Luke 18:1–8 is a parable that the Lord uses to encourage His disciples to pray persistently.
Although I am not always consistent with keeping one, I would highly recommend using a prayer journal or perhaps, more simply, a prayer list. By this, I mean recording one’s petitions on paper and continuing to pray over them daily. There are two distinct advantages.
First, by keeping a record and praying until the Lord resolves the issue, one cannot help but notice God’s faithfulness in answering our prayers.
Second, and more pertinent to this month’s blog topic, a record facilitates persistence. As we all understand, the Lord answers some petitions quickly. Others can take months or even years. I distinctly recall petitions I brought before the Lord in prayer over a decade ago. Only now has He come to answer. I mention this not to lament over the Lord’s divine timing but to highlight His desire that we pray persistently.
And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
It is worth noting that the two Greek verbs used to express “to pray” and “lose heart” are both in the present tense. One sense of present tense Greek verbs is continuation. In other words, Jesus exhorts us to pray continuously, without end, regardless of time.
Yet there are at least three things that work against us as we try to pray continuously:
- The first thing that works against us is our sinful nature. Before the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve petitioned the Lord and then anticipated His answer with rock-solid certainty. In our sinful nature, we are inclined to doubt and even distrust God, believing He is weak, distant, or indifferent.
- The second is our experience in the world. Life is replete with instances in which we petition others for many different needs. Human beings are inconsistent, forgetful, and selfish. Despite their best intentions, even those dearest to us fail to come through when we ask for help. We apply this negative experience to the Lord. People fail, so why should God be any different?
- Third, we reckon time from our own perspective. We pray to God not only with a petition but also with a timetable. God must answer my petition my way, according to my schedule.
Luke 18: 2–3
He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ ”
Recognizing the natures of the judge and the widow is central to understanding the force of the parable. The judge does not fear God. The Greek word for “fear” is also translated as “terror.” This is not the kind of fear based in love and respect that children are to have for their parents. Rather, this judge lacks the appropriate fear one should have for God, who can destroy the body and cast the soul into hell. The judge also does not respect—literally does not “turn aside”—any man. The widow petitions this judge for justice. Jesus wants His disciples to contrast the nature of the judge against the tender, faithful nature of God. We are also mindful that the widow has no real recourse of her own. Women have no legal standing in this context. We are to assume that she has no other male to plead her case or press her rights for her.
Luke 18: 4–5
“For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ”
While the judge gives justice to the widow, he, in keeping with his nature, does so to rid himself of her interminable clamoring, not out of compassion, the defense of justice, fear of God, or respect of men. He serves himself.
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them?”
Jesus composes His questions in such a manner that we can answer them with nothing but a resounding yes. This is the nature of God. If the Lord loves us enough to redeem us through the perfect life and innocent death of His beloved Son, certainly He would not hesitate to answer our prayers. The second question alludes to the reality that God answers in His own time, perfect and loving, regardless of how impatient and frustrated we become.
“I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”
In His perfect teaching method, Jesus caps the parable with a warning regarding the future. Not only will some lose heart and cease praying to the Lord, there will also be those who have turned away from the Lord altogether by the time of His return. Persistent prayer and faith go together. God wants us to pray continually because doing so keeps us in touch with Him. There is nothing more important.
Use the Concordia Commentary series to dive deeper into the parables of Jesus.