In Luke 18:1 Jesus said that we ought always to pray and not to give up. There are several features about this exhortation that bring much encouragement.
1. When we are faint and think that all we can do is give up, how encouraging it is to know that there is another way to go, a most promising one, which even the weakest person can take. When our strength and spirit are well-nigh used up, we can nevertheless ask God for help. The psalmist said, “I call to God, even when my heart is faint” (Psalm 61:2). So instead of fainting and giving in to our sorrows, we should pray. Our own strength and spirit may be virtually gone, but this should not discourage us from asking God to put his wisdom and power to work for us.
2. That Jesus said we ought to pray also brings much encouragement. Whatever hesitancy we may have to pray when we are faint is banished by this word “ought.” No other word makes a prescribed course of action so urgent nor implies such a loss of integrity if we fail to carry it out. When it is said that we “ought” to pay our debts, keep our promises, and care for our loved ones, the meaning is that there is sanctity about doing these things and that we lose all self-respect if we ignore them.
There is likewise a great sanctity attached to prayer, because throughout the Bible God places his integrity on the line by his numerous promises to answer prayer. Consequently, failure to resort to prayer when we are faint renders a vote of “no confidence” against God. None of us would want to add this problem to the other that have brought us close to fainting. To the contrary, we will want to avail ourselves of prayer, not only because we thereby honor God but also because God is so disposed to answer prayer. “Call upon me in the day of trouble,” God commands, and then promises, “I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).
3. The word “always” also brings encouragement. That we ought always to pray rather than faint means that no circumstance carries a threat so dire that God, in answer to prayer, cannot replace it with a blessing. When David and his followers returned to camp and found that the enemy had made off with their families and possessions, his followers wanted to stone him for his decision to leave the camp unprotected. Consequently, “David was greatly distressed.” In such a circumstance it seemed that all hope was gone and that giving up was all that was left to do. But rather than faint, “David strengthened himself in the Eternal, his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). Then he prayed, and the remainder of the chapter tells how God worked to bring triumph out of disaster.
4. The most encouraging feature of all in Luke 18:1 is the nature of the One who commands us never to faint but always to pray. He is none other than the One who is supremely in control of all that occurs in this world. This command of his, therefore, carries with it an absolute authority. It is no mere pious platitude from some well-meaning person who wanted to encourage people with a hopeful thought. In our limited perspective we see problems out of which there is no way of escape. But from the perspective of him who is in control of all things and who wants nothing so much as to glorify himself by answering his people’s prayers, there are all kinds of ways he can work to deliver us. Therefore when he says we ought never to faint but always to pray, we should be greatly encouraged to do what he says.
Daniel P. Fuller
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