Jesus' Teaching About Prayer
Luke 18: 1-14 (NKJV)
1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not faint; 2 Saying, there was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bears long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily, Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"
These verses include two of Jesus' parables about prayer. Note one was addressed to the disciples (vv. 1-8) and the other (vv. 9-14) to "some who were confident of their own righteousness."
18: 1-8. Jesus told the Parable of the Unjust Judge to teach persistence in prayer: that they, His disciples, should always pray and not give up. Verse 2-5 contains the parable itself: A widow continued to go before an unjust judge to plead for justice in her case. He continually refused to "hear" her case, but finally he decided to give her justice so that she would not wear him out with complaining. Jesus interpreted the parable (vv. 6-8), pointing out that if the unjust judge would give justice, then imagine how God (the just Judge) would see that they get justice, and quickly Jesus' question, When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? was not spoken out of ignorance, nor was He questioning whether all believers would be gone when He returns. Instead, He asked the question to exhort the disciples on to faithfulness in prayer, challenging them to keep on in praying.
9 And he spake this parable unto some, which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalteth."
18: 9-14. The purpose of the Parable of Prayers of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector were to show that one cannot trust in himself for righteousness and should not view others with contempt (v.9). The Pharisee's prayer was concerned with telling God what a good man he was, for not only did he keep the Law by fasting and tithing (v. 12), but also he considered himself better than other people (v. 11). He was using other people as his standard for measuring righteousness.
On the other hand, the tax collector used God as his standard for measuring rightness. He realized that he had to throw himself on the mercy of God for forgiveness. Jesus' application of the parable echoed His teaching 13: 30. It is necessary for people to humble themselves before God to gain forgiveness, and those who are proud ((everyone who exalts himself) will be brought low (humbled) by God.
The widow's persistence in prayer (vv.1-8) and the Publican's humble heart (v. I 3) are both laudable whereas, the Pharisee's self righteousness (vv. 1 I, 12) is sadly laughable.
Herb Ragland, Findlay City Mission
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