Whether legal or not, kids have been praying in school for as long as anyone can remember. We prayed that the school would burn down the night before the math exams. We prayed the teacher would break her leg on the way to our house to talk to Mom. We prayed that dad would not notice the D on our report card. We prayed the music teacher would not ask us to sing the scale. We prayed the most popular classmate would ask us to the prom. We prayed the bus carrying the rival team would go into the ditch. We prayed for good marks so we could go to summer camp. We prayed for laryngitis so we would not have to dress like a tree and recite that silly Arbor Day poem. Oh, yes, we prayed in school.
A number of years ago while on vacation we visited a church that had a rather long prayer list. They thought it would be helpful to identify the reason for each one being on the list. In this way people could pray for specific needs and problems, rather than praying in vague generalities. There were all the usual things: hospitalized, bereaved, facing surgery. But beside the name of one man on the list was written “pain in the neck.” Most churches have a member or two who deserves that description, but few put it in print! And it does seem sometimes that only prayer can cure that affliction.
Luke starts off this section with the words, “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” This is an important opening for us. We know the story comes from Jesus. We know the story is for His disciples. We know the point of the lesson – pray and not give up. A parable is a short, simple story designed to communicate a spiritual truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. It is usually a figure of speech in which truth is illustrated by a comparison or example drawn from everyday experiences. A parable is often no more than figurative language in the form of a story to illustrate a particular truth. The Greek word for parable literally means “a laying by the side of” or “a casting alongside,” thus “a comparison or likeness.”
What is needed for life today is not swift legs for the “rat race” but a listening, prayerful heart for every Christian. In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. The beauty of a parable was that the story didn’t necessarily have to be true (in other words, it could have been made up). But it always conveyed a truth for the listener. Now, in this story, the judge could have been a Roman who was neither a believer or a man who carried about the people he served.
And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, `Grant me justice against my adversary.’ Odd, we are never told what the issue is that the woman wants settled. We make the assumption that since she demands “justice” she is in the right. But “justice” is really moot in this story. The moral is clearly “persistence.” For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, `Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. Jesus ends the parable with the question, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
God’s part is up to God. I have nothing to do with that. But my part is to assume that God is already at work, even if I cannot discern it, for God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. My role is to start out, keep on going, never give up, and see what happens.
Yogi Berra, former New York Yankees baseball player, addressed the graduates at Montclair State University: First, never give up, because it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Second, when you come to a fork in the road, take it. Third, don’t always follow the crowd. Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
Fourth, stay alert. You can observe a lot just by watching. Fifth, and last, remember that whatever you do in your life, 90 percent of it is mental. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us to run our race with perseverance and never give up. Napoleon Hill, in his book Think and Grow Rich, records that he studied 500 of the wealthiest men in the world and concluded that all wealthy men are persistent. When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems you can not hold on a minute longer, never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. I have a friend who took his little 6-year-old boy fishing with him one day. They put out the line and then went up to the cabin. After an hour, they went back down to the river to see if they had caught anything. Sure enough, there were several fish on the line. The boy said, “I knew there would be, Daddy.” The father asked, “How did you know?” He replied, “Because I prayed about it.” So they baited the hooks again and put out the line and went back to the cabin for supper. Afterward, they went back to the river; again, there were fish on the line. The boy said, “I knew it.” The father said, “How?” “I prayed again.” So they put the line back into the river and went to the cabin. Before bedtime, they went down again. This time there were no fish. The child said, “I knew there wouldn’t be” and the father asked, “How did you know?” The boy said, “Because I didn’t pray this time.” The father asked, “And why didn’t you pray?” And the boy said, “Because I remembered that we forgot to bait the hooks.”
James writes, You want something but don’t get it. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (4:1) Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:16-18