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PERSISTENT PRAYER IN THE LAST DAYS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, October 7, 2012


Turn with me in your Bible to the eighteenth chapter of Luke. It is on page 1100 of the Scofield Study Bible. Please stand for the reading of God’s Word.

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).

You may be seated.

The chapter before this, in the Gospel of Luke, ends with a description of the last days in Bible prophecy. Christ said, “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man” (Luke 17:26). Christ said that they ate and drank and married wives “until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (17:27). Then He compared the last days to the days of Lot, saying, “They did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:28-29). And Christ ended this comparison by saying,

“Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke 17:30).

Directly after saying that, in the next chapter of Luke, Christ “spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Then He gave the Parable of the Unjust Judge, and ended it by saying,

“Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

What does this mean? Many commentaries say that it means there will be hardly any Christians when Jesus returns. But I think that misses the main point. William MacDonald captured the correct idea when he said, “This probably means the kind of faith that the poor widow [in the parable] had...the kind of faith that cries to God night and day” (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, p. 1438; note on Luke 18:8). Thus, Christ was asking whether He would find faith in persistent prayer when He returns.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee pointed out that Christ compared the last days to the time of Noah, and the time of Lot. In both cases people were focused on the material aspects of life – eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building. They felt they had no time, and no inclination to focus on the things of God. Those were not times when men prayed. So, in chapter 18, Christ spoke about persistent prayer in a time of little faith. Concerning Luke 18:1 Dr. McGee said,

      He likened the last days to the days of Noah [and Lot], that they would be difficult days – days that would not be conducive to faith. So now He talks to them about a life of faith in days that are devoid of faith. That is the reason it is so pertinent at this hour. We are living in days, as He indicated, when men’s hearts are failing them for fear. What we have in this parable is a pertinent paragraph on prayer for the present hour. Notice that He says He spoke a parable to this end; that is, for this purpose, that men should always pray, and not to faint (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1983, volume IV, p. 326; note on Luke 18:1).

My long-time pastor at the Chinese church was Dr. Timothy Lin. Dr. Lin was also a professor of Biblical languages and theology at several seminaries. Dr. Lin said that Luke 18:8 “refers to faith in prayer. And our Lord’s statement is a lamentation that His Church will lose the faith of prayer on the eve of His second coming” (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles, 1992, pp. 94, 95).

I am convinced that is what Christ meant when He said,

“Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

It means, in the materialism and confusion of the last days, Christians will lose faith in persistent prayer. That is why Christ gave the parable.

“He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint [not to give up]” (Luke 18:1).

That means do not stop praying because answers don’t come immediately! Jesus said,

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

The tenses used here in the original Greek show that Christ meant “persistently ask,” “persistently knock,” “persistently seek.” William MacDonald said, “So here we have an invitation to ask and keep on asking; to seek and keep on seeking, to knock and keep on knocking” (ibid., p. 1228; note on Matthew 7:7, 8).

Christ promised that such continued prayer would be answered. He said, “it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). He said, “it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:8). Dr. John R. Rice said, “Persistent prayer has the promise of an answer. Now in the parable of the unjust judge the widow troubled the ungodly judge so that finally he gave her her petition...then promised ‘And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?,’ Luke 18:7” (John R. Rice, D.D., Prayer: Asking and Receiving, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1970 edition, p. 194).

I have had prayers answered after continually asking for a long time. Right after I was converted in September of 1961 I began to pray almost every day for God to send revival to the First Chinese Baptist Church. Not long ago Dr. Murphy Lum reminded me that I prayed for revival every time I was called on to pray at that church. Even when I was asked to say grace before a meal, or was called on to pray for something else, wholly unrelated to revival, Dr. Lum reminded me that I always added a prayer for revival. About eight years after I began to pray for revival there, it came, very suddenly one morning when we were up in the mountains at a summer camp. Of course, others were praying as well. But Dr. Lum pointed out that I continued on and on, year after year, until the power of God came down in a mighty series of revivals at that church.

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

I began praying for a godly wife more than ten years before I met Mrs. Hymers. I prayed on and on, year after year. Then one night I met Mrs. Hymers. Shortly afterwards I knew that God had finally answered my many prayers.

