Luke 18:1-8 One of the great gifts that God has given us to sustain and strengthen our life with him is prayer: talking to him with our minds and mouths. Prayer is one half of that divine dialogue where God speaks to us in his Word—in the sermons we hear and in the Bible reading that we do throughout the week—and we respond to his words with our words of prayer.
It is an amazing and wonderful blessing that the living God of the universe speaks to us in his Word and desires to hear from us in prayer!
But we don’t always do our part in this divine dialogue like we ought to. When it comes to our prayer life we look like that old married couple sitting in their living room and the wife is talking away and the husband has his head hidden behind the paper and contributes only the occasional “grunt” and sometimes not even that.
Couples who don’t talk to one another don’t have as strong a relationship as God wants for them-- and it’s the same way in our relationship with God. For our own spiritual welfare—to be prepared for the Last Day and even the next day of life-- we need to talk to God regularly in prayer.
Jesus knew that this would be difficult for us to do—he knew that the cares of the world would take over our lives at times-- and he knew that at it would seem as if God were not listening to our prayers and if he was listening, he certainly wasn’t answering.
And so Jesus tells us this little parable to assure us that God is listening to our prayers-- and will answer us when we pray-- and so we should always to pray and not lose heart. Jesus 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.' 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.'
The judge in this parable was just the opposite of what a judge ought to be. A judge ought to recognize that he is God’s minister. He ought to have a proper fear of God knowing that he himself will one day be judged. He ought to see the law as the servant of the people for their good.
But the judge in the parable had none of these qualities. He had no fear of God and no regard for the opinions of men. He was unconcerned about justice being done. But he met his match in a poor widow—and that is what is so unexpected in this parable.
The people of Jesus’ day would have understood immediately how desperate her situation was. Widows had very few resources and even less power. But what she did have was persistence—and that was enough. Though the judge didn’t care one wit about what God or his neighbors thought of him—he grew tired of listening to her and finally gave her the justice she asked for and needed.
She was powerless- and he was powerful- and yet because of her persistence his concern was that “she will beat me down by her continual coming.” The word that Luke uses to describe her persistence comes from the boxing world and it means that “she will give me a black eye”—a TKO--her persistence will pummel me to the point where I have to give in to her request.”
It is a vivid image—like a boxing match with Mike Tyson in one corner of the ring and Granny Clampet from the Beverly Hillbillies in the other corner of the ring. Just looking at the two of them you would never think that poor old Granny has a chance—but that widow never gave up—she was persistent--and that’s what makes the difference—that’s what gave her the victory when the odds were against her.
The widow’s persistence is the point of this parable on prayer. Jesus directs our attention to what the judge says about her: "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. Jesus wants us to pay special attention to the judge’s words when he says:
'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice,
We don’t know what got a burr under this poor old lady’s saddle—whether it was something to do with a bill or a boundary--but what ever it was, she cared about it deeply and simply wasn’t going to give up in asking for what she needed. That’s what Jesus wants from us in our life of prayer.
And yet when we compare our prayer life to the persistence of the widow we come up pretty short and we give up pretty easy—and what’s even worse is that we give up in spiritual things that are much more important than the material things this woman was so concerned about.
We pray for greater faith- and deliverance from temptation- and the grace to do God’s will- but we never make any real progress in spiritual things because we give up too easily --which is especially shameful because the God who is listening to our pleas and petitions is totally different than the evil judge in the parable. Jesus says:
Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?
The way the Greek grammar reads in this sentence is this: Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry out to him day and night (YOU BETTER BELIEVE HE WILL!). Will he delay long over them (NOT A CHANCE!)
The judge in the story is completely opposite of God. It is an argument from the least to the greatest and it means this: if even a wicked, unjust judge will eventually give in to the persistence of an old woman-- HOW MUCH MORE-- will your loving heavenly Father hear and answer his children he has known and loved from eternity.
Our God is completely different than the judge in Jesus’ parable. Our God cares about justice-- and our God loves us-- and both are shown finally and fully in the cross.
It was there on Calvary that God did what justice demanded by punishing the sins of the whole world. But it was also there, on that rough cross that he showed his love for us by laying those sins upon his own Son who took our place under God’s wrath and suffered the punishment that our sins deserve. Justice and love perfectly united in the death of Christ to make things right between us and God.
God does indeed give justice to his elect—he gives the justice of righteousness fulfilled and sins atoned for and through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, God declares us not guilty in his sight.
We who have been elected in Christ from eternity can be confident that: our prayers are heard by God—that prayer is not an exercise in futility or wishful thinking or a last resort-- but instead prayer is the language of faith—a firm confidence that our prayers will be answered by God in his perfect time.
Jesus promises: I tell you, God will give justice to them SPEEDILY. We live in a culture where people want-- what they want—right now. The whole concept of patient waiting, to say nothing of the value of delayed gratification, is completely lost on us. We want new furniture and so instead of saving for it we pull out the old credit card. Couples want intimacy with one another but won’t wait for marriage. We can’t wait 45 minutes for dinner to be ready so we go out for fast food.
Our demand for things NOW affects our prayer life and faith life as well-- and when we don’t get what we want, when we want it, we think God has somehow failed us and we think to ourselves, what is the point of praying.
But the Lord answers our prayers with not only what we need-- but he answers them so that we receive what we need at just exactly the right time. What we see as a delay in the Lord’s answers is the Lord removing selfishness from our petitions- and what we see as silence is the Lord strengthening our faith.
Jesus asks us: When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" In other words, are we going to live our lives like the unbelievers around us—busy with the things of the world but unconcerned about spiritual things and disconnected from God—OR—are we going to stay close to God through persistent prayer?
The day of the Lord will come. Evil will be punished with everlasting fire. The faithful will go to be with the Lord in heaven. This world that is broken by sin will be destroyed and a new heaven and a new earth will come forth. What God’s people have hoped for and longed for in this life—even if we couldn’t put a name on it—will be granted on that day. Will Jesus find us faithful on that day?
The Lord doesn’t ask us that question to cause us to doubt our eternal future. He asks it so that we can respond with the “yes” of faith! “Yes Lord! By your grace and with your help I will remain faithful and steadfast until I stand in your presence. And until that day I will stay close to you in prayer.” May God grant it to us all for Jesus’ sake! Amen.