"At All Times They Ought to Pray”
There are five examples of men and women praying in the eighteenth chapter of
Luke. There is the widow (vs. 3); a Pharisee (vs. 10); a publican (vs. 10); a
ruler (18) and a blind beggar (38). All of these are seen making petitions of
Deity, with the exception of the first, who is a character in a parable which
Jesus uses to teach some lessons about praying to God. The chapter begins with
these words: "Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they
ought to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1).
There is simply no excuse not to pray. It is foolish to belittle prayer's rightful place in our lives. The Supreme Court of the United States may still swear in the president by calling upon him to place his right hand on a Bible, but they have also interpreted the Constitution to say that it requires that public schools not sanction religion by allowing a special time for prayer as the school day begins, or at graduation ceremonies, or at special times of tragedy. (No, don't ask me how they can consistently still use the Bible at the swearing in ceremonies or allow a clergyman to pray at the opening of congress. If someone knows why school prayer is a breach of the constitution but congressional prayer is not, please clue me in). But actually, it is not illegal to pray in school. Supposedly, its legality hinges upon who sponsors the prayer.
Anyway, it is much more important to see what Jesus said about prayer than what the Supreme Court has said about it. Every judge that has ever presided over any human court will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ, as will you and I (2 Corinthians 5:10). Jesus said, concerning man, that "at all times they ought to pray, and not lose heart."
Men And Women Ought to Pray
"...to show that at all times THEY ought to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1). Man, created in the image of God, ought to be looking up. The Psalmist asked, "What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, And dost crown him with glory and majesty." (Psalm 8:3,4).
The creation and fall are recorded in the first three chapters of Genesis. There we find that man bears the image of God in his spirit. We are His offspring. We find that as a consequence of disobedience, men and women become estranged from God, lost in a fallen world. We also find that God promises to provide a way back, an undoing of what sin had done.
What was promised back in the third chapter of Genesis is now an accomplished fact. The way has been provided through Jesus, the Son of God. God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 2:4,5). Face it, we need help to be faithful disciples, and prayer provides a part of what we need. If Jesus felt the need to pray, then certainly we are in need of the same. THEY (we) ought to pray.
Prayer Should be Constant
"...that AT ALL TIMES they ought to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1). Life does not stop. There are constant reasons to pray, and certainly prayer itself is of such a nature that you can hardly think of something more convenient. You can pray at any time (i.e. 1:30 AM), dressed in any way (i.e. overalls and baseball cap), at any place ( i.e the Bolivian jungle), under any circumstances (i.e. it is storming and you are lost), for any length of time (i.e. a few seconds or an hour) and with any posture (i.e. climbing a tree).
There are so many reasons to pray. Paul told brethren to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This means to have a constant attitude of prayer. We are to pray for wisdom (James 1:5-8), for the giving of thanks (1 Timothy 4:4,5), for making requests (Philippians 4:6), for forgiveness (Matthew 6:12) and many other things. A good example of how easy it ought to be to pray is found when the king asked Nehemiah what was troubling him. There, in the throne room, surrounded by the court of King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah records, "Then the king said to me, 'What would you request?' So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, 'If it please the king..." (Nehemiah 2:4,5). It must have been a short prayer since the circumstances would not have allowed for a longer one. Why shouldn't the busy days of our lives be filled with similar prayers, short and to the point, addressing a present need? There will be time, later, at home and in private, for the longer variety. We ought to pray AT ALL TIMES.
Prayer is the Right Thing to Do
"...that at all times they OUGHT to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1). The reason men and women ought to pray is because we need to be in fellowship with the very source of our being. When we lose that, we tend to become like the other creatures of this world; creatures of instinct incapable of making moral decisions (2 Peter 2:12-14). This tragedy is being seen in our streets today.
Those who are disciples of Christ ought to pray because Jesus did. We need the same things Jesus needed (and more) and received when He prayed. But also, those who are not disciples need to begin to search for God. Jesus promised, "seek and you shall find." The Holy Spirit tells us that the unbeliever is without excuse, because the invisible things of God are evident through the things He has made. They should have sought out the true and living God instead of substituting gods of their own to worship (Romans 1:18-23). Paul pointed out that God is not far away from each one of us, and that if we seek we can find Him (Acts 17:27,28). With Cornelius, his successful search began with prayer. So have many others. We OUGHT to pray.
"...that at all times they ought to PRAY and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1). Prayer unto God consists of making requests, offering thanksgiving as well as the giving of praise. Prayer from the heart benefits the one who is praying and should not be thought of as a favor we are doing for God. We pray because we need Him, not because He needs us!
There are several principles we must follow for our prayers to be what they ought to be: First, our prayers must be in Jesus' name (Colossians 3:17) which simply means offered to God through Him because He is the only mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). We must pray in faith without doubting (James 1:6,7) and our prayers must be according to His will (1 John 5:14; James 4:13-15). We must be earnest in our prayers, and we must be seeking to live righteously ourselves (JAMES 5:16). We must pray that the Father's will be done in all things, even if it means answering our requests with a "no" (Matthew 26:39; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). If we are to expect God to forgive us when we pray, then we must be willing to forgive others (Matthew 6:14). Two good examples of prayer: Jesus' model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) and the disciples' prayer after Peter and John's release (Acts 4:24-30). We ought to PRAY at all times.
Prayer and Strength
"...that at all times they ought to pray and NOT LOSE HEART." (Luke 18:1). This phrase means not to faint or to grow despondent. To "lose heart" is the opposite of to endure or to remain steadfast. The parable which accompanies this admonition suggests that persistence in prayer pays off. The point: regardless of circumstances, do not ever stop praying. If things are going well, we might become self-satisfied and not pray as we ought. If things appear hopeless, we might give up. Jesus admonishes us to always keep on praying, through good times and bad. There is moral, emotional and spiritual strength to be found in prayer. As Jesus found courage through prayer in the garden as He faced His crucifixion, let us follow His example as well as His teaching: "...that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart."
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 11.1; January, 2004