18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 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.’”6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.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?”
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
What can we learn from a strange story about a wicked judge and a hopeless widow? Jesus presents a judge without a moral compass and a widow without a righteous advocate. This judge can be bought, but this woman has neither the power nor the possessions to play the game. In the end, the wicked judge grants the widow her request for justice because she keeps bothering him, and he’s tired of it. The parable leaves most of us shaking our heads: “Wait, Jesus, what did you just say?” On the surface, it seems like the key to prayer is our persistence. If we just keep knocking, eventually God will be so annoyed that he’ll open the door and give us what we want. “Wait Jesus, I thought you said you were willing to teach us to pray. Is this really how it works?”
Before we punt the parable, let’s be honest. Do we ever think that God isn’t doing the right thing in our lives and in the world? If so, we may be viewing the Father as an unrighteous judge. Do we ever feel like we are hopeless and alone, without an advocate to plead our case? If so, we may be viewing ourselves as widows instead of the bride of Christ. Do we ever live like the answers to our prayers depend on us? If so, we may be underwhelmed by the Spirit who intercedes for us. In the parable Jesus actually exposes our inadequate views of God and our misdirected approaches to prayer. The widow persists, and the judge yields, but the power of the parable lies in the contrast between the characters in the story and the God who tells it.
First, God is not an unrighteous judge. His justice is not capricious. He has a moral compass. He is the compass. The Lord is True North. His justice does not wait for His people to bother Him until He gives in. No, His justice rolls down like waters in His perfect timing. His justice is not impersonal or unloving. What could be more personal and loving than the cross? “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we pray, we’re approaching a God who is holy, righteous, and loving. We shouldn’t feel like we’re wrestling Him for something that we care about but He doesn’t. He is our Creator and our Redeemer, and He has promised to make all things new. How would our prayer life change if we truly saw God as a loving Father and not a wicked judge?
Second, we are not widows! If we are in Christ, we are His beloved bride. We are not orphans either! If we are in Christ, we are beloved children of our Father in heaven. Though we may not feel it, we are never alone. He is always with us. And though we may doubt it, we never lack an advocate. Jesus Christ lives to intercede for us. When we see the contrast between the characters in the parable and the relationship believers have with the Lord, we should be greatly encouraged. So what is Jesus saying? If this widow can get justice by bothering a wicked judge who doesn’t love God or people, how much more should God’s beloved people expect to get justice from Him? He loves us. He wants to hear from us. He wants to answer us. He intends for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Prayer is not about us and our persistence. It’s about the Lord and His presence, promises, and power. As we embrace who He is and who we are in Him, we will persist in prayer, and we will do so with the right motive. Because of who He is and what He has done for us, we should always pray and not lose heart.