Today’s lesson is designed to embolden Jesus’ disciples and each of us as we face trials, delays and persecution. Jesus affirms the action and attitudes of prayer and humility as essentials to victory, justice and peace. God doesn’t require us to clean ourselves up or pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps before we come to him, but instead to come humbly to him, reliant on his grace, confident of his faithfulness not our own. This section helps us to see God’s grace, his sense of justice, goodness and love.

Audio: Podcast coming soon

Section 121 | Two Parables on Prayer: The Persistent Widow, and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

In Samaria
Luke 18:1-14
1 He also spoke a parable to them that they must always pray, and not give up,1   2 saying, “There was a judge2 in a certain city who didn’t fear God, and didn’t respect man.3 3 A widow was in that city, and she often came to him, saying, ‘Defend me from my adversary!’4 4 He wouldn’t for a while, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God, nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will defend her, or else she will wear me out by her continual coming.’ ” 6 The Lord said,“Listen to what the unrighteous judge says. 7 Won’t God avenge5 his chosen ones who are crying out to him day and night, and yet he exercises patience with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them quickly. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”6 9 He spoke also this parable to certain people7 who were convinced of their own righteousness,8 and who despised all others. 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”9 

Group Dialog:

  • What is the process of prayer? The essentials of prayer?
  • What have you found to be the value and effect of prayer?
  • Invite the group to describe or define: Humility and Perfection.
  • How do the things we do well and the things we do poorly make us feel? Proud and foolish; happy and sad; pleased and disappointed.
  • How do you think God would feel about the attitude of the Pharisee in this parable? Proud because he is following the law or saddened because of his pride and lack of love for others?
  • How has your perspective of God’s character influenced your actions and attitude to Him and others?
  • Have you imagined God would never love you (or someone you love) because of something you did in the past? How does today’s second parable challenge your thinking?
  • What in your thinking is holding you back from coming to God and asking him to change your heart (mind, actions) and let you live a life that honors God’s grace at work in you?

Notes:

  1. Jesus was well aware of the troubled times ahead and the current sentiment of the religious leaders who opposed his ministry and resisted (rejected) his as claim as Messiah, so he offered his disciples this parable to encourage them to pray, and perseverance in it – even when there appears to be no immediate effect. Interestingly, as affirmed by Ps 55:17 and Daniel 6:10 faithful Jews prayed three times a day, but for Christ there was no need to create such routines when it is better that his disciples should always be praying and prayerful. CR Lk 21:36; Acts 1:14; Rom 8:26-27; Eph 6:18; 1Ths 5:17; Col 4:2; Phl 4:6; 1Tim 2:1; 2Tim 1:3
  2. Every city in Israel had some manner of a court. If there were at least 120 men there would be a “lesser sanhedrim” of 23 members; in a village where there were fewer than 120 men then 3 judges would be appointed to address local issues; meanwhile the the Great Sanhedrin with 71 members was in Jerusalem. While its lawful for a judge to judge alone – it is not wise.
  3. There were qualifications of each judge which called for them to be men known for their: wisdom, meekness, modesty, fear of God, love of truth, love of others, respected by others and not given to lust of money lest they fall prey to bribes. So according to the law that qualified these men this one was disqualified, ill-suited to be a judge.
  4. CR Isa 1:17
  5. It is not appropriate for any disciple to seek revenge or even pray to be avenged. It is far better to be people of faith, trusting God in what ever circumstance however unjust or ill, and setting one’s delight not in any change of circumstance but in each precious moment as it is a sacrament, a blessing and you yourself may be God’s instrument of blessing for others who’s station or circumstances may be below or even above your own.
  6. Don’t get lost in the mire and fog of life’s unanswered prayers and ongoing pain. Have faith in God for he is faithful, just and caring. CR §54h Mt 7:9
  7. that is not to his disciples but others who were nearby – who’s character and life was not devoted to Christ and the Kingdom but to themselves.
  8. He was most likely speaking to the pharisees gathered around him (Lk 17:20 and 18:11,12) who presumed themselves to be righteous in the eyes of God because of their reverence and observance of the law.
  9. Jesus reinforced this principle a number of times: CR §54b Mt 5:3, Lk 6:20;  §114 Lk 14:11, §117b Lk 16:15, §137a Mt 23:12; as did the Apostles: Rom 3:20; Jms 4:6,10; Gal 2:16  See also Isa 57:15, Prov 29:23; Hab 2:4; and also Rom 4:5; 5:1; 8:33