Prayer is Not a Transaction

Recently I was teaching on Luke 18:1-5 (verses are below) about the parable of the persistent widow and developed some thoughts that might be pertinent for you today.

In our world, commerce is based on the idea of a transaction. I give you something (like money) and you give me something in return (like a service or a product). We are immersed in this concept. Give=Get.

The world treats prayer in same way. Note how it is portrayed in books, television, and film. Worldly prayers (aka the pagan prayer) is a transaction. “I give, I get.” Or through persistence, pleading, begging, bribery, or flattery we get what we want. “If you will just give me this right now I will do that for you in the future!”

Every Christian starts their faith journey with this preconceived idea about prayer. We were taught that if you do or say the right thing or, like the persistent widow of the parable, ask fervently our wish will be granted.  Because that is the way business works. It is a simple transaction. Quid pro quo.

But with God? It is not.
It is never a transaction.

Read the parable and notice that God is not the judge who relents after being cajoled into shame. It even states that the judge, in this parable, did not fear God nor respect man.

It is a parable of contrast, not comparison. We cannot compare that “transaction” of persistence to our relationship with God. In fact, in 18:1 Luke writes that this parable was told so that the disciples should always pray (“at all times”) and not lose heart. Not a teaching that if we keep haranguing and coaxing that God will eventually relent. Instead it is the opposite.

Jesus is teaching us that God wants us to always be praying. (Ask, Seek, Knock.) And in contrast to the pagan judge who rolls his eyes and relents, God welcomes our prayers with open arms – anytime, anywhere.

Today God welcomes your prayers. Amidst violence in the street, storms on the coast, tragedy in the home, rampant Godlessness at every turn, discourse on ideas becoming ad hominem attacks, and disappointment in the publishing industry and our writing, we need to pray more than ever.

God may not grant us our wishes just because we pray. But he is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us (Eph 3:20). We have been taught to pray in this way:

You are holy and your will is what we seek (we seek you first).
Give us our daily bread (only you can provide, for you are the source of it all).
Forgive us of our sins (only you can wash us clean).
Keep us from temptation (only you can protect us from our selfish desires).
For Your Glory.
For Your Kingdom (the now and the not yet).


Luke 18:1-5
He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, Give me legal protection from my opponent.’

For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” (NASB)


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