Ephesians 6:18; Prayer is heart to heart with God, not just words or ritual.
Psa 47 For the choir director.
A Psalm of the sons of Korah.
O Clap your hands, all peoples;
Shout to God with the voice of joy.
2 For the Lord Most High is to be feared,
A great King over all the earth.
3 He subdues peoples under us,
And nations under our feet.
4 He chooses our inheritance for us,
The glory of Jacob whom He loves.
5 God has ascended with a shout,
The Lord, with the sound of a trumpet.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
Sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with a skillful psalm.
8 God reigns over the nations,
God sits on His holy throne.
9 The princes of the people have assembled themselves as the people of the God of Abraham;
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is highly exalted.
There are mysteries to prayer as there are to most other things. If we dig deep enough into anything, we will find a mystery. This is because God is the foundation and source of all things, and when we investigate, we get closer to Him, or His hand in the “thing” (the “thing” in our current study is prayer).
“The limits of our wisdom are a catalyst to industry not despair.” [David Hubbard]
Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed,
This reference to agriculture applies to everything we cannot know. Our lack of understanding of some things that are beyond us can be excuses to laziness or giving in to wickedness, or it can lead us to ask, seek, and knock, knowing that when we walk through the right doors, God will affirm our path. For example, if there were ten tasks to do on a particular job and God did not reveal to you which one He wanted you to do, you would either choose one and do it, and then another and another until it became obvious which one was yours, or you would do nothing with the excuse that God hadn’t made it clear.
The parable of the persistent widow helps us to understand some important truths that will enable us not to get weary about prayer but to continue to persist in it.
We must know that we do not understand the management of all things in heaven. It is for us in this time to seek, and ask, and knock. We know nothing, so by faith we inquire of the only One who does.
There is still yet another issue: Why would God include our interests into His own eternal purposes?
When Moses prayed to God that He might not destroy the people:
So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
David prayed several things that would be incorporated directly into the life of the Lord. The Lord prayed that the cup might pass from Him. He prayed that we, the body, would be one and sanctified in the truth and protected from the evil one.
"I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
In instructing us to pray, He said,
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil (one).’
“And lead us not into temptation.”
Knowing the graciousness and the unlimited ability and intellect of God, it is obvious that God could include the many prayers that are recorded in the Bible as well as our own prayers that are not recorded in the Bible, but will be recorded forever in God’s book.
Thou hast taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Thy bottle;
Are they not in Thy book?
Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Thy book they were all written,
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
Therefore, included in the divine decree are the free-will decisions of people.
“It is conceivable that God may have ordained that such and such things take place in connection with and as the result of the prayers of those who wait upon Him; and if so, prayer cannot be considered an interference with His plan but a fulfillment of it.” [Marcus Dods, The Parables of Our Lord St. Luke]
He ends with:
“However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
Jesus is referring to His prior mention of His second coming. Will He find faith? The question is left open. We know from prophesy that He will in some and not in others. Then He speaks another parable and this question of faith links the two parables.
Persistent prayer? – faith – trust in self?
As in the prior parable, at the start we are told the theme:
And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
The whole world, believer and unbeliever, would be offended by this Pharisee. However, would we believers who desire to have very effective prayer lives, see that we could subtly fall into the same trap of trusting ourselves.
Will we be those who continually pray to our Father in faith for the purpose of living worthy of our calling and helping others to do the same or will we be so-called worshippers of God who come to the Father for the purpose of confirming their greatness and how grateful God should be to them that God has them on His side?
The running satire all the history of the church is that a life (the one true religion) was given to men, the function of which was to render all who were in it to be humble men and women, but actually produced many self-righteous, self-satisfied and contemptuous.
We don’t have to look too hard to figure out the reason, the fallen human nature displays itself in religion as it does in every other walk of life. People seek cheap success for themselves in their ambition. Fallen man craves eminence that costs them little.
Shallow characters are content to have the appearance without the reality.
Virtue is diligent hard work. We should want the manifestation of the life of Christ in us more than anything, and it takes us doing the hardest thing any human can do, die to the old self completely – as Jesus did in Php 2, obedience to the point of death. It’s a lot easier to put on the appearance of it. The Pharisees became so committed to appearance with lack of substance that their name became the standard for this kind of behavior.
The next parable is for the self-righteous and how they pray.
And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. 11 "The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. 12 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' 13 "But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' 14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
Jesus made His parable thick with irony. The Pharisee addresses God and so God is recognized. But the great satire that Jesus gives us is that while recognizing God he is praying to himself.
