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Pray

Luke 18:1-8

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Pentecost 21, Proper 23, series C
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Oct 13, 2013 

It seems so easy for people to become frustrated with the Christian faith, and fall away.  This problem especially revolves around prayer, and whether the Lord seems to hear and answer.  When a Christian prays, but God says no, they may think that it is because God does not love them.  If they think that God has abandoned them, they can fall into despair and reject the faith.

Christ our Lord says, "Do not give up praying to the Lord.  Although He may seem to ignore your prayers, the Lord is loving and gracious toward you, His saints.  He is no wicked, crooked judge who ignores the pleas of widows.  No, the merciful Judge is your Father, who eagerly desires to protect you against all your enemies, against sin, the flesh and the world, death, satan, and all the powers of hell.  The Lord will surely give you justice against all these enemies."

Our sinful flesh, however, wants to ignore the words of Jesus.  It may seem to us that the Lord is stingy with His blessings.  He may seem to say "No" to us too many times.  We may want to throw up our hands in frustration and say, "What is the use of praying at all?"

Do not listen to this voice of your flesh.  Instead, keep praying, and the Lord will give you all good things at the right time.

We members of the Church must be patient.  In our present life, we must appear to the world as helpless widows who must beg for help.  Our powerful enemies seem poised to destroy us.  So we may be tempted to feel that our faith is an empty thing.  What use is faith when our enemies appear to triumph over us?

But God will be proven right, and His Church with Him.  He will vindicate His saints.  He will prove us right, and show to all the world that we were victorious all along.  Even satan will cower at our feet, and the grave will flee in terror from the glory of God that will shine from us on that Day of days.

For where is our vindication found?  Where are we proven right?  Where do we gain justice against our enemies?  It is in Christ Jesus our Lord, who hung upon the Tree for us, and was raised the Third Day.

The enemies of Christ mocked Him.  They thought He was a false prophet, an enemy of the faith, a trouble-maker and a rabble-rouser.  They jeered at Him on the Cross, saying that surely the Lord would not abandon His own Son to crucifixion.  This was all from satan, who from the beginning kept questioning whether Christ was really the Son of God.  Surely that Man could not be Him, the suffering Slave, crushed by humiliation and shame.

But Christ prayed constantly, often going off by Himself to lay His petitions before His Father.  With great fervor He cried to heaven, especially pouring out His soul in Gethsemane.  His passionate pleas reached their climax at the Cross, as He cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" But this was not the cry of faithless despair.  Christ knew that His Father loved Him, even in that dark hour.  So He prayed with confidence, knowing that His Father surely heard and would answer, and vindicate Him by showing that He was the true Son of God.

So the proof and the justice of God for His Son is at the Empty Tomb.  Christ was revealed as the true Savior, the genuine, only-begotten Son.  His Father raised Him to show that His sacrifice upon the Cross was accepted before the Judgment Throne, so that all sins of all men had been paid for, and all who believed would be saved through Him.

True vindication and justice were granted to Christ, to silence all the lies of the enemies.

You also will be vindicated.  You may not see vindication in this life.  Even if you are vindicated in some ways, you will not be fully vindicated until the Last Day.  For the true justice and glory of what Christ has made you cannot be seen until the revelation of the sons of God.

In this life, people may mock and jeer at you.  They may make fun of your religion, and the hopes that you cling to in faith.  The devil may fill your life with trouble, and the sinful world may persecute you.  For they all want to say, "Surely YOU are not one of the sons of God!"

Meanwhile, you keep praying under all these troubles and burdens.  You keep fervently asking the Lord that His Kingdom come, and that He deliver you from evil.  He may seem to delay, but in faith you know that the Lord is swift with His justice, although not swift in the way our limited, sinful minds want Him to be.  In humility and faith we know that He will make all things right in His time, which is always the right time.

Remember this: God will surely vindicate you.  He will raise you in glory and sinlessness and immortality so that all the world will know that you truly are one of the sons of God, redeemed in the Blood of Christ, covered by His image, crowned with divine favor.

In Christ, you have been and will be proven right.  In Christ, you have been and will be protected from all your enemies.  In Christ, the justice and victory are yours.

For you are not just anybody.  You are one of God's elect.  You were chosen before the creation of the world, when God resolved with all His will that He would save you.  He planned and resolved to send His Son for you in the fullness of time.  He would atone for your sins in His Blood.  He would cleanse you with His washing, and feed you His holy Food.  Finally, He has resolved that He will raise you to eternal life at the Last Day.

He has loved you this much, even before you were born or conceived.  He has anticipated your need and provided salvation, at inconceivably great cost to Himself.

Do you think, after His planning for thousands of years for your benefit, that He will suddenly decide that He does not love you?  How ridiculous!  Do you think, when He has suffered all, even death on the Cross for you, that He will suddenly decide that He does not want to bother to listen to your prayers?  Of course not!  You are His elect, His chosen ones.  Your every need is important to Him.

Therefore, pray without ceasing, for you have a gracious God who is listening.

Yet our Lord Christ wonders, in a manner that almost suggests pessimism and despair, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find the faith on the earth?"

To be sure, Christ knows that there will be one holy, Christian Church, even to the Last Day of this present world.  He promised that the tribulations at the end will be shortened for the sake of the elect who will remain.

But Christ also knows that there will be much falling away before the end.  Many will be led away into darkness.  Many will despair and abandon the faith.  In His compassionate mercy, He wishes that it were not so.

So He warns and cautions you.  In the midst of the many people around you who fall away, you be faithful.  See that you remain fervent in prayer.  Remain faithful to the Word and to the community of faith.

Not just any community of faith, mind you, but be faithful only to the one true faith.  For there are many counterfeits, and many false teachers, and many paths that feel like they lead to God, but do not.

The one true faith is found where the Word is preached and taught in its purity, and the Sacraments are administered according to the institution of Christ.  In other words, make sure you are found where the Gospel is not weighed down and obscured by falsehood.  For true faith in the heart is created and nurtured and sustained by this pure Word and the pure Sacraments.  Anything impure puts your faith in unnecessary danger.

Be sure that you do not abandon this one true faith for some trivial reason.  "Oh, my friends attend this church, so I want to go there," or "The pastor is so nice there," or "The people are so friendly," or "I like the praise band." etc. etc.  There are many reasons to leave a pure-teaching congregation, but none of them are good reasons.

So be faithful to the truth.  Be certain that your faith in Christ is strengthened through the Word.  Remain constant in prayer, coming to your heavenly Father in confidence, because you know that His love and mercy for you cannot ever falter or cease.

All this may He accomplish in you by His Spirit, who teaches you to pray, "Abba, Father," as little children speak to their dear Father.

All glory be to Him alone, the one and only true God.  Amen.



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