We’re getting down to the wire here. The final inspections on our building should be taking place next week, and, God-willing, we’ll be able to move in on Oct. 17 with a service that starts at the school we’ve been using and ends at the new place. Just about everything is done, or well on its way. You can probably guess the last item on the to-do list. It’s the same as the first item was: Pray.
Prayer is a gift that all too often goes undervalued and, as a result, underused. God himself is asking us to talk to him. In Luke 18, Jesus tells us it is "necessary" that we "should always pray and not give up." He doesn’t tell us "try once and then go on to something else." It isn’t "one and done." Jesus wants to train us in our praying, and the key lesson for the day is persistence.
He tells a story to get the point across. There’s a widow, somebody taking advantage of her, and an unjust judge. She needs help, but the judge she goes to isn’t interested in doing his job, so he puts her off. But she keeps coming. Eventually, the judge decides to help her just to get her off his back.
It’s a simple story and it makes sense. Now, here’s the point Jesus makes with it: Since even the unjust judge caved in to this woman’s persistence, he asks, "Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night?"
Did you hear what he called us? "His Chosen ones." He picked us. He chose to love us to the extent that he paid the price, that he suffered for our faults. How much more than that judge who didn’t care will our loving Judge give us justice?
First he says, because he loves us and second, notice this…because we are calling out to him day and night.
In other words, God wants you to keep asking. Otherwise, what is the point? What reason would we have not to ask? Do we think that God is against us? There may be times when it feels that way, when life isn’t going our way, but the story of Job teaches us that even when life seems its worst, God is working it for our best.
Maybe we think, deep down, that God can’t do what we ask. But this is God, whose word created the universe and who holds the planets in orbit.
And we’d be crazy to think that God doesn’t want to bless us: He willingly gave up his own son so that we could be his.
So there are no reasons to doubt, no reasons not to ask. Jesus has removed all of them.
As humans, we sometimes say "No" to a request because we don’t have the resources, or the ability, or the time. Those things aren’t a problem for God.
Think about it. We call him Almighty. Do we understand what that means? He can do absolutely everything everyone asks of him. He can say "yes" to every one of your prayers, and he is powerful enough to do it. There is nothing stopping him from saying yes to everything you ask except occasionally his love for you and your own good. And I think we can all agree that we’d rather he answer those ways in those cases too, right? So why not ask?
You think you’ve asked too many times? He doesn’t. This parable proves there’s no such thing for him.
You think he’s too busy? You’re forgetting who this is.
You think you don’t deserve it? This is the crazy thing. Even though we know our sins and our guilt and our shame, God sees you without any of those things. Because of Jesus’ work, God does not see your sins anymore, so even that reason not to ask is gone.
In 2 Corinthians 5:21, God’s Word promises that: "God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are the righteousness of God, described as "Holy and blameless in his sight" in Ephesians 1:4, "purified from all sin" in 1 John, and "clothed with garments of salvation and arrayed in a robe of righteousness" in Isaiah 61.
So of course God will answer our prayers. God is dying to hear you because Jesus died to give you the right.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.