Have you ever wanted something so much that you kept asking for it time and time again until you finally got what you wanted? If so, you can understand how the widow in the Parable of the Unjust Judge felt. She kept going to the judge until he finally decided to hear her case. Jesus told this story to encourage His listeners to be persistent in prayer.
In Jesus’ time, widows were among the most disadvantaged people in society. In spite of Old Testament laws stating that they and other disadvantaged people were to be provided for and taken care of, they had few rights, no one to be an advocate for them and no one to look after them in their old age if they did not have any children. To make matters worse, judges could be influenced by bribes or friendship or other means. Not all judges were fair or interested in helping the less fortunate obtain justice.
The judge in this parable was only concerned with his own opinions, comfort and income. Luke doesn’t say so, but there was probably a reason why the judge wouldn’t give the widow justice. That reason probably had to do with money. It was likely that the judge was either taking bribes to fatten his wallet or had an “arrangement” with a wealthy citizen who stood to lose if the widow won her case.
In contrast, God, who is the Chief Justice of the highest court known to mankind, is a friend of the less fortunate. He loves to hear their cries for justice. His justice is swift and fair to the less fortunate yet is merciless when it comes to dealing with people who would take advantage of the less fortunate. He loves to hear our prayers. When we go to God in prayer, no matter how persistent we are, God will always be there to listen and give advice.
Although the judge did not listen to the widow when she began to ask for justice, and her cries initially seemed to accomplish nothing, something was happening: the judge’s resistance was breaking down. It did not matter that the woman could not see the change taking place. Her pleas were having an effect.
The point of this parable is this. If an unrighteous, earthly judge will finally hear our appeals, how much will God, who loves and cares for us, hear our appeals? We, like the woman in this parable, should believe that with God all things are possible. We must never give up. God-who always does what is right and is filled with compassion for suffering believers-will always act in His own time and His own way.
Some of you are probably saying to yourselves, “I’ve tried praying, but I didn’t get any answer” or, “I didn’t get the answer I wanted”. There are several reasons why you received the answer that you did receive. Perhaps you didn’t pray hard enough or often enough. Perhaps your request did not fit into God’s plan for your life. Sometimes God’s answer is “No”. Sometimes his answer is “Not now”. Sometimes his answer is “No, because I have something even better in mind for you”. God our heavenly father loves us like our earthly parents love us, and like earthly parents He does what He knows to be best for us.
So why don’t we “pray without ceasing?” There are several reasons:
- We are busy. The richer a culture is, the less time it has for prayer because money and wealth give people so many opportunities to be busy.
- We don’t believe prayer does that much good.
- We often believe that a good God should protect us from life’s disasters. When God doesn’t protect us and our friends, we assume that there must not be a God.
- We don’t walk closely with God. To have any close relationship, we need to talk often and deeply. If we don’t talk often and deeply with God, we aren’t walking closely with Him.
We grow in faith when we hear from God, obey Him and acknowledge His faithfulness to His Word in our lives. If we aren’t hearing from God, we can’t grow in faith. The same is true if we aren’t obeying Him and if we aren’t looking for Him to fulfill His Word in us.
When we pray, God might not answer our prayers right away. He might use the delay to teach us something. He might use the delay to prepare us to receive his answer. He will answer our prayer in his own time and in his own way. In God’s way of doing things, justice delayed is not justice denied.
Gow will respond to our prayers because He will secure the rights of His chosen people. This gives us hope, because our world is so unjust, especially for disadvantaged people. We pray for things to be put right, but things don’t always improve. In fact, they often get worse. God can be found in the widow. Power is often found in weakness. If we are made in God’s image, we must tirelessly pursue justice even if we have to pursue it against powerful forces.
Prayer doesn’t mean being pests because God is not like the unjust judge. He isn’t slow to answer and provide justice to those who call out to Him. We might not believe this is true because we don’t understand what God considers quick. God is faithful to His promises. He has made a covenant with His people, and He remains true to it.
As children of God we have certain rights and responsibilities, and sometimes we forget about these rights and responsibilities, especially the responsibility to care for the less fortunate. God has to constantly remind us of these responsibilities. In this way, God is the persistent widow in the Parable of the Unjust Judge.
Luke wrote his Gospel about a generation after Jesus died and rose again. At that time, people expected Jesus to return shortly after he ascended into heaven, and they were getting discouraged when Jesus did not return when they expected him to return. Luke included the Parable of the Unjust Judge to encourage the people. The parable is about waiting and not losing hope, heart or faith. If we pray earnestly, faithfully and regularly, Jesus will find faith when He does return. If we are persistent in prayer, we will stay in touch with God. We must persevere in prayer because we must persevere in doing God’s work, and that includes doing God’s justice in an unjust world. That requires long, constant and persistent prayer. Sometimes the task seems hopeless, but we must never give up.
God is love and love is not coercive. That’s why God never imposes justice. He only works though willing hearts and minds. Actual justice comes at the speed of changed hearts, minds and behaviour. Unfortunately, we all know how fast that happens.
It is impossible to be persistent and to constantly work for justice in our lives and in our world if we lose faith. It is our conviction that God is just and desires justice, and our commitment to stay faithful to the cause until justice comes that sustains us and ensures that we won’t give up before we see God’s justice manifest among us.
Have you prayed and prayed, and there still seems to be no answer? Does it seem as if God is asleep and absent from your cry? Jesus has given us the answer by discussing the problem, delivering the parable, and defining the principle. Therefore, don’t give up, don’t lose hope, don’t quit now, but just keep praying until the answer comes.
God steadfastly hears our cries. He always cares when people are vulnerable, disregarded and in need. He also persistently calls us to act. God commands us to be like the widow in this parable. He commands us to persist in our efforts to advocate for a society with justice, opportunities, dignity and love for all people.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013: p. 1421)
- Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 264-265)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Dean Deppe, “A Persistent Plea”. Retrieved from www.thisistoday.net
- The Rev. Nils Chittenden, “Patina of Faith”. Retrieved from http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com
- The Rev. Mark Sargent, “Keeping Heart, Trusting in God”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
- The Rev. Dr. Robert Dunham, “Whose Persistence?” Retrieved from www.day1.org
- Pastor Jeff Schreve, “Does Prayer Even Make a Difference?” Retrieved from www.fromhisheart.org
- Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 29th Sunday, Year C”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- Pastor Jeff Schreve, “Have You Thrown in the Towel on Prayer?” Retrieved from www.fromhisheart.org
- Exegesis for Luke 18:1-8. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- Craig Condon, “Persistence Pays Off”. Retrieved from http://sermonsfrommyheart.blogspot.ca/2013/01/luke-181-8-persistence-pays-off.html
- Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 29th Sunday -C-, October 20, 2019”. Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bob Cornwall, “Faithfulness in Prayer and the Realm of God-Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 22C.” Retrieved from www.bobcornwall.com/2013/10/faithfulness-in-prayer-and-realm-of-god.html
- “Luke 18:1-8.” Retrieved from www.holytextures.com
- Dr. Ralph Wilson, “#77. The Widow and the Unjust Judge.” Retrieved from www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/18_1-8.htm.
- The Rev. Edward Markquart, “Pushy in Prayer.” Retrieved from www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_c_pushy_in_prayer.htm