- Sermon Notes
How to Pray During Trying Times
July 25, 2021
1. In his last letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, the Apostle Paul gave a prophetic warning about and description of the last days.
2 Timothy 3:1-5, But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power
2. When did the last days begin? The last days began the moment Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and was seated at the right-hand of the Father God. (1 Peter 3:22)
3. Therefore, we are now living in the last days since we are waiting for the Apocalypse, the revealing of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, when He returns.
4. Because the last days are difficult days and trying times it’s important that we stay close to the Lord so that He may refresh our hearts, renew our minds, and transform our lives.
5. Prayer plays a critical role in helping us do just that for as we draw near to God in prayer, He gives us strength to stand firm in our faith.
6. Tonight, we’re going to look at a timely teaching from Jesus on “How to Pray During Trying Times” from Luke 18:1-14.
7. It’s my prayer that our study will inspire you to draw near to God in prayer and in His presence receive grace for each difficult day and strength for any trying tomorrow.
1. Massive crowds were following Jesus Christ as He journeyed to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city.
2. According to Luke 17:20, the Pharisees questioned Jesus “as to when the kingdom of God was coming” because a central tenet of His teaching was the coming of God’s kingdom.
3. Jesus told the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (20-21)
4. What did Jesus mean when He said, “the kingdom of God in your midst?”
a. Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they would not be able to tell of the coming of the kingdom through their observations, “signs to be observed” because the kingdom of God was literally standing “in their midst;” Jesus Christ, their King, was standing “in their midst;” within their reach.
b. In essence, Jesus was telling the Pharisees that all they had to do was acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah, their King, the One who would bring the kingdom, and then the kingdom of God would come.
5. But the Pharisees would not and so the kingdom of God has been delayed. That’s why Jesus turned to His disciples and prophesied, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. . . But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (22, 25)
6. Jesus then proceeded to describe the condition of things on earth when He returns. (22-37)
7. Like the days of Noah and Lot, the last days will be saturated with violence and licentiousness.
8. Now, it’s important to see that there was no chapter break between Luke 17 and 18 when Luke penned this Gospel.
9. Therefore, the two parables Jesus shared regarding prayer in Luke 18 fall within the context of Him teaching about the last days.
a. Jesus shared these parables because He wants to encourage and strengthen believers during the trying times of the last days.
b. Jesus also shared these parables because He doesn’t want His people to lose heart when they endure difficulties because of their Christian witness and testimonies.
Transition – Jesus’ first lesson for how to pray during trying times concerns the One we pray to. . .
I. God Hears the Cries of His People
• Sometimes when Jesus shared a parable the explanation or meaning was given at the end.
• But with these two parables Jesus gave the meaning at the beginning.
• These parables were given so that we, and especially the Tribulation Saints, will not lose heart as the trials of the last days increase on the earth, as violence and immoralities define the day.
• As we read last week, the last days are days when there will be a great falling away from the faith and “most people’s love will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:10, 12)
• They are days when the enemy of our souls, Satan, will appear to be winning.
• As in the days of Noah and Lot, the partiers, the worldly, the mockers of the faith will be the overwhelming majority while those who trust, love, and serve God will be few in comparison.
• With this in mind Jesus asked in verse 8. . .
Luke 18:8, However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?
• Did Jesus ask the question because He did not know the answer? Of course not.
o Jesus knew the answer because He is God the Son; Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
o Rather, Jesus asked the question to inspire and encourage His disciples to be men and women of faith.
o Jesus also asked the question to motivate His disciples to be men and women of prayer.
o You see, knowing Who we are praying to makes all the difference in the world.
o When we know and are convinced that God hears our cries for help, it changes everything.
Transition – So during trying times we must. . .
A. Trust, pray, and repeat
1. First, Jesus said to pray “at all times.” (1)
APPL – I believe some have turned prayer into a bit of a formula when they assume a posture of closing their eyes and folding their hands.
• The truth is, that formula or posture for prayer is impossible to do at all times.
• For example, when you’re driving in your car it wouldn’t be a good idea to close your eyes and fold your hands.
• Prayer is more than your posture and it is more than just speaking, it’s listening.
• Prayer is a dialogue, where we share our hearts with God and He ministers to our hearts through His presence.
Philippians 4:6-7, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
2. The second part of God’s heart for us in prayer is that we “ought to pray.” (1)
3. In other words, prayer is what we ought to be doing; God is instructing us about our need for prayer.
APPL – Sometimes people wonder why prayer is important since God knows what we need before we ask Him. The answer to this question comes in two parts:
• First, let’s look at it from this perspective. . .
o Wouldn’t you agree that Jesus Christ is the most significant person that ever walked the face of the earth?
o If prayer was such a high priority for Jesus, shouldn’t prayer also be a high priority for us?
• Second, we see in this verse that we ought to pray so that we do not “lose heart” in the last days when difficult times come.
o In God’s presence God strengthens us.
o When God answers our prayers our faith is strengthened so that we are empowered to face the next trial.
Hebrews 4:16, Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
ILLUS – The great 19th-century preacher, R. A. Torrey, offers other important reasons for why we ought to pray:
• Because prayer is God’s way for us to obtain what we need from Him (Luke 11:3-13; James 4:2).
• Because there is a devil, and prayer is a God-appointed way to resist him (Ephesians 6:12-13, 18).
