Luke 18:1-14

Two parables of Jesus on our attitude to prayer. The first is to tell us that we "ought always to pray and not lose heart" (v1). Why would the disciples have lost heart during prayer? Surely it's because they weren't seeing immediate results to their prayers, so Jesus tells them to continue in prayer. If the unrighteous judge who cared for the widow less than he cared for his peace answered her persistant plea, how much more will the heavenly Father answer the persistant prayer of his children who he loves? Be confident that God is listening, and keep praying!

The second prayer is to stop people from "trusting in them selves that they are righeous, and treating others with contempt" (v9, tenses changed). The first prayer compares himself to other men and thinks that he comes out fairly well. The second realises that it's comparison with God that matters (he "would not even lift up his eyes to heaven", v13) and realises how badly he comes off in that comparison. But he is the one who is justified (declared righteous by God). To have God declare me righteous, I don't have to be righteous in my own right but I have to recognise that I'm not. It seems odd, but when you realise that everyone – including the Pharisee – is naturally disgusting in God's sight, the strange workings of God's grace are such a beautiful thing. In prayer, I must be humble before the awesome God to whom I pray.

But how does it work that prayer should be both confident and humble? That I continually bang on the door of the one who we can only approach with fear and trembling? (Most of the ideas in this paragraph I stole from Pete Woodcock's excellent exposition (click here to hear it)of Ephesians 2:18: "For through him [Jesus] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access in one Spirit to the Father.") The answer lies in remembering that the only way I can come into the presence of the Father is by the death of his Son. I humbly recognise that I have no right to be here, but that my freedom to come can only be bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. But his blood is so complete that there is no doubt that I can come into God's presence. It won't ever be not enough. It's because I'm unrighteous that I must be humble, but because I am clothed in Christ's own righteousness I may be confident. Without remembering the cross I will either wallow in self-pity (I don't deserve to pray – I'm too sinful) or I will try to barge into the throneroom of Almighty God because I've forgotten that I shouldn't be there. With the cross, the balance falls into place. Humble yet confident.

Heavenly Father, I ask that your Spirit will embed these lessons from your word into my heart. I know that I have no right to ask you, but I know that you have promised that the Spirit of Jesus Christ will make me more like him in everything – including my prayer life. Please let me never think that you owe me anything, and never think that I owe you anything to cancel my sin before I can come before you. The price is far more than I could pay, which is why I love you that Christ paid it for me. Let me love prayer more than ever. Amen.

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