Included in the lists of great speakers of the 20th century are Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King and Adolph Hitler.
The latter addition may cause us to do a double-take since we recognize Hitler as psychotic, or demon possessed, depending on one’s perspective, but Hitler ranks high as a man whose passion moved a nation, albeit to their destruction. He also demonstrated one of Aristotle’s principles of rhetoric; namely, a speaker who gains the trust of the audience can better persuade them. Aristotle called this “ethos,” and it means that we believe the speaker has our best interests at heart. Change is a threat, so unless we trust the persuader, all is for naught.
Jesus used the power of a bad example in a parable about prayer in Luke’s gospel.
He told about a judge who neither reverenced God nor cared about others. Today such a judge would be in danger of removal, as a neighboring county did last year when a judge was removed from the bench for dereliction of duty. Another judge in our state was accused of spousal abuse and faced immediate calls for removal. Nevertheless, this judge was firmly in power when a widow came to him for redress. The care of widows is a biblical principle that this man didn’t acknowledge. He ignored her pleas for a long time. Finally he grew weary that she bothered him so often and decided to grant her petition.
Jesus used this story to teach two lessons about a God who is so different from the unjust judge.
First, he said God is compassionate. Believers are his “elect,” which means they’re chosen by him and invited into his spiritual family. Because God is compassionate, it’s ludicrous to think he might grow weary when his children come to him with their needs. We cannot imagine God saying, “Here’s Bill again asking me to help his son. I’m so tired of this!” No, a compassionate God delights when we bring our needs to him.
Second, he taught the importance of persistence in prayer. The widow came to the judge continually. She didn’t file her complaint and walk away. She refused to give up.
One common failure in our prayer life is bringing requests to God and promptly forgetting them. This might indicate how little importance we attach to them. For this reason many Christians have found a prayer list helpful. It reminds us to pray daily for our needs and the needs of others, and also increases our faith when we see how God has responded to our requests.
We’re assured that the Great Eternal Judge both loves us and promises not to disregard our earnest prayers to him. -30-
“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.