Persistent Prayer (Luke 18:1-8)
Putting this parable in the context of what precedes it at the end of chapter 17, we see that Jesus is speaking about the time between His first and second advents. He describes the days as dark, such as those of Noah and of Sodom and Gomorrah, leading to sudden and certain judgment. Just as judgment came upon the world in those days, so also judgment will come upon the earth “when the Son of Man comes” (v. 8). Jesus seems to have in mind the danger of people losing heart in the midst of such days, since the purpose of the parable is to teach them “that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart” (v. 1).
I. The Parable (verses 1-5)
The two main characters in this parable are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The judge, who is a man, is contrasted with the widow who is presumedly an aged woman. We should understand that in that day and age, to be a woman would have meant that she was powerless and voiceless. Since we see her alone in the court, it’s safe to assume she has no man in her life, such as a son or kin, that could represent her. The judge, on the other hand, was in a position of power, sitting in a prestigious position. However, he did not fear God. It was his job to execute justice, but instead he was corrupt (v. 2). He has no fear of God and he has no respect for man either. He has no sympathy for others and feels no shame for the way he dealt with them.
So, on the one had there is a vulnerable widow—helpless, having no money to offer a bribe, possessing no influence in the community, not esteemed in the eyes of society, and not backed by any powerful family. And on the other hand you have a powerful judge, possessing no sympathy for this woman or her case. However, despite his total lack of concern or sympathy for her, he finally grants her justice because of her persistence. She was beginning to “wear out” the judge (i.e. “strike under the eye”) by her continual cries for justice. The judge only grants her request, not for her sake, but for his own selfish reasons, in order to finally get her out of his life.
II. The Application (verses 6-8)
While at first glance it may seem that the application is simply this: like the widow who was finally granted her petition, we too should be persistent until we get what we want from God. But that is not really the point of the parable. We are not to pray as if we are trying to wear God out because of His unwillingness to answer. Instead, we should recognize that this parable is one of contrast.
First, God is not like this judge. If this wicked man grants the answer to her petition, how much more will God grant ours! God is the true Judge of all things both seen and unseen, of the living and the dead. He has never allowed one unjust act to take place on this earth without just retribution. His throne is founded on righteousness and justice, and He is untainted by the sin and corruption of this earth.
Second, if you are in Christ, you are not like this widow. You don’t stand alone with no one to represent you. You come into the courtroom of God with an Advocate, a Mediator, a Husband, an Elder Brother, a faithful Friend! And you come to a Father who is working all things for your good, who has cast His love on you from before the foundation of the world, who has called you the apple of His eye, who has placed His own Name and reputation on you, who has made an everlasting covenant with you through the redeeming blood of His Son!
When we consider this contrast in the surrounding context of the passage, we see the real meaning and application of the parable. This is kingdom praying, asking God that His will be done on the earth and that He vindicate His people, that He establish His throne on the earth, judge sin, and fulfill all His promises—as He will do when Christ returns. He cares about His elect, He loves His people, and He will surely bring about justice on their behalf. Will he find men and women on the earth with this kind of faith in His justice?
- What type of prayer dominates your time before the Lord? Does your prayer life reflect only things within your short-term vision? Or is there a consistent longing to see Him in His return?
- If you do not know Christ, and there is no love for Him, no longing for His return, and if your life is rooted in this earthly life alone, then know that judgment is coming, just as in the days of Noah and Lot. There will be no escape on that day. But there is hope now. He hears the contrite of heart. He is mighty to rescue the feeble. Cry out to Him in repentance and faith.