In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Although it is certainly spoken with the best of intentions,
the popular phrase, “The Power of Prayer” is a bit misleading.
And it is misleading, because in truth,
and this is hard sometimes for us to hear,
but it’s incredibly importance for us to distinguish,
there is no power to prayer on its own.
Indeed, ‘the Power of Prayer’, is actually not a Christian notion at all.
It is if anything, an idea and a philosophy that comes to us, not from Christ,
But instead hot off the presses of paganism.
For it is the religion of the pagans, not the people of God,
who believe that with enough prayer, enough sacrifices and blood, enough words, and songs, and cries,
that the gods would be satisified,
that they would be manipulated
even that their arms would be twisted
and so they would be moved to answer.
So that with enough of what you have to give, Zeus would send rain on your fields.
With enough of what you have to say, Poseidon would make your journey safe across the sea.
The Power of Prayer,
like the hope and beliefs of the ancient pagans,
is nothing more than a dream,
and really a bad dream at that.
The idea that you can manipulate and twist God’s arm
as long you pray hard enough,
is not actually good news.
And with all of this in mind,
we should when we look to the parable of the persistent widow and the unrighteous judge in Luke 18,
see clearly that this is not at all a story about who God is
or how He answers the cries of His people.
It is rather a kind of bizarre reality
that for the most part,
has nothing to do with who the Lord is or how and why He answers prayers.
However, as bizarre and absurd as the parable is from the perspective of God,
It is of course, entirely familiar to you and I.
We might even better rename it, ‘the parable of how things usually go in this life’
For it should not be too difficult for us to imagine or conceive of a public official
who cares nothing of their own constituents.
It should not be too absurd for us to relate to a leader
who is only moved to act after he’s been involved with
some great scandal, or public shame, or embarrassment.
The parable of the persistent widow and the unrighteous judge is of course our reality.
It is the matter of fact truth of life in this fallen world.
Lived among a people who neither fear God, nor respect men,
who trample the weak and hide behind their titles,
their positions, their powerful yet soiled and corrupt names.
This is why Jesus tells the parable.
It is because you are familiar with it.
For it is the world as you know it.
And for that reason, when we often read this parable,
we initially identify ourselves with the persistent widow.
with the one who is crying out for an answer to prayer
This is perhaps part of where the idea of the ‘Power of Prayer’ comes from
That if we just pray the like the widow, long enough and hard enough,
Then God will be forced to answer us.
But that is a dangerous thing,
And what it reveals is that we aren’t reading all the words of this parable very carefully
For what the widow is crying out for, is justice,
She’s crying out for what is fair, for what she deserves.
And if we wish to identify with her,
Then we’re in a very dangerous spot indeed.
For what sinner, dares to cry out to God for justice?
For what is fair?
For what he deserves?
That is very dangerous thing to ask.
Indeed the only one who dares to do this, neither knows God nor knows himself.
For in all of our prayers,
from asking for a good night’s sleep, to energy for the work day,
from a safe drive home, to a peaceful morning,
we are always praying not for what we deserve,
but explicitly what we do not deserve.
This is the nature of prayer in Christ, that we do not cry out for justice, but rather for injustice,
For we cry out that the Lord would answer us according to His mercy and grace,
There is but only part of the parable of the persistent widow and the unrighteous judge that is true of both the story and of the Lord Himself.
It is the only thing that connects the two,
for otherwise these things have nothing to do with one another.
And it is not the persistence of the widow, it is not her many cries, it is not the power of prayer.
What it is, is far more subtle, yet of infinitely more significance.
For what the widow possesses is not power over judge, but rather the knowledge of who the judge is.
Namely, she knows that he is lazy and sloppy,
And that even though he puts up the apeearance of being selfish and shameless,
Still even the most shameless of men, have some sense of shame.
She knows that this judge can be beaten down,
That eventually he’ll give up,
Eventually he’ll cave.
And so it is that knowledge, not that power,
that moves the widow to pray persistently,
it moves and shapes everything she does,
for she knows the one who has the power to vindicate, to justify.
So it is with the Lord,
What matters is not the power of your prayers, but the knowledge of the one answers them.
And this knowledge, is not something you have, it’s something you’ve been given,
We call it faith, but it can also be called waiting, and expecting, and hoping.
This is the knowledge and the faith given to Jacob as he wrestles with God,
He knows, for the Lord himself has planted it already, that the Lord is good, that He will be merciful.
And so Jacob wrestles with God, expecting from Him good things, knowing that the Lord is not his enemy or his adversary, even though to all it appearances it may seem that way.
Jacob knows the Lord is good, and from that knowledge, from that faith, flows forth everything that he does, every way in which he acts and speaks and moves.
And so we cry out, and are bold to cry out, we are persistent to cry out,
For the Lord has given you this knowledge,
He has drowned you in this knowledge in His Baptism,
He has fed you this knowledge at His Supper,
He has drummed this promise into your ears through His ever-piercing Word
All so that you might know, and so might pray, that He is Good, that He is merciful and gracious,
That you can expect and that He has already given the truly Good gift from above.
For He has answered and given us this Good in this way:
In Christ who has taken up the place of the persistent widow.
In Christ who has cried out day and night for the vindication and justice of God’s people.
In Christ who has pleaded for us that justice would be meted out
and that that which was stolen would be given back,
and that that which was taken would be repaid in full,
that the law would be satisfied,
that the devil would cease his accusations,
and that death would be defeated.
And in Christ, the Father has answered this prayer,
He has answered the cry for justice in this way:
By delivering the Son of Man into the hands of unrighteous judges and shameless men
By repaying what was taken in his bloodied body lifted up from the earth,
By receiving the full justice of God’s wrath against sin on the cross
By satisfying the Law and its demand in His passion
By giving the devil no means in which to accuse the saints of God,
For He has taken your place,
It is finished, there is nothing left to ask for, it has been answered.
And yet we still cry out, though not because the Lord is silent, or because He isn’t listening,
We cry out, we pray without cease, because of the Knowledge, the Faith that has been poured to us in His demand for justice met in his own body and blood lifted. from the knowledge of prayer,
For in this, we do not lose heart that the Lord is good, and will work all things to the greatest Good, to the life found in His Son, all in His good and gracious time.
The answers to our prayers that He has given is that of Christ and Him crucified,
He does not answer the ‘why’ of why we suffer, or the ‘how’ in how our pain serves the greatest end,
But what He does, is turn our prayers, our faith, our hearts, and our minds, to the answer that has been lifted up, crucified, died, buried, and now is raised and lives to all eternity.
In Him, our suffering and pain is comforted and given true peace,
Even amidst persistent pain and persistent sorrow.
For His ears are ever bent toward you, His mind is ever fixed on you,
His will is to ever take and keep you with Himself, never alone,
but fed, washed and sustained, given food for the journey, and the peace to know that war is already won.
Indeed a little while, you will taste and see, that the Lord is good, and that His mercy endureth forever.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.