don’t pay attention to ourselves. That’s why we stand off as a judge and we look down on people who are sinning in front of us. And they are sinning in many cases, but we stand above them as judges, and we don’t realize we need mercy.
If we paid attention to ourselves as Jesus says in Luke 17, one of the first prayers as we humble ourselves and kneel before the Heavenly Father would be to ask the Father for mercy. When’s the last time you asked for mercy? If it’s been a while, then you’re not paying attention to yourself. You’re letting sins pile up. Worse than that, you are judging other people. Especially leaders in the church, we fall into this trap of judging everybody else’s sins because we’re counseling or dealing with people, and we can think we are above people. We are looking down on them, fixing their issues, looking at their sins and pronouncing judgment left and right. We are analyzing people, labeling them adulterers, selfish, doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, is too reformed, doesn’t have the Spirit, is too charismatic, doesn’t have the Bible. We pronounce judgment upon people and label people as if we are judges. If we do that, we will miss out on paying attention to ourselves and realizing our desperate need for mercy.
If you are readily saying to Heavenly Father, have mercy on me, have mercy on me, and you are readily repenting, then good for you. Keep doing it. If it has been a while, then I want to encourage you to pay attention to yourself. Pay attention to your words. Pay attention to your thoughts. Pay attention to your actions. Pay attention to the people around you. Are you stumbling the little ones? If you pay attention to yourself, your words, your thoughts, your motives, your actions, your tone, your mood, you will have plenty of things to say to the Heavenly Father, have mercy on me.
This is a big one. Be simple in prayer like a child. That’s in Luke 18:15.
15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Receive the kingdom like a child. We’re not talking about childishness. If a child is one thing, they are simple. They are not complicated like adults. We adults, especially if you’ve been in church for a while and you’ve taken some theology courses, are very complicated in our prayers. We are very complicated in our thoughts, and Jesus wants us to come simply like a child.
The last section of this chapter is also relevant. Let me read Luke 18:35.
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
What you see in this blind beggar is a childlike simplicity. He doesn’t care about how he looks to the crowd and to the religious people who are shooing him away. He doesn’t care about how he’s going to be perceived. He is just asking desperately like a child for mercy. This is unlike other people who were healed in Scripture, as obviously there are so many times that Jesus healed. Sometimes the responses of people were very complicated, such as in John 5 about the invalid at the pool of Bethesda. Let’s look at this.
6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Jesus asks a very direct question, do you want to be healed? This invalid gives a very complicated answer. He doesn’t answer the question, do you want to be healed? No, he gives excuses. I want to go into the pool, that’s the place where the healing happens. As the myth goes, the first person in the pool is the one who is healed, and it ends up being people who are very able-bodied. Somebody who is lame is not going to be the first one in the pool when the water is stirred. It’s going to be a person with a papercut. He is able and can leap into the water, and he can come out and say, oh it doesn’t sting anymore.
This man is very complicated. Not only does he say, I can’t get into the pool. Then he says, no one helps me. He’s just so complicated. Jesus asks a very direct question, do you want to be healed? It’s a yes or no question. Just a yes or no. Just answer the question. He says this complicated paragraph response. Jesus doesn’t want us to be this way. Another example is in Mark 9 about a father whose boy is demonized and has an evil spirit in him.
22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” 23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
This is also a very complicated response. When you come to Jesus, you should ask for what you need. Jesus, heal my boy. Jesus, fix this issue. Jesus, this burden is too heavy, carry this burden for me. We should be very simple. Ask for what you want to ask for. Don’t be complicated and theological. Should I ask, is it appropriate to ask, is it God’s will? I don’t know until it’s God’s will, I don’t know if I should ask. Am I being presumptuous? This is complicated.
This father is so complicated. First he says in v.22, if you can, if you’re willing. We don’t have to be complicated. Jesus is able, He can, He’s willing, He wants to do it. You don’t have to wonder. You don’t have to second-guess and be complicated, be simple like a child, receive the kingdom like a child. Come to Him like a child. Ask plainly. Don’t hide behind theology. Just come to Him and speak plainly. Be simple in your prayers.
This mountain in front of you, it should move. It requires faith. This mulberry tree should be uprooted and cast into the sea. It just requires faith. Do you believe that Jesus can? Do you believe that He’s willing? If you do, many mountains will move. Many mulberry trees will be uprooted. Be simple, ask for what you want to ask for. Don’t complicate it with theology. Don’t complicate it with your thoughts. James 1 really hammers this one home.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
When you ask for wisdom, when you ask for healing, when you ask for provision, you ask without doubting. You ask without complications. You don’t ask with second-guessing. You ask plainly, simply like a child. If you ask, but you wonder is this even appropriate for me to ask because I don’t know if it’s God’s will for me to ask. No, it is God’s will. It is God’s will for you to be healed, it is God’s will for you to be delivered. It is God’s will for you to receive wisdom when you ask.
