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Continuing to Pray - Luke 18, HCLD 45

A service plan focused on the necessity of faithful prayer as demonstrated by "The Parable of the Persistent Widow" in a series on prayer as explained in the Heidelberg Catechism.

Worship Service

A Series of Sermons on Prayer

With this service we begin a series of nine worship services that focus on the Christian's life of prayer. These services will follow the sequence of the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Days 45-52, and will center on each of the petitions of the Lord's Prayer. At the conclusion of this series we will have provided worship services that are built on the entire Heidelberg Catechism.

Theme of This Service

This parable, which is often labeled "The Parable of the Persistent Widow," came from the lips of Jesus for the very specific purpose of the necessity of faithful prayer (v.1). The Heidelberg Catechism teaches us that "prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness that God requires of us" and "God gives his grace and Spirit only to those who pray continually" (Q&A 116). It follows, then, that continuing to pray, in spite of temptations to lose heart, is vitally important for any dynamic Christian life.


We suggest a number of resources that will be valuable tools for you in this study of the Lord's Prayer.

  • Each week we will provide references for you from the Heidelberg Catechism and both the Larger and the Shorter Westminster Catechism.
  • The website of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary also provides sermon ideas for each Lord's Days.
  • Comfort and Joy: A Study of the Heidelberg Catechism, Andrew Kuyvenhoven, Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1988.
  • Our Only Comfort: A Comprehensive Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (vol. 2), Fred Klooster, Grand Rapids: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2001.

Catechism References
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 45
Westminster Larger Catechism, Q.178, 183-187
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q.98

* * * * *


Prelude: "I Was Glad They Came to Call Me" [see music notes]
and/or: "I Love the Lord, for He Has Heard My Voice"

The Call to Worship

*Song: "I Was Glad They Came to Call Me" PsH 122
or: "Psalm 122: I Rejoiced When I Heard Them Say" RN 117, SNC 7
or: "I Love the Lord, for He Has Heard My Voice" PsH 116: 1, 2

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Congregation of Jesus Christ, where is your trust placed?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Response: "Come, Thou Almighty King" PH 139:4, PsH 246:4, RL 618:4, TH 101:4, TWC 5:4, UMH 61:4, WR 148:4
or: "I Love the Lord, for He Has Heard my Voice" PsH 116:4

WE ARE RENEWED IN GOD'S GRACE [seeliturgy notes]

The Call to Confession
When we gather to praise God,
we remember that we are people
who have preferred our wills to his.
Accepting his power to become new persons in Christ,
let us confess our sin before God and one another. (TWS 2.1.16)

The Prayer of Confession:
Merciful God,
you pardon all who truly repent and turn to you.
We humbly confess our sins and ask your mercy.
We have not loved you with a pure heart,
nor have we loved our neighbor as ourselves.
We have not done justice, loved kindness,
or walked humbly with you, our God.
Have mercy on us, O God, in your loving-kindness.
In your great compassion,
cleanse us from our sin.
Create in us a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within us.
Do not cast us from your presence,
or take your Holy Spirit from us.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation
and sustain us with your bountiful Spirit
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (based on Psalm 51:10-12; TWS 2.2.14)

The Assurance of God's Pardon: Romans 8:1

Our Song of Praise and Thanks: "And Can It Be" PsH 267, RL 451, RN 193, TH 455, TWC 473, UMH 363, WR 366

God's Instruction for Grateful Living:
What is the great and first commandment?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind.
What is the second commandment like it?
Love your neighbor as yourself.
What does this mean?
Love is the fulfilling of the law.
To what does this call us?
To a life of faith working through love. (based on Matthew 22:37-40; TWS 2.7.5)


*Song of Preparation: "Blessed Jesus, at Your Word" PH 454, PsH 280, RL 530, RN 93, SFL 56, TH 303, UMH 596

The Reading of the Catechism [seeliturgy notes]

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Old Testament Scripture: Psalm 34:1-10
or: Responsorial Singing of Psalm 34 SNC 255 [seemusic notes]

The Reading of New Testament Scripture: Luke 18:1-8
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon: Continuing to Pray
Prayer Patterns 1

