Don't Stop Praying!
Monica, Mother of Augustine
27 August 2018
True prayer is an act of faith. It is a struggle with God, in which the believer denies what he knows about himself, namely that he is a sinner, and what he knows about God who hears prayer: that He is holy. Imagine the impertinence of wrestling with God until you get an answer! Think of the courage required to cast your prayers in His teeth day after day demanding of Him what you desire. Who would have the confidence to do this? Only those who have full faith and confidence in their Savior, that He can be approached by us with noisy and constant petitions. Only if we have the faith that clings to the promise that God would hear our prayers and answer them will we have the courage to repeat our claims.
 
Jacob of old had that boundless confidence, which is itself a gift from God, when he wrestled with the pre-incarnate Christ before crossing the ford of the Jabbock (Gn 32:22-32). He would not let go even though he was well aware that he was wrestling with God. He demanded a divine revelation: "What is your name?" (Gn 32:29) and although the text does not explicitly say that Jacob received the name he knew after that he needed to call the place where he wrestled "the face of God." He had a "smack down" with God and demanded His grace, which God has promised to Him through His father, Abraham. This story is included in Scripture for our instruction that we might ever be as bold as Jacob in demanding what God has so graciously promised to give us in the first place.
 
Often God declines to answer our prayer with the speed we require either because of our mortality (we have a limited shelf life) or because of our impatience ("I want what I want right now!"). We are often like the man who prayed, "Lord, please give me patience. And uh, if you could give it to me right now, that would be great! Amen." To force us to do what we ought to do by faith, God makes us to wait that we would more faithfully pray as He desires. We may even begin to suspect that God is our enemy or that we are praying for that which is a sin, it takes so long for God to respond to our petitions. We may even pray a lifetime only to have God fulfill our request years later or even after we are long gone. We must pray in faith because we may never see on earth that for which we prayed. Martin Luther extolled Monica, the mother of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, because she prayed for her whole lifetime that her son, Augustine, would become a Christian. The Lord answered her only near the end of her life, but in a way that was far greater than anything she had prayed for or hoped. Augustine became not just a Christian, but a pastor and bishop, and finally the greatest teacher of the post-apostolic Christian church in its first millennium. So don't give up praying.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"There is the very beautiful example of Monica, the mother of Augustine, who prayed for her son and asked for nothing else than that he be delivered from the foolish ideas of the Manichaeans and be baptized. Like an anxious mother, she also considered betrothing a girl to him if in this way he might be converted. But the more she prayed, the more unyielding and stubborn her son became. Apparently, her praying came to be a sin. But when the time had come for the anxious prayer to be heard (for God is wont to delay His help), Augustine is not only converted and baptized; he devotes himself completely to the study of theology and becomes a teacher who shines in the church up to this day and teaches and instructs it.
 
"Monica had never asked for this. She would have been satisfied to have her son delivered from his error and become a Christian. But God wants to give greater things than we are able to ask for, provided that we do not tire of praying.
 
"For praying is no small task, as those who have no experience think. Those who do have experience in spiritual matters have said that no task can be compared to the task of praying. For praying does not mean to recite a number of psalms or to bellow in the churches, as the monks are accustomed to do; it is a serious meditation, in which the heart makes a comparison between the person praying and the Person hearing, and reaches the firm conviction that even though we are wretched sinners, God will nevertheless be gracious, will alleviate our punishments, and will hear our prayers.
 
"But even though our hearts, strengthened by the Spirit and the Word of God, believe this, it is nevertheless certainly true that no one has so bold a heart that he dares ask for what God has determined to give. Thus, we are hampered on both sides; the grandeur of Him who bestows and the unworthiness of him who prays hamper our prayer, so that we actually do not understand what we are praying for."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 17.19
Genesis 32:22-32

The same night [Jacob] arose and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob's thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." And he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." Then he said, "Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked him, "Tell me, I pray, your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved." The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh, because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh on the sinew of the hip. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus, you have encouraged us to approach Your throne in prayer and have promised to hear us. Grant us the faith by which we might continue to wrestle with You and demand those things You have promised to give us. Let us not become weary of praying, so that Your kingdom would come and Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen.
 
For all those who despair of being heard by God, that they would grow in faith and approach His throne of grace with tenacity
 
For all those who are seeking holy marriage, that the Lord, who created man and woman and joined them in garden, would give joy and every blessing to them in this holy estate
 
Bill Gewin, who is suffering from cancer, that the Lord Jesus would grant him strength and healing

For all those who have been scarred by random, senseless violence, that they would be comforted by the God who has suffered
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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