There could be very small cases when you ask and He doesn’t give you what you’ve asked for, but He will tell it to you. But until He tells it to you, keep asking like a child persistently like this widow. Keep asking, be plain, be simple. Apostle Paul asked for the thorn in his flesh to be taken from him. It was bothering him and we don’t know exactly what it was but he asked for it to be removed. God says no, this one I’m not going to remove. This is so that you stay humble, Paul. If you didn’t have this thorn in the flesh, you would be proud. I know your tendency so I’m going to keep this in you.
So there are times when God will say, no, this one is not going to be removed. This one is not going to be healed. This mountain is not going to move. He will communicate it to you at the time when you know when God’s will is made clear to you. But before that moment, ask plainly, ask simply, ask for the mountains to move, ask for the mulberry tree to be uprooted and cast into the sea. Be a child. Believe that He can do it.
When my children were young, they believed their dad could do anything. They weren’t complicated. They’re in reality now and they know I have limitations, but before they thought I could leap from building top to the next building. They thought I could do anything because they were children. They just have such faith in their earthly dad because they are children. As children of God, we come to our Heavenly Father, we bring requests before Jesus, we have absolute faith that mountains will move in Jesus’ Name. If we have a mustard seed size faith, this mulberry tree will be uprooted and cast into the sea. Ask plainly like a child. That is the will of God for you until He gives clarification in some small cases. He may clarify, but until then, we are persistently asking.
How long are we supposed to ask? In some cases, we’re asking for the duration of our lifetime. And that’s according to God’s will. He wants us to persist. He wants us to not lose heart because in the case of the widow, it’s about not losing heart and getting relief from her adversary. When will we get relief from the adversary? We’ll get it in moments here and there when God answers our prayer, but our final relief will only happen when we cross over to glory and we meet our Heavenly Father and Jesus welcomes us to the kingdom.
That is when the prayer of this persistent widow is finally answered fully. So that tells us there are some prayer requests that we will be praying for years and decades and maybe our entire lifetime, but God wants to see, will you put your absolute faith in Jesus no matter how long you’re praying? Unless He clarifies and says, okay you don’t need to pray this anymore, until that point, pray persistently, pray simply.
If you don’t pray this way, you’re like a wave tossed by the winds, you’re double-minded. Don’t be double minded. Don’t be complicated.You only have one mind, the mind of Christ. Be simple. Be childlike. Be dependent on your Heavenly Father. Be persistent. Be humble. Be simple. Lastly, be open in prayer.
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” 21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
The last thing is to be open in prayer. You start with being persistent. And then humbling yourself before the Lord, and repenting of what you know you should repent of, and hopefully there’s a long list. If you’re paying attention to yourself, hopefully by the end of the day, there is a list. And you can go through it one by one. But there are some things that you are not aware of, certain things that you’re blind to, some things you just don’t see. This rich ruler is coming to Jesus and as far as he’s concerned, he’s doing everything. Jesus doesn’t correct him. Jesus says, I agree with you, you’re doing the things that you’re good at. But there is a huge blind spot for this rich ruler. It is his wealth.
I don’t think he would have seen it. He’s a religious person, so he prays. I’m sure he repents. I’m sure he tithes. And he fasts and he does things that other religious people do. But this one was a blind spot and he did not see it. So that’s why we have to be open. We come to the Lord Jesus and ask him, am I lacking anything, Lord? I want to follow you. I think I’m following you. Is there anything that I lack? Is there anything that disqualifies me? Is there anything I’m blind to? Is there anything that is blocking my relationship with you? Because as far as I can tell, I’m good. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to. As far as I can tell, I’m good. But there’s one thing that we lack.
I think many times there are multiple things we lack because we don’t ask Jesus, we’re not open in prayer. We repent of the obvious things but the hidden things, we don’t repent of. There are sins that we are aware of, we repent of them, and we are forgiven. There are other sins we are unaware of so we don’t repent, so they are unforgiven. There are only two kinds of sins, forgiven sins and unforgiven sins. These unforgiven sins, these hidden sins, we have to come to the Lord Jesus and say, Lord, am I lacking anything? I want to follow you.
Go through the list that Jesus says here. First of all, let me just say it is almost the most impossible thing for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. The first thing we should be praying about is, do I love money more than I love you? All of us should pay attention and ask the Lord very plainly, very clearly, and often, do I love money more than I love you? At any given moment, am I ready to let it go? Am I ready to live poor? Am I ready to live paycheck to paycheck? Am I ready to get rid of all security blankets? That is somebody who is not struggling with money anymore.