The implications are enormous. It involves more than simply being self-righteous.
Ezekiel is given a vision of the temple in the Millennium:
This is the law of the house: its entire area on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.
Notice the doubling of the phrase, “this is the law of the house.” This is a way of underlining: “the entire area shall be most holy.”
Pray “in the Spirit” – humility and obedience to God as ones insignificant before all glory.
This is not difficult if we simply know the truth about who we are and who God is. We are entering an inner room, shutting the door, with the most holy. That would dictate our state of mind, position of self-consciousness, and manner of thinking.
So then, we are to be good in character, not just in some overt behavior that is approved of by our peers. The Pharisee hasn’t swindled anyone not committed adultery. That is good, but good fruit does not make a tree good. It’s a good tree that produces good fruit. God has set about the work of making us good men and women, not people who do a few good things, even perhaps a few more than most.
that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
God longed for Israel to fear Him in their hearts (Deu 5:29).
Thou art not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
There are so many passages like these where God wants our hearts. Let us be careful not to fall for this temptation to outward show when all of our efforts should be on the inward person of the heart – to be truth and righteousness and faith and virtue.
Let us beware of practicing our righteousness before men in order to be seen by them (Mat 6:1).
Listen to this quote and see if it reminds you of anything: “And when Pharisaism dominates in any community, men are actually judged irrespective of character, and their position as religious or irreligious persons is determined by their observance or non-observance of certain outward forms and practices which have no necessary connection with morality.” [Dods, ibid.]
The great end of Christianity is to make us like Christ. If it is not doing that, then all the churches and schools and even the Bibles are meaningless. It has forever occurred that the public in general agrees that the practices and observances of the actual Christlike is what makes a person religious. They go to church, they say their prayers, they don’t swindle or commit adultery, etc. This expectation bleeds into Christians, who find out they can keep up appearances while they more secretly give into the flesh. Attention is turned to a few habits, the people agree he is religious, and at some level, he himself agrees that he is a good and fine chap. And thus Pharisaism is encouraged; and men who would not for the world go to bed without saying their prayers or miss church on Sunday, show no resistance to slandering or anger, cheating their neighbor, boasting of self, being cold, sullen, and tyrannical at home, greedy, vindictive and violent. Because Satan has gotten many in the church to buy the lie that a few observances makes the person a good-enough Christian.
Christ weaves an incredible satire to bring this out. The Pharisee is sure that he is worshipping God. He has been told from his youth that he must pray to God and follow the Law. He has fooled himself so convincingly that he is sure that he keeps the law by tithing and fasting so that the whole center of his religion has become himself. He goes to the great temple, the house of God, as Jesus called it quoting Isaiah, the house of prayer, the one place on earth that represents the Creator of heaven and earth and the One who made Israel His own nation, and the Pharisee prays to himself. He makes himself his own god while addressing the very God. How could anyone be so ironically dumb? That is the satire Jesus is giving to the Pharisees who stand aloof from the “other people.”
Self-deceptive religion is most fatal to the church and Satan knows it.
The Lord connects this situation to prayer in that, of all the things He could invent for this Pharisee in His parable to be doing, He has him praying – one of the highest, if not the highest, things that we can do, have an actual audience with the Almighty.
The best way to make Christianity useless is to convince the Christians that they are living well in the life of Christ by repeating prayers, observing fasts, attending ordinances, and upholding rites. Christianity is the inner life of Christ, the life of the Spirit of God. It is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
Rituals and observances are much like paying taxes.
This kind of religion, rather than softening a person’s heart and growing the love of God in him, it hardens his whole nature.
The Pharisee – a separatist. “I am not like the other people.”
The Pharisee would not touch others. If he went to the market, afterwards he went through an elaborate washing ritual to cleanse himself from being defiled by the unwashed crowds. His garments fully covered him lest he touch the masses. He was not like other people.
We should, in my opinion, translate the definite article (“the”) in the original since it signifies a group that the Pharisee wouldn’t be a part of, not even touch.
The maturing Christians understand how frail their spiritual successes are, meaning, they nowthat sin and weakness are always lurking under the surface of their own flesh, and they are one forgetful thought or lustful desire from falling right into it. They know the flesh is weak. They also know that all other have the same struggles. They know that the devil is attacking the weak Christians and that they have yet learned enough, or believed enough of what they have learned, to stand firm. They know they will never be consistently sinless and could fall into sin and the flesh tomorrow. Knowing reality of the human condition: