Our second child, Naomi (39) suffers from epileptic seizures. We have prayed twenty-five years for healing. We will continue until we see results. Wish I were this persistent with other needs.
Jesus tells us when to quit praying—when we get the answer! Only two stories give us the main point from the get-go: The Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Pharisee and Tax Collector. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). The disciples had already asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). He gave them a model prayer (The Lord’s Prayer), then encouraged persistent prayer by telling about a desperate midnight host who was given a volley of negative answers but went home with the bread. In the parable about the widow, Jesus is again teaching persistence.
Two characters–four short verses:
A widow. We know nothing about the widow’s character, only about her need for justice. Widows and children are pictures of dependence and need. They are often taken advantage of. Widows have little recourse, no means to leverage a favorable position. Jesus told this parable knowing two things about us: our weakness and our temptation to quit praying and give up.
Passionate prayer is fueled by need, and great need means desperation. How badly you want an answer drives persistence. “If it be your will, please heal me” would be at one end of the spectrum. “I will not take ‘no’ for answer” would come at the other end. Jesus shows an overwhelming bias for the latter. The midnight guest received four “no’s” from his friend who had already gone to bed. A Canaanite woman received the same number of negative responses. Neither gave up. Nor did the widow back off because of a disinterested man on the bench.
A judge. He “neither feared God nor cared about men” (v. 2). Some people who don’t fear God still like people. Some love God but can’t stand humanity. And some have a problem at both ends, not the person we would want representing us in court.
Jesus could have told a story about a judge just like His Father. For the sake of contrast, He told about a judge with two major faults. He was, however, confronted with a persistent widow. She went to someone who held the authority she lacked. The judge could not have cared less. The only reason he gave in was that she didn’t. Jesus was saying, “Pray like that widow persisted!”
Jesus often used contrasts to make His point, two very different sons, two opposite sisters, two contrasting pray-ers (a Pharisee and a tax collector). He is saying that if a persistent widow can get an uncaring judge to support her, persistence with a caring Judge in heaven who loves justice and cares for His chosen ones will work all the more. Jesus affirms that God “will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:8).
Jesus is telling us something important about the Father and about ourselves. Sometimes God does not answer our prayers immediately that He intends to answer ultimately. In order to teach us endurance, especially in the last days, He wants us to learn to ask and keep on asking. If He answered every prayer instantly, it would not grow the kind of faith that we need in the end times (part 2 coming).