This one we all have to pay attention to because this one I think disqualifies many but we don’t even ask, we don’t even know we’re disqualified. It’s one of the most impossible things for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, but we know that God does impossible things, right? So that’s why we read in Luke 19, who is saved? A rich man! Zaccheus is a rich man and he is saved. So God does impossible things. How do we know this man is saved? You see it by what he does with his money.
He gives away half to the poor. And then if he’s cheated anyone, with the remaining 50% he’s going to pay back four times what he’s cheated. And you better believe if this person stays as a tax collector, he’s not going to extort money. He’s going to take only what is due to Caesar. He is no longer going to steal any for himself. He’s going to do his job if he stays a tax collector and you better believe he’s honest from this day forward. My guess is he probably quit, saying, there is so much corruption, so much temptation, I fell into this trap before, I’m not going to go anywhere near this thing.
So we know God does impossible things, he saves a rich man like Zaccheus. Go through the list in Luke 18 because Peter says, we’ve left our houses. You know Peter is married, he left his wife, he left his children, he left his parents, he did these very things. And Jesus says, there is no one who has left house, wife, brothers, parents, or children for the sake of the kingdom, who will not receive many times more in this age and in the age to come for eternal life.
Go through this list. Jesus, do I lack anything? Do I love money more than I love you? Do I love my wife more than I love you? Do I love my children more than I love you? Do I love my parents more than I love you? Go through this list one by one, and the relationships will have a different obligation and a different dynamic that we need to let go of. If a wife becomes someone we are so sensitive to their needs, catering to them so much that Jesus wants us to do this, but we are so mindful of our spouse that we can’t listen clearly to what Jesus is saying, then that is something we have to say, my relationship with my spouse is getting in the way of me having absolute allegiance to Jesus first.
Children are a big idolatry for Christian parents, we idolize our children. We care for them. We bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The more we leave them in the Lord’s hands, ultimately, they’re going to leave us, they’re going to leave their father and mother, they’re going to establish their own home one day, so we don’t have to be so possessive. We don’t own them. We’re stewarding them. We need to let them go. So parents, we don’t idolize children.
Parents can have such a big voice. Even as a grown adult, you can still be a mama’s boy, you can still be a daddy’s girl. You can still be so controlled by what your parents think of you. Before you go to your Heavenly Father, before you even ask, where is Jesus leading me, the voice of your parents is already there. Even before you talk to them, you hear the script in the background. And so it’s guiding your decision subconsciously. You don’t even know how much control your parents have over you.
Jesus is saying, any of these things can disqualify us from following Jesus. So go through this list, do I lack this one thing? Do I love money more? Do I love my wife more? Do I love my children more? Do I love my parents more? And Jesus adds one more thing.
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.
33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
There’s one more thing that we need to check. This one thing that you might lack and it may cause you to be disqualified from following Jesus. It’s your life. Do you love life, your life, more than you want to live for Jesus? Do you want to fulfill your script, do what you want to do, have a long life, and get everything that you want out of life? Do you want to squeeze out everything, every last drop from this sponge of life, just drink it and enjoy it to the full? Do you have all these goals and scripts that you want to accomplish? Jesus says, you need to renounce every relationship, even your very life.
With all of these things, you want to ask the Lord, do I love my life more than I love you? Jesus, do I love my job more than I want to fulfill the purpose of God for my life? Do I love my goals and whatever I deem as things I must do in this life more than I want to live for Jesus? All of these things will disqualify us from following Jesus. And so, this last one we want to be prayerful.
All of these things on the list, most of the time unless you ask, you are blind to it. Unless you ask about everything in these verses one by one, my house, my property, my wealth, my wife, my children, my parents, my siblings, what people think of me, all of these things, even my very life, you want to go through one by one and say, Lord Jesus, am I disqualified? Do I lack something, is this thing getting in the way? If so, He will show it to you and then you lay it down and you repent. You surrender and say, I’m going to follow you, Lord Jesus. I’m going to follow you, Lord Jesus. Okay, let’s pray.
Father, forgive us for lacking persistence in prayer. We persist in so many other things, but the first thing to go often is prayer. No wonder we lose heart. No wonder we lose our way. No wonder we’re lost, even though we may be faithful in a hundred other things, but because we’re not faithful and persistent in prayer, we lose our way. Father, forgive us.
We want to be persistent in prayer. We don’t want to lose heart. We want to pray believing that nothing is impossible with you. So we bring all of our requests persistently. We hold on to Jesus. We want to hold on to the very end, even as 2020 was difficult. Next year could be more difficult, and in the years to come, it’s going to be increasingly more difficult.
