#138 (18/07/04)
Parables for Everyday Living Part IV

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Special Guest

One of the great, truly talented, gifted cinematographers in Hollywood, in America and in the world. And well Louis took his camera and hit the road and for two years cris crossed America to capture the common person and the extraordinary person. Those who have taken their dreams and made these impossible dreams come true. His new movie, two years in his own making, it’s called “America’s Heart and Soul.”

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" This is My Father’s World "

“Song of Exaltation”
“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”

TOM TIPTON - "Down by the Riverside"
GREG LONG – “Fifteen”

Acticle of The Message

I am a proud father today, to have Anthony, my 16 year old son, stand beside me to read today's scripture from Psalm 145. After he finished the reading, he sat down next to me and whispered, "Dad, could you see my knees shaking." I said, "No, I couldn't see your knees shaking." I said, "You did great!"

I have four children in all. The three older children are graduates this spring. My oldest daughter, Angie, received her Masters Degree. My oldest son, Robbie, received his Bachelors Degree. And my youngest daughter, Christina, just graduated from high school. So it is an incredible time in our family. The three older children will be singing after my message, so all four children are helping in our worship together today. That makes it a great morning. I must tell you I am just blessed beyond words. I am a very blessed man.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

My father and I are completing our studies on the parables of Jesus and today I want to share some thoughts on The Parable of the Persistent Widow recorded in Luke 18:1-8. Some of you may be familiar with this parable. It is a wonderful invitation for us to commit to a life of consistent prayer. Jesus introduces this parable to His disciples to show them that, "they should always pray and not give up."

"In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God, nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with a plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary,' she would say. For some time the judge refused, but finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God and care about men. Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice so that she won't eventually wear me out with her complaining.'
"Then Jesus said, 'Hear what the unjust judge said. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night? Will God keep putting them off? I tell you, God will see that they get justice quickly. However, when God comes, will He find faith on earth?'"
What a powerful lesson for us to learn. This past Friday night we were having a graduation party at my parent's house. They give a graduation party for every one of their grandchildren graduating from high school. So 25 of the Schuller family were at this graduation party. We were sitting around the picnic tables out in the garden having a "typical Schuller" discussion. I'm not sure it is the same kind of discussion you have in your house. The discussion went something like this.

Can we change the mind of God?

It was about the Sovereignty of God! If God is sovereign, then is it possible to change the mind of God? Do you have those conversations at your gatherings too? It was quite a discussion. It tuned out to be a theological debate on whether or not we can change the mind of God through prayer.

I said, "Well, you know there is the parable of the Persistent Widow." And I gave other Bible verses that surely pointed towards the idea that we can change the mind of God ... But, on the other hand, when I study the Sovereignty of God, if God is sovereign, then God already knows what is going to happen. If He knows what is going to take place, then God has already predestined the future, therefore, is it possible to actually change the mind of God?

Can we change the mind of God? Does prayer actually make a difference in God's outlook toward us? I don't know. I wish I could definitely say "yes" or "no" and tell you exactly, but I can’t honestly answer that question. There is strong theological and scriptural support for each side. If that is the case, why do we even need to pray? If God already knows what is going to happen, if He is sovereign, why even consider prayer?

God Tells Us to Pray

Here are some things to think about: We pray because God told us to pray (Luke 18:1) That is a pretty good reason, isn't it? Since He told us to pray, there must be a reason why we need to pray. If for no other reason, we pray for what it does for us. Even when Prayer doesn’t change things, prayer can surely change us for things. So God tells us to pray. And if He tells us to pray, there is a very good reason why we need to pray.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow reminds me of a story that I heard some time ago. At Georgetown University, in Washington, DC, there is the Edward Bennett Williams Law Library named after this man. Edward Bennett Williams was a very successful lawyer and he controlled several foundations. The story is told how Mother Teresa knew about his foundations, and she needed money to build a hospital for her AIDS patients. So she wanted to see him to ask him for some money. She set up an appointment with him. Edward Bennett Williams expected that Mother Teresa's appointment was to ask for funds, so he gathered his associates and other members of the foundation to find out if they should tap into some of their funds to support her hospital. After debating, they decided that, "No we are not going to give her any money."

But out of respect and admiration for Mother Teresa, they were more than willing to listen to her. In fact, they were honored that she would come to them and they would have the opportunity to meet her.

So Mother Teresa came to this very prestigious meeting in the astute wood paneled law library. She humbly, but passionately, gave them her appeal and asked them to give to her hospital. Their reply was, "We are so sorry. We have already discussed your request.

Unfortunately we cannot give you any funds now." Mother Teresa replied, "Let's pray." So they prayed with Mother Teresa. After they said "amen," she started her appeal again, telling them all about this wonderful hospital and how important it is for everybody. And she repeated her request for a large donation, but they said, "No, Mother Teresa, we're sorry, but we are not going to be able to help you."

"Okay, let's pray again." For the third time she started her passionate appeal again. Then the successful and articulate lawyer, Edward Bennett Williams said, "Okay, okay, okay. Enough is enough. Give me the check book."

I know prayer changes me

Can we change the mind of God with persistency, with prayer? I don't know! But I focus on what I do know ... that prayer changes me for things. It is an exercise of our faith, choosing to believe that God does exist. We have to remind ourselves God is in control. He is there and He cares for you and me.

I am reminded of the movie, "The Karate Kid." Do you remember how Mr. Miyagi, the Japanese Karate instructor agreed to help Daniel, a kid who was getting beat up all the time by bullies? So Mr. Miyagi was going to teach Karate to Daniel so he could defend himself against anyone.

