“Now Jesus was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, “Give me legal protection from my opponent.” For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.” ‘ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; likewise, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ ” (Lk 18:1-8).
Jesus lays out the point of this story in the first verse. Jesus is teaching His followers to pray at all times and to not lose heart; to not give up. The widow in this parable is honored for her persistence. And Jesus connects her persistence to our own persistence in prayer with His promise that “likewise” God will bring justice to His children who call upon Him.
If we focus too strongly on seeing God as represented by the unrighteous judge, we may conclude that our prayers “bother” God to the point of forcing an answer out of Him. But that is not the point at all. Jesus is not comparing God to the judge. He is contrasting God with the judge. And the key to understanding this is the little “likewise” comparison is verse 7. A better translation of that connection would be “how much more” (see Matthew 7:11) rather than “likewise”. God is not like the judge – answering our requests out of an attitude of annoyance – but is much more in favor of answering our prayers out of our relationship – we being the elect or chosen ones.
In short, our prayers do not “bother” God; they “honor” God.
Let’s turn now to the words “will He delay long” and “quickly” since quick is not always our experience. We know from the rest of Scripture that God’s “delays” are for our good, not out of obstinance like the unrighteous judge. They are rather designed to teach us two lessons which this parable highlights.
First, we need to be persistent in our prayers. As Dave Gibson has shared many times, “When it comes to prayer, it is never too late to start and it is always too soon to quit.”
Second, we need to pray in faith. This requirement is given in the end of verse 8. Regarding our prayers, Jesus asks, “Will I find this kind of faith on the earth.” Will He find those who pray persistently and expectantly? Will He find those whose prayers are infused with faith? We have written many times in these pages about the importance of faith in living the Christian life. And here, Jesus highlights it as invaluable to this aspect of living the life; our prayers.
So what lessons does this parable have for our children?
- We honor God with our prayers.
- We need to be persistent in our prayers.
- We need to pray in faith.
As our lives and schedules get busy and overbooked, it is easy to send family prayers to the back burner. Please fight that inclination. Teaching our children to pray and teaching them Jesus’ lessons on prayer will stay with them the rest of their lives.