It is always easy to lose heart. Things never work out the way we plan them. The trip has to be cancelled because of an illness. The job turns out to be constant frustration. The family member suddenly dies and our lives are in upheaval.
In addition, our prayers seem to go unanswered. In fact, after fervent prayer, sometimes circumstances in our lives even get worse. It seems like the door to heaven is closed and that God is not hearing our requests.
This Sunday is the 19th Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel lesson is from Luke 18:1-8. "And Jesus told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." The Lord wants us to know that he actually understands that our lives can sometimes seem hopeless.
"Jesus said, 'In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Give me justice against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'"
This description of a widow, who does not give up coming to the judge asking for justice, is a picture of us. Even though it seems like our prayers remain unanswered, we are not to give up. Every day and every night we return to the Lord and bring him our petitions.
The Gospel lesson then continues. "And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.'"
In reality, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, God the Father has heard our prayers all along. It is not that he does not care. Rather, even in our desperation, he wants us to hold onto him, as if our lives depended on it. The fact is - our lives do depend on him.
In the letter written by the apostle Paul to the young pastor Timothy, he writes, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time." (1 Timothy 2:1-6)
But Jesus had one more thing to say in Luke chapter 18. "'Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?'" In other words, he finishes by presenting a challenge to us. Will we give up on our prayers? Or will we hold onto to the Lord with a faith that clings tightly to his promises?
Only we can answer that question for ourselves.