Prayer of Application


*Song of Response: "Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying" PsH 625, SFL 54, SWM 170, TWC 629, WOV 775, WR 489

The Prayers of the People concluded with "The Lord's Prayer" in unison [seeliturgy notes]

We offer our gifts for .
The offering of music: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" [seemusic notes]


*Song: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" PH 403, PsH 579, RL 507, SFL 52, SWM 172, TH 629, TWC 622 [seemusic notes]

*Words of Sending: Philippians 4:4-7

*The Benediction with Congregational " Amen "

Postlude: "Prelude and Fugue in F Major," J.S. Bach [seemusic notes]

*Please stand if you are able.

* * * * *

Sermon Notes

Since this message introduces an extended series of sermons on the subject of prayer, and the Lord's Prayer in particular, it might be wise and helpful to begin by identifying the irony of prayer in the life of a Christian. This can be done by citing some true but seemingly contradictory statements, such as:

    • Prayer is the most important part of our thankfulness, yet one of the hardest parts of the Christian life to keep healthy is our prayer life.
    • Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, yet some Christians find that at times all they can do is labored breathing.
    • One of the richest parts of our communion with God is prayer, yet one of the disciplines that can slip most easily is our praying.
    • Prayer is the source of great power for Christians and also the source of great frustration.

The passage on which this sermon is based is a parable. While parables seem to be nice stories that are readily understood, such is often not the case. This parable will require wise discernment; it can easily be misinterpreted. It's obvious that the judge represents God, the woman represents a child of God, her pleas to the judge represent our prayers, and the response of the judge represents God's answers to our prayers. But the attitude of the judge as a cold, aloof fellow who can be moved only by constant nagging is not a portrayal of the heart of God. The fact that she gets an answer only when he gets so sick-and-tired of her constant banging on his door is not a portrayal of the way to get answers to our prayers. Nor is it fair to believe that persistent prayer is like trying to bother God enough until we finally get his attention. In this parable, Jesus is teaching us by contrast. Though the widow had to beg to get any help in their society, our Heavenly Father "quickly" (v.8) answers; though the judge does not fear God and has no respect for people, our Heavenly Father eagerly helps his chosen ones.

As with other parables, there is one central message. Jesus points to that message in verse 1: "Pray always and do not lose heart!" Jesus is concerned about prayer drop-outs. It may be helpful to candidly ask ourselves how often we lose heart and what causes us to drop out of faithful praying.

Additional encouragement to faithfulness in prayer comes from the teachings of the Heidelberg Catechism, which tells us that prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us and that God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly (Q&A 116).

This sermon is to set the stage for the remainder of the series. The Lord's Prayer provides a pattern for our praying, the importance of praying, the manner of praying, and the matters for which we must pray.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
CEL Celebration Hymnal (Word Music/Integrity Music)
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SWM Sing With Me (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
WR Worship & Rejoice (Hope Publishing Company)

The suggestions for prelude are based on the possible opening hymns; both strike the note of prayer and coming to worship.

Bach, J. S. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Marks 114 [1955] (E-M)
Bach, J. S. Music for a Celebration, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-579 [2005] (E-M)
Bach, J. S. The Biggs Book of Organ Music. H. W. Grey GB 645 [1979] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 4. Concordia 97-4951 [1970] (E-M)
Marpurg, Friedrich Wilhelm. Twenty-one Chorale Preludes. Augsburg 11-9506 [1967] (E-M)
Pachelbel, Johann. Selected Organ Works, vol. 4. Barenreiter 1016 (E-M; cold be adapted to
Stoldt, Frank. Five Hymn Settings. Morningstar MSM-10-931 [1988] (M)

Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (M)

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Hassell, Michael. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

GENEVAN 116 [I Love the Lord, for He Has Heard My Voice]
DeKorne, John. Composers Workshop, series 2. Calvin College (E-M)
Schuurman, Adr. C. Psalm 116. Wagenaarstichting D. 425 [1956] (a set of variations; E-D)
van der Panne, Wim. Variaties over Wie maar de Goede God laat Zorgen. Musicript MR122
[1986] (an additional piece in this collection; E-M)

If you choose to sing Psalm 34, you may do so as printed in SNC 255, or you may wish to use an ensemble in leading from an anthem setting of this refrain. "Taste and See" by Francis Patrick O'Brien is published by GIA G-3775 (E).

