Luke 18:1-8 (NIV) 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 about men. 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 about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”
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 gives the context for this parable right at the start: it was told specifically to Jesus’ disciples, and it was told to them to urge them to keep on praying and not give up. When we are praying, and an answer does not seem to be forthcoming, it is easy to grow discouraged and give up on the prayers, sometimes deciding that God’s answer much be no.
In the parable, the judge does not represent God, except as a point of comparison. Some teach that this parable shows that God won’t answer a prayer unless the pray-er keeps bugging Him about it, finally deciding that He had better give the answer so that He can get some rest. But, again, the judge is only a point of comparison.
The real truth is in Jesus’ closing lines. If even an unjust judge who cares very little for people can be moved to action by the persistence of those bringing their pleas to him, how much more will God, the God who powerfully loves all of those who pray to Him, be moved by persistent prayer!
But also note that the context of the prayers discussed here is not simply a list of wants. Sometimes God will say no to those requests, if saying yes won’t help that person to be more holy or more effective for God’s kingdom. And it’s not about prayers for those things that are essential for life and for ministry. Those prayers are covered in Matthew 6:33-34, where God promises to provide abundantly for those who seek first His kingdom and his righteousness.
Instead, these are prayers for deliverance from the hands of the adversaries of the gospel, prayers for spirit-fired boldness that makes the pray-er a force to be reckoned with. This was the kind of prayer that was prayed by the disciples when Peter was imprisoned awaiting execution (Acts 12:5). It was not enough in that circumstance for the Church to say a “quick prayer” for Peter; they needed to pray, and to persist in prayer until they saw the answer. And God performed a mighty miracle in response to their persistent prayer.
Father, this parable, and Jesus’ instruction afterwards, gives us a solid middle ground between believing that shooting off a quick prayer is sufficient, and believing that we must beg and plead and somehow pry the gift of deliverance from Your reluctant fingers when we are in trouble. Help me to never fall to one side or the other, but to simply walk down the center, as You instructed us through Jesus. Amen.