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

There seemed to be no hope at all that my mother would ever be saved. I myself doubted it would ever happen. But I prayed on and on and on. Then one afternoon, when I was in New York, God spoke to my heart and said, “Your mother will be saved now.” Within a couple of days Dr. Cagan led my mother to Christ, and she became a wonderful Christian at the age of eighty.

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

Yet, at other times, God answers our prayers more quickly. Dr. Rice said, “Many, many times God hears those who pray about a matter only once, then drop it” (ibid. p. 195). Last Wednesday, when I was writing this morning’s sermon on fasting, I suddenly felt moved to pray for Mitt Romney. Governor Romney was scheduled to debate President Obama that night. Strangely, again and again, as I was writing the sermon, I felt moved to pray for Mr. Romney. Everyone in the news media had written him off, saying he had no chance. I myself had given up all hope in him having a chance. But there I was, moved to pray for him again and again that afternoon. I prayed in detail for him, that he would know exactly what to say, that he would be calm, that he would appear strong and sure of himself. Then, just before the debate began, I prayed again for him to be calm and full of strength.

To everyone’s surprise in the news media, Governor Romney seemed like a new person when he walked out on the stage for the debate. Everyone in the news media was startled at his performance. They were shocked that he won the debate hands down. Commentator Patrick J. Buchanan had worked as an assistant to three presidents. Yet Mr. Buchanan said, on Fox News, that Romney’s performance was the best one he had ever seen! Everyone was greatly surprised! But late that night God said to my heart, “I heard your prayers today.” Mr. Lee told me that he too was moved to pray for Mr. Romney that day. I don’t know if Romney will win the election, but I do know he won that debate in answer to my prayer and the prayers of others. Yes, sometimes God answers when we pray only once, or only for one day. Prayer is the means by which God blesses people. Don’t stop praying, no matter how long it takes for the answer to come!

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace.” He also wrote the hymn Mr. Griffith sang before this sermon,

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare,
   Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
   Therefore will not say thee nay,
Therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King;
   Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such
   None can ever ask too much,
None can ever ask too much.
   (“Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

Earlier this year I began praying for six young people in our church. All six of them had been coming to church for a long time – most of them for many years. Yet they were still unsaved. Nothing that I preached seemed to reach them, or move them. Nothing I said to them in private seemed to help them. But as I began to pray for them very seriously, God suddenly showed me what to say to them. It was something I had never thought of before. But suddenly, one of them was saved. Then two more, and then three more. It seemed so easy. But before it seemed impossible. All six of them were quickly converted within three weeks! It was a small touch of revival! What a miracle! What an answer to persistent prayer!

I realized that I had “prayed through,” as the old-timers called it. I had prayed until the answer came. These young people are now alive from the dead! They are all full of life, praying for others to be saved, and working to get newer young people to come into the church! God answers prayer! Don’t give up! Keep on praying till the answer comes!

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

Thou art coming to a King;
   Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such
   None can ever ask too much,
None can ever ask too much.

You are here tonight, and you are not yet saved. We are praying for you. You have heard me say repeatedly that Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and that He shed His precious Blood to cleanse you from all sin. You have heard me say repeatedly that Jesus rose physically from the dead, and ascended back to the right hand of God in Heaven, into another dimension, to give you life. Yet this wonderful message of hope has seemed to you like a myth, like an “idle tale,” as Dr. J. Gresham Machen put it. But now we are praying that God will make these great truths burn like hot coals in your heart – that God will convict you of sin – and draw you to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And we will not stop praying for you until you are in Christ Jesus, and saved from sin, death, and Hell by Him! May God answer our prayers for you soon! And I say to our people tonight, in the words of John Newton,

Thou art coming to a King;
   Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such
   None can ever ask too much,
None can ever ask too much.

“Thou art coming to a King.” Sing it!

Thou art coming to a King;
   Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such
   None can ever ask too much,
None can ever ask too much.

Keep on praying for the lost young people coming to our church, until God draws them to Jesus! Don’t stop praying! Keep praying until God answers your prayers! Amen!

(END OF SERMON)
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Prayer Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare” (by John Newton, 1725-1807).