The offertory music and the closing hymn can be found paired with two different melodies: CONVERSE and BEACH SPRING. You may wish to keep the offertory transcription and hymn tune the same.

BEACH SPRING [What a Friend We Have in Jesus]
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 7. AMSI SP-104 [1988] (E-M)
Culli, Benjamin. Praise the One. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-2351-7 [2006] (M-D)
Haan, Raymond H. Be Present Now. Morningstar MSM-10-566 [2004] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 4. Concordia 97-7032 [2005] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Seven Settings of American Folk Hymns. Concordia 97-5829 [1984] (E-M)
Kerr, J. Wayne. Let Us Walk with Jesus. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7783-8 [2005] (E)
Linker, Janet. Sunday Morning Suite. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7560-6 [2002] (E-M)
Wold, Wayne L. Augsburg Organ Library - Lent. Augsburg 11-11036 [2000] (E-M)
Wood, Dale. Wood Works, bk. 2. SMP KK400 [1989] (E-M)

Carter, John. Contemplative Folk Tunes for Piano. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-5977-5
[2001] (E-M)
Porter, Rachel Trelstad. Day by Day. Augsburg 11-10772 [1996] (M)
Larkin, Michael. Be Thou My Vision. Morningstar MSM-15-832 [2004] (E-M)
Leavitt, John. How Sweet the Sound. CPH 97-6891 [2000] (M)

Hopson, Hal H. Reflections on Beach Spring. Genevox 4184-18 [1986] (3-5 octaves, E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations, bk. 5. Ludwig O-14 [1992]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Porter, Rachel Trelstad. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

CONVERSE [What a Friend We Have in Jesus]
Callahan, Charles. Prelude on Two American Folk Hymns. Concordia 97-6070 [1990] (E-M;
includes flute part)
Hobby, Robert A. For All the Saints. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7537-1 [2002] (E-M)
Page, Anna Laura. Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Boardman 4570-46 [1981] (E-M)

Carter, John. Gospel Treats for Jazz Piano. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7759-5 [2005]
Raabe, Nancy M. Grace and Peace. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7760-9 [2005] (E; jazz
Schrader, Jack. Amazing Grace. Hope 8138 [2001] (E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Sedio, Mark. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The postlude "Prelude and Fugue in F Major" is one of J. S. Bach's 8 little preludes and fugues, which can be found in a number of different editions.

Liturgy Notes

1. The Service of Renewal in God's Grace is generally a necessary component in each worship service. Though its general structure may remain the same, the manner in which each of the elements is formed will likely vary. We suggest here readings from The Worship Sourcebook (TWS). You may desire other readings or may choose to formulate your own.

2. Because Lord's Day 45 begins this series and speaks so directly to the message of today, we are suggesting that it be read responsively with the congregation. They can read it from the Psalter Hymnal (p.916), you may project it on a screen, or print it in your worship sheet. It follows here in a form for responsive group reading. You may want to delete the last two Q&A since we suggest that congregation speaks the Lord's Prayer in the Prayers of the People. To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

Q. Why do Christians need to pray?
A. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.
And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit
only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly,
asking God for these gifts
and thanking him for them.
Q. How does God want us to pray so that he will listen to us?
A. First, we must pray from the heart
to no other than the one true God,
who has revealed himself in his Word,
asking for everything he has commanded us to ask for.
Second, we must acknowledge our need and misery,
hiding nothing,
and humble ourselves in his majestic presence.
Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation:
even though we do not deserve it,
God will surely listen to our prayer
because of Christ our Lord.
That is what he promised us in his Word.
Q. What did God command us to pray for?
Everything we need, spiritually and physically,
as embraced in the prayer
Christ our Lord himself taught us.
Q. What is this prayer?
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory forever.

3. In each of these services both an Old Testament and a New Testament reading will be paired together to present the message that prayer is a discipline of both covenants.