In reading through Luke 18 this morning, Luke tells us the point of the upcoming parable of Jesus by saying, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). I believe this connection is lost on many populating the pews in our churches–and maybe even the pulpits as well.
When we fail to pray, we fail to connect with the perspective and purpose of our Heavenly Father. Therefore, all we focus on are the frailties, failings, and foibles that happen in us in all around us.
I love what the study notes in the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible say:
Our perspective is limited and our vision is clouded. Holy Scripture continually reminds us that God is truly for us in Jesus. We need this constant reminder of God’s kind heart and great power toward us as we fight against our inherent unbelief. We now belong to him. He is our advocate. He delights to care for us and to defend us.
Without Christ-centered prayer focused on God’s will and way, we leave ourselves to our own devices. We, in essence, believe we are “god enough” (if you will) to handle the day-to-days. We rest in our own knowledge, rely on our own wisdom, and recognize our own wonder in moving things forward.
And yet, when our failings rise, we could listen to Osteen who would tell us basically to draw deep from our own goodness and destiny that God has planted in us. How unsustainable! We can take his advice and plow our own future–and lose heart when we come to the end of that highway (and yes, I said when–it will happen).
Or we can pray out of our frailties, feebleness, failings, and foibles, trusting in the One who is able, and not lose heart because our rest is in Him. He is our Father and will listen to us (Luke 18:8).
In a beautiful scene in Revelation 8, the Lamb is opening the seventh seal–after which heaven was silent for one-half hour. The seven angels stood before God and were given seven trumpets. But verse 3 is a joy to read:
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
I cannot add to what John Piper preached in a sermon on this very topic, and rejoice that not only does God hear our prayers, but they are an instrument for the judgment to come at the end of the world.
The utterly astonishing thing about this text is that it portrays the prayers of the saints as the instrument God uses to usher in the end of the world with great divine judgments. It pictures the prayers of the saints accumulating on the altar before the throne of God until the appointed time when they are taken up like fire from the altar and thrown upon the earth to bring about the consummation of God’s kingdom.
In other words, what we have in this text is an explanation of what has happened to the millions upon millions of prayers over the last 2,000 years as the saints have cried out again and again, “Thy kingdom come . . . Thy kingdom come.” Not one of these prayers, prayed in faith, has been ignored. Not one is lost or forgotten. Not one has been ineffectual or pointless. They have all been gathering on the altar before the throne of God.
So the continued connection between praying and not losing heart is that not only will God hear, but He will judge in righteousness at the consummation of all things, and will vindicate His people based on His righteousness purchased at the cross and seal at the resurrection.
Do not lose heart, church! Pray! God will hear.