Circle Maker Week 3: Pray Hard

cm-720-screen So today we continue our series entitled Circle Maker: Praying Circles around your biggest dream and greatest fear. Two weeks ago when we started this series we looked at the legend of the Circle Maker, named Honi, who drew a circle in the sand, stepped into it, dropped to his knees and began to pray for rain and wouldn’t leave the circle until it rained. We also talked about the “battle” of Jericho and how it was probably the craziest “battle” plan there ever was. We dialogued around the question of “what is your Jericho”? What are those things that are so big, that you have been praying for, that if they come to fruition, it can only be because God was in it.

Last week we talked about the importance of risk, dreaming big, and the Kingdom of God. We talked more about the legend of Honi, the story of St. Brendan the Navigator who, with a group of Monks, put his knee in the sand, got in a boat and set sail. Praying and trust God to guide his boat through the wind and the waves and wherever they landed they established monasteries and planted churches. We also talked about the people of Israel and Moses who both complained, forgot about God’s blessing, and put limits on what they thought God could or couldn’t do. They couldn’t figure out how 0+0 could equal 105 million quail. We shared stories of what risk God might be calling each of us to as well as our community.

Today, in our third week of our series, we’ll be talking about praying hard. So let me ask you a question, have you ever prayed day and night, night and day for something to come to fruition? Something that you believed that God birthed in your heart? What is/was it and has it come to fruition or are you currently still praying through it, and hoping/praying that it will come to fruition?

Jesus told a story about the importance of praying hard and not giving up. This parable is called The Parable of the Persistent Widow and it gives us a great picture of what our prayer life should be like.

Luke 18:1-8 tells us this parable, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

So right from the start of this parable we see what Jesus’ motive in telling this story is. To show the disciples that they should always pray and never give up. To show those of us, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, that we need to pray through, and not lose heart. This doesn’t mean that if you just pray more and more, you’ll get what you want. That if you just nag God long enough, he’ll throw his hands up and relent and give you what you want. Or like how my kids sometimes keep asking the same question, because they think that if they just keep asking, that I’ll relent (and sometimes I do) and give them what they want. This parable is asking us the question, how serious about this thing you are praying for are you. Often we stop praying because we lose heart. We become discouraged and then slack off in prayer. You see it is easy to lose heart in prayer because prayer is hard work that we often approach too lightly.

Now let’s look deeper into the parable and what it might say to each of us about our prayer life, our tendency not to pray through, and what it might say to us about praying hard and praying long.

So Jesus starts off the parable talking about a judge from a certain town who neither feared God nor cared what people thought about him. No doubt Jesus clearly intends the judge to stand for God, but this judge is about unlike God as possible. And so if God is the judge in this parable, then the disciples and the followers of Jesus, who pray and don’t give up and lose heart, are the widow in the story.

Now the widow is what we call persistent. She doesn’t give up and keeps coming to the judge for justice. We don’t know who the adversary is or what wrongs she faced. That is not important to the point of the parable. The point of the parable is then to say that if even a rotten judge like that can be persuaded to do the right thing by someone who “pesters” him day and night until it happens, then of course God, who is justice in person, and who cares passionately about people, will vindicate them, will see that justice is done.

The widow kept coming after the judge. She had a holy desperation. A Holy boldness that drove her so that she kept coming and kept coming. She didn’t relent. She didn't give up. She keep crying out to the judge until she got vindication from her adversary, which is what she want. In fact the judge says, in the NIV, that because “she keeps bothering me” that she’ll get justice. The term that is used there is a metaphor taken from boxing. The idea of wearing down your opponent. To soft them up so to speak for the final blow. The knock out blow. So we could say that praying hard is like going 12 rounds with God. A heavyweight prayer bout with God Almighty can be excruciating and exhausting, but that is how the greatest prayer victories are won. Praying hard is more than words. It’s blood, sweat, and tears. Praying hard is two-dimensional: praying like it depends on God and working like it depends on you. It’s praying until God answers, no matter how long it takes. It’s doing whatever it takes to show God you’re serious. This parable gives us a great picture of what praying hard looks like. Knocking until your knuckles are raw. Crying out until you have no voice. Pleading until the tears run dry.

Have you ever prayed that hard for something? Have you ever worn out the knees in your pants or have carpet burns on your knees because you prayed hard for something to come to fruition? To be completely honest I have never been there. Yes I have prayed. Yes I have prayed for things to come to fruition. But I don’t know if I have ever been like the persistent widow in this parable. Coming to the judge over and over with my petition. I have never worn out the knees in my pants because I was kneeling in prayer often. I haven’t gotten carpet burns on my knees from praying. And so I need to take a page out of the persistent widow’s book and begin to pray hard. What about you? What is one thing you could do to increase your persistence in prayer? That is one of the questions that we are going to unpack together in just a little bit.

Now there are some differences that need to be spelled out in relation to the judge and to prayer. One of the differences between the judge and God is that the judge only gave in because he was tired of the widow and her non-stop persistence. He just wanted her off his back and out of his face. And so he gave her what she wanted so she would stop bothering him. God however loves to answer our prayers and he even helps when we pray. God is on your side when you pray. And we are never seen as tiresome to God. He loves it when we come to him in prayer and he desires a relationship with us. And one of the best ways to develop that relationship with him is to spend time communicating with him through prayer.

It takes faith to keep coming to God in prayer. In fact, someone once said success is a derivative of persistence. And studies have shown that if you want to master something (violin, cello, basketball, composers, writers, etc..) that the magic number seems to be 10,000. 10,000 hours to become an expert. And why should prayer be any different. It is a habit to be cultivated. It is a discipline to be developed. It is a skill to be practiced. And while I don’t want to reduce praying hard to time logged, if you want to achieve mastery it might take ten thousand hours. This I know for sure: the bigger the dream, the harder you will have to pray. And so this parable is calling each of us to pray hard. To begin to see prayer not as a last resort but as a first and best resource. And to not only do it alone but do it in community.

So let’s talk about praying hard. Let’s talk about one thing that you can do to increase your persistence in prayer. Let’s talk about what it might look like to be known as a community of persistent prayers. Let’s unpack what this parable might mean for us as we continue to move forward as individuals and as a community.

1. What thoughts, questions, comments, insights, application, etc.. do you have regarding the Scripture and/or the message?

2.Would you consider yourself a persistent person? What is one thing you could do to increase your persistence in prayer?

3. What might it look like to be known as a community of people who are persistent in their prayers? What is one thing we could do to increase our community’s persistence in prayer?

4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?