This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 18:1-8. In these verses Jesus shows us how to pray for our troubles, especially financial ones. However, there are two parts of this parable–one speaks to those who are suffering, and the other speaks to those who have the means to relieve suffering. This blog post will close with some tips on how to pray for our finances, even if we are doing pretty well with money.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
In this example of a widow, Jesus is talking about those who suffer financially because of their situation, and not because of what they brought upon themselves (I will get to that toward the end of this article). Millions of Americans, including hundreds that I have worked with in the last 5 years, have gone through all kinds of financial hardship. What financial difficulty are you having? Maybe you recently lost your job, or you are back to work earning significantly less than you were used to. Many people are drowning in medical bills, paying high costs for hospitalization, doctor’s visits and prescriptions. Health bills are a large source of financial difficulty for many people. Deductibles and co-insurance amounts are higher than ever, and so are the premiums for many group and individuals plans as well as for new policies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare). Millions of people have gone without health insurance either because the cost was too high or because they were not insurable. Health care and job loss are one of the big reasons people are suffering financially, but there are other reasons, such as a self-employed business not doing well, divorce, fraud, abusive lending practices, or death of a breadwinner.
If we are suffering because of unfortunate circumstances or are able to help those in poverty, how are we to pray? Jesus encourages us in this example to pray for everything persistently, for help and relief, and for justice. Jesus commands us to pray with vigor, urgency, and desperation. We are to pray with faith and expectation that he will provide for us, because he is much better than the unjust corrupt judge who does not help the widow against her adversary (in today’s scripture). Jesus is the exact opposite of this judge. Jesus is compassionate and patient; he cares for us and hates to see us suffer. He helps us both when we don’t deserve it and when we are doing all the right things. Furthermore, Jesus hates injustice (Isaiah 10:1-3); he will answer its victims and will punish the unjust.
The A list of things we should pray for:
- “Daily bread” as in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:10). Bread can represent basic needs of food, shelter, clothes, transportation, and utilities. Bread also means spiritual food to sustain us emotionally and spiritually during suffering. Pray for Jesus to lift us up, keep us going, and give us patience and endurance (John 6:35).
- Possessions, such as our cars, houses and clothes, so that things don’t wear out, break, or need costly repairs (Deuteronomy 8:4). My car has over 300,000 miles on it, and at one time the tires had over 100,000 on them. I have prayed for this car and its tires, and my maintenance and repair expenses have been very minimal during our financial difficulty.
- God to carry us, so that we are not totally consumed by our situation (Psalm 23:1-6 and Psalm 91:10).
- Justice. If we have been taken advantage of, such as by predatory lenders, fraud, an ex-spouse, or age or race discrimination, we should ask for Jesus to intervene on our behalf (Psalm 17 and Psalm 10).
- Enemies. Pray for those who owe us money but are withholding it. If people are persecuting us and working against us, we should pray for their forgiveness, for heart change, and for Jesus to bless them with good things (Matthew 5:44, Mark 11:25).
- Miracles (Matthew 13:31-32). I have witnessed and received the benefit of financial miracles during our financial setbacks. People have told me about debt lenders who just forgave for no reason, interest rates lowered on mortgages, and checks in the mail from old jobs or friends.
- Quick relief, but also perseverance (Romans 5:3-4) since answers don’t often come when we want them.
- Ask for his help in budgeting, debt repayment, marital financial harmony and spending control. Pray about expenses to eliminate, things to sell, and ways to make extra money.
- Our jobs, businesses and places we work. Pray for successful companies, good jobs, raises, promotions or better jobs to come our way.
- For people that are suffering injustice in our society and suffering in our world in societies of oppression.
- For direction of where to invest our time or money to help others. If we are going through difficulties, not only is it good for those we are helping, but also it will help us a lot.
If you are doing well financially and the heat of your situation is not forcing you to look at your finances, pray for the things on the A list as well as for an increase so that you may bless other people. Pray for discernment about your finances; you may have plenty of money but not Jesus’ heart when it comes to money and materialism.
If your financial difficulty has something to do with your poor financial management, then how are you supposed to pray? It could have been that you borrowed too much money, were a bad worker, gave little, didn’t save anything, and lived a lavish lifestyle beyond your means. Perhaps you didn’t do any of these things, but you just failed to budget and plan well. Whatever camp you were in, if you combine just one of these with an unfortunate financial setback such as a job loss or a health care insurance crisis, you too may find yourself in terrible financial straits.
One of the huge benefits of difficulty is the opportunity to grow. Often God lets difficulty come our way, whether we brought it on ourselves or not, in order to save us. He may be saving us for eternity if our lives were focused on the love of money and not on Jesus. He may be saving us from the path we were on by giving us a better life in the days to come; he ultimately may be refining our faith and teaching us the secrets of being content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:12-13, Luke 8:10). He might be testing us (Luke 8:13-14) or teaching us about riches, worrying, and pleasures (Luke 8:15). Jesus may be teaching us about all kinds of things that we need to learn that we wouldn’t have learned if life had just gone really well financially.
The B list of things we should pray for:
- Jesus to show and teach us things about ourselves that are bringing about unfortunate finances (Psalm 139:23-24).
- Forgiveness. If we have not obeyed his teachings about money, possessions, work (effort and honesty), integrity, greed, and giving, we should repent and pray for forgiveness and for Jesus to make us whole.
- Biblical financial wisdom about stewardship, debt, riches, giving, budgeting, and work.
- Heart change about our attitudes toward money.
- Ask for God to show us not just negative things, but also positive things about our finances and about just life in general that he is pleased with.
- For the things on Prayer list A, even if we might have been some of the cause for our poor finances.
There are also lessons in Luke 18:1-8 for people in political positions, those with financial resources, and those who are self-employed or leaders in business. It is easy to point the finger at politicians when there is injustice or there are people suffering from financial difficulty. It’s quite a different matter to try to help. If you are in positions of influence, you have the responsibility to care for those suffering, including the poor and the immigrants: Zechariah 7:9-10, “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
- Contribute money to organizations that help the poor with daily needs and with things that can help people help themselves out of poverty (read the books Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts).
- Influence politicians to help those suffering from injustice.
- If your business is doing really well financially, forgo raises for the top people and increase wages for those on the bottom.
- If you have the means and ideas to start or expand your business, take the risk so that the economy in your area strengthens and more job positions can be opened up.
Summarizing, the list of financial things to pray for is really endless, but don’t forget to pray for abundance and prosperity, wisdom and self -control, and his help to be a good steward over the things he has blessed you to manage. God answers prayers; I’ve seen it countless times. God is generous and he loves to bless us, but in his participatory system, he’s sometimes waiting for us to ask.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-second post in this series.