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Persevering prayer called essential for believers’ survival, prof dec

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“A minister cannot survive unless he understands the power of prayer,” Ken Keathley, visiting professor of theology and philosophy, told guests, students and faculty Dec. 1 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.
“Times of desperation,” Keathley said, “lead to protracted prayer.”
Using Luke 18:1-8 as his text, Keathley said while the passage is often referred to as “The Parable of the Unjust Judge,” it should more appropriately be called “The Parable of the Undaunted Widow.” Told by Jesus at a time when unjust judges were common, Keathley observed that persevering widows were not so common. The widow lacked the kind of resources the judge was used to receiving as a bribe, he noted, but she had a resource that still caught the judge’s attention. Keathley pointed out that the phrase “lest … she weary me” might be more literally translated “lest she black my eyes” or “lest she cause bags under my eyes.”
The functions of prayer should be threefold, he explained in his chapel message: to grow in grace, enjoy communion with the Father and as the means by which Christians experience the hand of God in meeting needs.
Keathley quoted an old saying, “When we have little trouble, we have great trouble praying. When we have great trouble, we have little trouble praying.”
“Our tendency to discouragement often interferes with our prayer lives,” Keathley said, adding Christians talk about prayer, write and read books on prayer, but God’s people don’t really pray that much. “Disappointment and discouragement are greater adversaries to us than the real adversary.” Comparing Christians to David in Psalm 13 crying out, “How long, O Lord, how long?” he said many are often discouraged with God.
Among the reasons Christians fail to pray, according to Keathley, are:
— a fear there is no one there to hear us at all, the attitude of practical atheists, and a fear that although God is there he is too great and believers are too small for him to care, the attitude of practical deists.
— a fear that even if God does care about people, we are not the ones he cares about, raising the question about one’s relationship to Christ.
“The tenacity of our determination,” Keathley observed, “is a measure of our faith.” The widow had no hope of resolving her problem through her own strength, so she put her faith in a judge even though he was corrupt, Keathley explained. “True prayer is the recognition of our total dependence on God.”
Protracted prayer both reveals and transforms, he continued, explaining it reveals the passion we have for our requests and transforms our requests into something more in tune with God’s will for our lives. “The distinctive truth of this parable,” Keathley said, “is that God is more willing to bring about justice for his people than any corrupt judge ever could be.”
He urged listeners to understand their adversary and recognize God already has anticipated the needs of believers by sending Christ to be an advocate. When the widow begged the judge to “avenge me of mine adversary,” Keathley observed the judge gave her his protection just to get rid of her. He related that Jesus said to those who cry out both day and night that God “will bring about justice for them speedily.”

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  • Larry B. Elrod