And so we must learn and we must master being persistent in prayer for us to hang on to Jesus to the end. Thank you, Lord, for reminding us. We want to commit from this day forward. If we’re going to be persistent in anything, may it be prayer. Lord, we humble ourselves in prayer. We kneel before Heavenly Father, and we say, Father, have mercy on me.
Father, forgive me. We confess, every sin, our faithlessness, our lack of persistence in prayer, our busyness with life, our lack of spiritual hunger, our hunger for all the wrong things, not thirsting for Jesus. We repent of all of these things. Our pride, our harshness, our moodiness, our irritation, our lust, our boasting, our judgmental attitudes, our Pharisaic attitudes labeling people as selfish, as extortioners, as adulterers, as immature, as unloving, as deceived, we label people so quickly. Lord, forgive us for being so judgmental.
Help us to pay attention to ourselves. As you say in your word, every word that comes out of our mouth, every thought that we think, every attitude, every motive, every action. Help us to go through each day, Holy Spirit, convict us of all the sins that we readily commit. Help us to be childlike and simple in our prayers. Forgive us for being so grown up in our prayers, so complicated in our prayers, so theological in our prayers. Lord, we humbly come. We humbly lay down all of our complicated thoughts. I pray that you will straighten it out. I pray that all the crookedness in our thoughts, you will straighten it out, Lord,
Give us simplicity as we once had as children, to come to you as a child plainly. When you ask a question, we will give a straight answer. Not a theological answer, not a second-guessing answer, not a blaming kind of an answer, but Lord, we will be direct, praying for mountains to move and mulberry trees to be uprooted.
Until you say otherwise, Lord, that is how we commit to pray, like a child. We don’t want to be double-minded. Forgive us for doubting. Forgive us for being double-minded. Forgive us for being complicated. We don’t want to be this way anymore. We want to have a mind of Christ. Jesus was so childlike towards His Heavenly Father. We want to be like Jesus. So simple. So direct. Answering so directly.
Forgive us for being like the rich young ruler who was blind, and in so many ways we are disqualified thinking all along that we’re okay. We’re going to start practicing and be open in prayer, always giving a portion of time in prayer where we just listen. We ask Lord, do I lack anything, and we wait for the answer. We wait. We listen. We bring everything that you say in your word before you one by one, and we ask you, do I lack this thing of money? Do I love money? Do I love my house? Do I want a bigger house?
All of these things, we bring it to you one by one. And Lord, if you say, yes you lack this thing, may we repent quickly, surrender and say Lord Jesus, I want to live for you now. If it’s our spouse, Lord, may we repent and surrender our wife and surrender our husband. And we say Jesus, you’re the husband. You’re the bridegroom. I’m more loyal to you. My first allegiance is towards you.
When it comes to children, we lay down the idolatry of children. Lord, we don’t possess them, we don’t own them. We release them, Lord Jesus, into your care. We trust you for their salvation. We trust you that you will take them to the end, in the same way that you’re taking us to the end. And so Lord, help us not to idolize our children because this one thing may derail us from becoming a true disciple of Jesus and living for Jesus.
Our parents’ voices and opinions of us, Lord, we lay it down. We repent, Lord. We’re so controlled, so manipulated by the words that our parents spoke even decades ago. We don’t realize the damage that we’re still living under because of those hurtful comments. Lord Jesus, we pray that you will heal us of any hurtful comments that were done years ago, even decades ago by parents.
We pray, Lord Jesus, you would establish the authority of the Heavenly Father in us. Jesus, you have given us new authority under heaven. And we follow you first and foremost. We surrender our siblings to you. We renounce them so that we can follow Jesus. And we renounce even our own very life. Forgive us for our self-centeredness. Forgive us for wanting to do what we want to do. Forgive us for having so many goals and being so busy with our goals, that Jesus you are shepherding us a different way and we don’t even perceive it because we are so consumed. So Lord, we lay down our busyness before you. We lay down our life before you, our thoughts before you, our complicatedness before you. Forgive us, Lord.
We want to be persistent in prayer. We want to be humble in prayer. We want to be simple in prayer. We want to be open in prayer. We pray that as we partake in your Lord’s Supper that you would speak a word, something that we’re not even aware of. Lord, may you speak it. If there are obvious sins, maybe we confess and say, have mercy on me. If there are hidden sins, as we avail ourselves to you, Lord, we will repent. I pray that you would speak and tell us in what way, what things that we lack, one thing or multiple things we lack. We pray that you would meet us, Lord, during this time as we close our service. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen