Scripture Text: Luke 18:1–8
Last week, we looked at the most famous prayer of all, the Lord’s Prayer, or as I suggested, the Disciples’ Prayer. In the middle of the most famous sermon of all, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about prayer. This prayer is not a prayer we just recite by rote, but an example of prayer we should do. Prayer is important for the life of all believers. When we pray, we come into the presence of God. If we are to have a right relationship with God, we must pray. It is essential for our faith. I need to be a praying follower of Jesus Christ. We all need to be a praying people following Jesus Christ. The health of God’s church is dependent on us having a more intimate relationship with Him and discerning His will for the church. We cannot afford to do things our way or to plow through the future without God’s lead. It takes all of us fervently praying together.
But, how much should we pray? How long should we pray for something? Are you like some people who may pray one time and that’s enough? Do you pray a few times about some need and then stop? Is it ever ok for us to stop praying? I guess when you get the answer, then maybe so. God has a lot to say about prayer and how much we ought to pray. In response to His disciples’ request for Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), Jesus told them to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. The Apostle Paul affirmed this in several of his letters. Romans 12:12 says we should “be constant in prayer”. Colossians 4:2 says to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving”. Of course, everyone knows 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that says, “Pray without ceasing.” Lest this important truth about not being prayer quitters should be lost on His disciples, Jesus told a parable to stress the importance of persistent prayer.
Pray Fervently for Justice on Earth
The parable in this text is one of the few ones that explains the parable from the beginning. It is about how we ought to always pray. Jesus told this parable for the purpose that we would not give up or become discouraged. Let’s look at the parable.
Luke 18:2–5 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”
In this parable, there are two characters: an unjust judge and a persistent widow. This judge did not fear God, Who is the source of wisdom. He also did not respect man, which may mean He did not care what others said or whether they received justice. The widow had some injustice done to her. We do not know what it was, but that is not essential to the story. The important thing in this parable is what the widow did to get justice. A widow during Jesus’ time was almost helpless. Her only hope was that her persistent plea for justice would be granted. The only hope the widow in this parable had was to keep coming to that unjust judge until she was vindicated. In this story, the widow is the hero. She is the underdog. People love for an underdog to win. My dad used to root for the underdog in sports. He wanted to see the one who had to overcome insurmountable odds to win. That is the widow in this parable and that is us in real life.
Some of you may be like the persistent widow in this parable. You have been praying to God about your adversary. That might be some person who has hurt you. It might be some situation you are going through. It might even be the great Adversary himself, Satan. You may have been praying to God for justice and maybe you think God is not listening to you. If so, what are you supposed to do? The parable says the widow beat the judge down or wore him out. This literally means she gave him a black eye. She socked it to the unjust judge. She did not let up. Are you like her who kept bothering the judge until she got an answer? Scripture says God will bring justice to His people. From God’s perspective, justice will come quickly. From a human perspective, of course, justice may seem to be a long time coming, but it will come. Therefore we must persist in prayer, as the widow persisted until she received justice. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. Keep on praying.
Pray Fervently for God’s Kingdom to Come
To really understand the crux of this parable, we need to back up a little bit. The parable of the persistent widow is connected to the last part of chapter seventeen regarding the second coming of Jesus. If we back up to that section, we find the following.
Luke 17:26–30 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”
In this passage, Jesus warned His disciples about what was going to happen when He returned. When Jesus returns for His Church, it will be like the days of Noah and Lot. What did Jesus mean? Will it be with a great flood or fire from heaven? Not exactly. It is not some gross immorality that was described here that brought water and fire to destroy them by God’s judgement. It was everyday things, such as eating and drinking and buying and selling. It is the daily things that we corrupt and idolize that take our attention off of God. It is good things that we pervert that become sin. We need to pray that we will not succumb to temptation. We need to pray we follow God and not the comforts or conveniences of this world. Even good things can lead people astray.
So, I said that the crux of the parable of the persistent widow concerns the second coming of Christ. This parable follows Jesus’ description of His coming Kingdom. At the end of the parable, Jesus wonders if there will be little faith when He returns, as it was in the days of Noah and Lot. Look at the following verses.
Luke 18:7–8 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Jesus affirms that God will give justice to His people, those who cry to Him day and night. Jesus also warned His disciples that tough times were coming. His followers needed to keep on praying, pressing forward in faith, and believing that in the end God will bring justice. Some of you might be thinking, “I want God’s Kingdom to come. I want God’s will to be done, I just wish He would hurry up.” God is usually not in a hurry, though, at least not according to our schedule. Look through Scripture and you will find God doing things at a different pace than what His people expected. Did Jesus not say He was going to prepare a place for us and He would be back soon? That was two thousand years ago. Apparently, God’s schedule is much different from ours. In light of the apparent “delay” in the coming of the Son of Man, the Church should not give up or be discouraged, but continue to pray “Your kingdom come” and remain faithful.
We should pray that God’s power and reign and rule will come on this earth as it is in Heaven. We should pray that God’s Kingdom will burst forth and demolish the enemy’s rule and oppression that is here on this earth. We should pray for an end to the slavery of sin and death that is so prevalent among mankind. We should pray for God’s Kingdom to come on this earth so that Jesus is honored, Satan is vanquished, and those who are perishing will find salvation. Yes, we should pray for these things. Father, may your Kingdom come quickly. The question is when Jesus returns, will He find faith on the earth? The answer is yes. There will be faith and the faithful on earth. The real question, though, is this, “Will you be one of those with faith? Will you persevere until Christ returns?” Persistent prayer and perseverance are necessary in order for God’s true Church to remain faithful until Jesus returns. How is your faith?
Trust God to be the Just Father
It is easy to look at this parable and wonder who the judge is. Well, he represents God. That may be unsettling to you, but do not worry that God is compared to this unjust judge. Jesus is compared to a thief in the night regarding His second coming. That is not to say that Jesus is a thief, but that His second coming will be sudden like a thief in the night. Likewise, God is no more an unjust God than He is bothered or beaten down by people constantly praying to Him. The comparison in this parable is one of a strong contrast — how much greater is one than the other. If the unjust judge finally granted the persistent widow’s request, how much more will a just God hear and grant the petitions of His followers who pray to him day and night. The comparison of this parable is not how God is an unjust judge, but that He responds to our prevailing prayer.
Do you sometimes think God might not be a just King? You may not want to say it, but you sometimes feel that way. You may ask, “Why has He not answered my prayer?” You may ask, “Does He listen to me or does He love me?” You may feel alone or rejected. I assure you and God promises you that you are very much loved and you are not alone. God hears our prayers, even if sometimes the answer is “no” or unknown. Realize that sometimes God’s answer is not always what and when we want it. Are you willing to accept what His answer is? Do you trust God to give good gifts to His children and to know what is best for them? What this parable teaches us is not why God will bring justice for His people or why He answers in His own time, but that He will. Jesus asked if He would find faith on the earth when He returned. What does faith look like? Faith is pressing on in prayer, trusting God to answer, and not giving up until we get an answer.
N.T. Wright once wrote that the most frequently repeated command in the whole Bible is “Don’t be afraid” — something we all need to remind ourselves in our worrying and frantic world. When I read this command I often think of Joshua and the Israelites entering the Promised Land. Would I have their courage facing a similar situation? What oftentimes occurs is something happens or doesn’t happen and we will worry about the outcome. We pray about and worry about God’s answer or lack of response. We do this even when God’s command to us throughout Scripture is “Don’t be afraid. Trust me!” If an unjust judge can be brought to give justice in response to the persistent plea of a lowly widow who presents a right cause, will not a just and merciful God respond to His children who persist in prayer to Him for what is right? The message is to pray fervently to God and trust Him to know and do what is best. God is the just Father and Judge.
In closing, God has a lot to say about prayer and how much we ought to be praying. Prayer is essential in our lives. It is like what Jonathan Edwards once said, “Prayer is as natural expression of faith as breathing is of life.” However, praying is not always easy, especially when it seems too often that our prayers are unanswered. The good news is that God listens to His children. When life seems unfair, and it is, do not give up and bow down to discouragement. Persist in praying to your Heavenly Father. Jesus told us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. Just keep praying. Do not be a prayer quitter, but be a prayer warrior. This parable is really about trusting God. Do you trust God in the darkest hour? Do you trust God when there does not seem to be an answer to your prayer? Do you trust Him when the world is evil and unjust?
Maybe things have not gone the way you expected? Maybe things have not turned out the way you desired? Maybe you believe that God is not listening or answering or blessing you? Maybe you have been praying about something to happen and it has not happen yet and you are on the verge of giving up. If that is you, I have good news for you. God wants you to persevere. God wants you to be like the persistent widow in this parable and keep on praying. This does not mean to pray constantly without a break, but to pray persistently and not be tempted to stop when the answer is delayed. It is not perpetual, continuous prayer, but prayer that continues no matter what. It means to pray again and again. One does not give up if the prayer seems unanswered. He or she just keeps on praying! So, are you bothering God? You should. He wants to hear the persistent prayers of His children and that is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.