Never stop appealing to the One who can do what we can’t do and what others won’t do.
Look closely at an amazing parable from the Master Teacher. This is one of the few parables where Jesus gave the purpose of it at the beginning.
Always pray and never give up
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’”
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
“And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 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? 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?’” (Luke 18:1-8).
Two main characters
Jesus used two main characters from opposite ends of the continuum of power and privilege: a corrupt Judge and a persistent widow.
The picture Jesus gave of the persistent widow breaks significantly with the script expected of her in an unjust world. The courts were a man’s world. But this widow did not have a man to represent her so she persisted up against seemingly insurmountable odds.
The long view of the parable reaches to the time when Jesus returns. Jesus said, “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? 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?” (Luke 18:7-8).
This does not discount the immediate application we should all make about God and prayer. This parable is for teaching the followers of Jesus that, “we should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).
Look more closely
Although the parable itself contrasts a corrupt Judge and a persistent widow, the opening purpose statement implies two kinds of people. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).
- Those who always pray
- Those who give up
Persistence in prayer.
When it feels like the odds are stacked against you, keep on praying! I know what it’s like to persevere in prayer, but I’ve also been guilty of giving up. To give up is to become wearied or dis-spirited. Sometimes we give up praying because we become impatient for answers. Other times we allow doubt to discourage us.
Jesus connected giving up on prayer with lack of faith, “… when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). This is important to recognize because Scripture teaches that the trials of this life are used by God to produce perseverance in us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-5).
Persevering in prayer teaches us a lot about….
Prayer offers an opportunity to grow in maturity – to learn a lot about ourselvs and God.
- Philip Yancey confessed, “Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. I pray to restore the truth of the universe, to gain a glimpse of the world, and of me, through the eyes of God.” “In prayer, I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness. …. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.” (Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?)>
Scripture repeatedly encourages us to persevere. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9; cf. II Corinthians 4:16; II Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 3:12-13). “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36). “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
Two examples with different outcomes
- Jesus in Gethsemane and on the Cross (Matthew 26:36-56)
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:7). “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:23).
- Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
The content of the parable
- Luke 18:2 – The character of the Judge
- Luke 18:3 – The distress of the widow
- Luke 18:4-5 – The determination of the widow and the decision of the Judge
“The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” (NLT)
“How much more…” argument
The primary point of the parable itself is to motivate us to perseverance in prayer – based on the goodness of God and contrasted with the worthless character of an earthly Judge. The movement is from lesser to greater. Prayer is an appeal to One who can do what I can’t do.
“And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 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? 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?” (Luke 18:6-8).
This is a prayer for intervention to bring about justice. It’s a petitionary prayer. It’s about the time when I am facing some great need and I feel that injustice should be addressed. Perhaps (like the widow) it’s something beyond my power to do anything to change things. Prayer is an appeal to one who can do what I cannot do and what others won’t do.
Questions for discussion
- What kind of prayer is presented in this parable?
- What does the appeal to not give up imply about prayer?
- Why does God allow perseverance in prayer to be part of our experience with Him?
- Why or when should someone give up praying?
Consider – Four Reasons for persistent prayer