So Daniel came for his first lesson, eager to be the student of this famous Japanese Karate expert, but Mr. Miyagi says, "Okay the first thing you do is wax all my cars, and you have to wax them in this manner, 'wax on ... wax off' ... 'wax on ... wax off'" ... "Gee, Mr. Miyagi, I came here to get instruction on how to learn Karate and defend myself."

"Yes. So, wax on ... wax off. And then we learn." So all day long Daniel waxed the cars with the arm movements of wax on ... wax off."

The next day Daniel comes for his second lesson. "Okay, Mr. Miyagi, what do I do today? "Ah, today I have a good lesson for you ... ‘wax on ... wax off."

"Mr. Miyagi, I need to learn Karate." "Yes, yes. Today ... wax on ... wax off ... all day long, wax on ... wax off."

The third day Daniel comes, "Mr. Miyagi, now do I get to learn Karate?" "Yes, we learn Karate ... we go paint. Paint on ... paint on. Like this, up and down, paint on, paint on all day long. Paint on ... paint on." The next day was the same. "My fence needs more paint. Paint on ... paint on moving your arms up and down all day long."

"Mr. Miyagi, when am I going to learn Karate?"

"Daniel-san, you are learning Karate." And Daniel was learning the moves through the long days of "wax-on–wax-off." He was strengthening his muscles through the "paint on ..." up and down arm movements. Yes, Daniel was learning to defend himself and he soon became a Karate expert.

In the same way we don't see and understand how we are being strengthened when God tells us to pray, "Wax on ... wax off." "Paint on ... paint on." Day after day. When God says, "pray!" ... we pray!

The Parable of the Persistent Widow teaches us to pray. To build our faith we need consistent and daily prayer. Then in the process of strengthening our faith, we also create a relationship with God. Yes, prayer is a relationship.

Prayer is being together with God

Prayer is communicating with God! We can ask God to take care of all our daily needs. Prayer is the time to build a relationship with God and as we spend time with Him we can approach Him without fear, over and over, just as the persistent widow did, and when justice is needed, it will be done for God is a just God..

But prayer is not just petition when we tell God our needs, it is also a time of worship and meditation, a time when we just sit and think about being in the presence of God. We don’t say or do anything. We just simply allow God to speak to us. There are also the prayers of thanksgiving. I want to encourage you today to build a relationship with God.

Last night I took Angie, my oldest daughter, out for dinner. She lives in Okalahoma, where she works at Oral Roberts University. She was here for a week of vacation. Before she goes back to work I wanted to be alone with her, just father and daughter. So we had dinner together last night. Just she and I. We had a great time. I took her to the restaurant in here Southern California that is known for its delicious fish tacos, and the price is right for my budget. We made sure we wore a pair of flip-flop sandals and T-shirts, otherwise we would have been very overdressed. So we got "dressed up" and we just had a great time talking and sharing and just being together. That is what prayer really is ... it is being together with God.

God tells us to pray, because prayer builds our faith and we can exercise a special, intimate relationship with Him.

Teach your children to pray

Finally, one of the reasons God tells us to pray is that it is an example for our children. It teaches our children that we are people of faith. As we share with our children why we pray, we teach our children to pray!

Now I can’t think of anything you can do that will have more value than to teach your children how to pray, and the only way to teach your children to pray is to let them see you pray. Pray with them regularly. In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians at the church in Thessalonica, he writes "Pray without ceasing." (Thessalonians 5:17)

There is an old story of a man who "prayed without ceasing." And he had unusual ways to "pray without ceasing." He owned a team of horses, and he decided to train these horses to respond to his prayers. So he taught them to go with the words, "Praise the Lord." And off they would gallop. Then to stop, instead of saying "whoa," he taught them, "amen, amen, amen." And the horses would come to a stop.

Well, it happened that when this team of horses was at their peek, the trainer died. His widow knew she would have to sell the horses. She put up a for sale sign and an ad in the paper and the word got out. A gentleman came to buy these horses and saw this incredible team. He decided this was the team for him. So he asked, "May I take them out for a ride to see how they respond to me?" The widow said, "Yes, but you need to know that these horses have special commands they respond to. You must remember them. They go on ‘praise the Lord,’ and they stop on ‘amen.’"

He said, "Oh, that is easy." So he climbed on the wagon and said, "Giddy up," but the horses didn’t do anything. "Oh, that is right .... ‘praise the Lord’!" And the horses took off. Wow, these horses are really responsive. As he was riding along, he wanted to see how fast they could go. "Giddy up ... oh ... praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!" And the horses took off in such a fast gallop. Wow! This team is fantastic. And they are so strong.

All of a sudden he could see a cliff before them and he started to panic. He needed to stop the horses right now! "Whoa horse!" Pulling back on the reins, he saw they were not slowing down. "Whoa, whoa." And they just kept going for the cliff. All of a sudden, he remembered, "Amen!"" The horses threw their heels into the ground, digging up the dust. They stopped so fast he practically fell out of the wagon! He gasped, and out came the words, "Whew ... praise the Lord!" ..... !!!!!

Learn to praise the Lord for all the wonderful things He has given to you. Today, I praise the Lord for my children. I want them to always remember they are children of God. We are all God’s children. Pray and teach your children how to pray. We are the blessed of God. Why do we pray? We don’t always get what we ask for, but we always get what we need. We pray because God told us to, that’s why!

Dear God, I thank You that You are a God who instructs, leads, teaches and cares for me. You are a God who continues to give me everything I need. So give me more faith, O Lord, to keep praying consistently and always, knowing that with You I will never fail. I love You Lord, and I praise Your name. Amen.

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