4. One of the things that Jesus taught His disciples about prayer is to not use meaningless repetition when praying.
Matthew 6:7, And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.
5. Jesus then gave them an example of intimate and personal prayer when He said, “Pray, then, in this way, ‘Our Father who is in heaven. . .”
a. The problem is that some have taken that example of personal and intimate prayer and turned it into meaningless repetition.
b. But Jesus’ point is that our prayers should be personal and intimate.
c. “Our Father” was new to Jewish understanding, but it gives us a picture of a son or daughter talking to their dad knowing that their dad’s heart would be turned towards them.
ILLUS – When Malina was a baby she would cry because she wanted to be in close contact with us.
Psalm 23:4, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Transition – The point of this first parable is that if an unrighteous judge responds to persistent asking, how much more will our righteous heavenly Father hear and respond.
Therefore, God wants us to. . .
B. Persist in prayer
Matthew 7:7, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
1. In the Koiné Greek, Jesus’ command actually means that we are to ask and keep on asking; seek and keep on seeking; knock and keep on knocking.
2. Be persistent in prayer.
Quote: George Mueller was great man of faith and prayer. He took care of thousands of orphans in England. Speaking of prayer and the need to persist, Mueller said, “The great fault of the children of God is, they do not continue in prayer; they do not go on praying, they do not persevere.”
3. There are many Scriptures which give us the same encouragement, that God wants us to persist in our prayers.
Ephesians 6:18, With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
APPL – God knows that we could become discouraged while waiting in the midst of trying times.
• Jesus is warning us in advance so that we keep the faith and don’t lose heart even though everything is falling apart around us.
• Prayer renews and strengthens our faith so that we do not lose heart.
ILLUS – A dark day in David’s life before he became king.
1 Samuel 30:6, Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
• Soon thereafter, David was anointed King of Judah.
APPL – When we are renewed in our souls, strengthened in the Lord, our faith is increased because we are dwelling in the shadow of our Almighty God.
Ephesians 3:16-19, [I pray] that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
APPL – And when our hearts are strengthened, we are liberated to trust God’s heart for us; that His answer is what is truly best for us.
Quote: Ruth Graham Bell, the wife of Evangelist Billy Graham once said, “God has not always answered my prayers. If He had, I would have married the wrong man – several times!”
APPL – Let us pray at all times, as we ought, so that we may be strengthened to persist in doing good.
Galatians 6:9, Let us not lost heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
ILLUS – The power of trusting God, praying to God, and persisting in both is powerfully seen in the story of Roger Simms.
Transition – Jesus’ second lesson for how to pray during trying times concerns our attitude when we pray, that we must. . .
II. Humbly Enter God’s Presence in Prayer
• Luke tells us that Jesus told this parable “to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.” (9)
• There are two points to Jesus’ parable which are captured in verse 14.
A. God will humble the proud
1. If we are honest with ourselves, there is enough “Pharisee” in each of us so it is important for us to listen carefully.
2. Our fleshy pride gravitates towards finding reasons to look down on other people.
3. Look at the Pharisee’s prayer. (11-12)
a. First, the Pharisee was literally praying to himself, not to God.
b. Second, the Pharisee was likely praying loud enough for all to hear, especially the inferior, deplorable tax collector.
c. Third, the Pharisee was boasting of what he thought he was, exceptional and superior to others in every way.
APPL – But when we think we are God’s gift to creation we must see that that attitude comes with a cost.
James 4:6, God is opposed to the proud
4. Jesus’ verdict is a sobering reminder. He said that the Pharisee may have gone home feeling self-affirmed and worthy of divine praise but, in God’s view, the arrogant, self-righteous Pharisee stood condemned, “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” (14)
B. God will exalt the humble
1. The tax collector could not bring himself to get too close to the Temple so he stood at a distance. (13)
2. With his eyes downcast, beating his chest with his hands, broken because of the mess his life had become, he contritely prayed, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”
3. Please note the tax collector called himself “the sinner” which means he saw himself as “the sinner” of all sinners.
4. But Jesus said, of the two, the self-righteous Pharisee and the deplorable tax collector, the tax collector “went to his house justified” because “he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (14)
APPL – When we humble ourselves as we enter the presence of our loving, forgiving, merciful Father it blesses His heart.
• When we humble ourselves and with gratitude give thanks to God because we see how much God has done to forgive us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sin, it blesses His heart.
• In fact, God desires to dwell with those whose hearts are humble and contrite.
Isaiah 57:15, For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Psalm 51:17, A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
ILLUS – The Prayer Path.
APPL – How’s your prayer path?
• Pray at all times.
• Do not lose heart because difficult times will come.
• Humble yourself and God will raise you up.
• God cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7, Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.
1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not become discouraged, 2 saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect any person. 3 Now there was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my [a]opponent.’ 4 For a while he was unwilling; but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect any person, 5 yet because this widow is bothering me, I will give her justice; otherwise [b]by continually coming she will wear me out.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge *said; 7 now, will God not bring about justice for His elect who cry out to Him day [c]and night, and will He delay long for them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [d]faith on the earth?”
9 Now He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the [e]temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and began praying this in regard to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, crooked, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to raise his eyes toward heaven, but was beating his chest, saying, ‘God, be [f]merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other one; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”