Persistence in Prayer
We live in an upside-down world, and for many living in the United States, that reality became up close, and personal when violence ensued in the nation's capital. It is a world in which people who violate the law of the land seem to thrive while those of great wealth can do no wrong—a world in which the majority often find themselves victims of crime and unjustly treated by the system. For the Christian, yearning for the return of Jesus Christ while living in such a hostile fallen world can lead one's heart into a sea of despair, but the Bible says our day of vindication will come.
"Will not God vindicate His elect, those who cry out to Him day and night?" (Luke 18:7)
In the book of Luke, Jesus shares a parable to illustrate the importance of why believers ought to pray and hold fast to their faith. Jesus said:
"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." Luke 18:2-5
Now a judge is someone we would expect to have the highest caliber of moral character and standards, but the judge in Jesus' story stands in stark contrast to that expectation. He could care less about God or anyone else. To put in modern terms, the judge's view on life is this: "It's all about me," which is a frame of mind for many people today and seemingly more so for some people who are in authority. It brings the ole adage, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely," to mind.
The other character in Jesus' story is a widow who appears to have a case pending before the judge. The issue could involve a financial matter, one where her "opponent" is either attempting to defraud her or is in debt to her, but Jesus did not specify. Women of that era had very little power and influence in the community and much less in the courts. There was nothing she could offer the judge to sway his opinion in her favor. The only thing she could do was to bother him continually.
Finally, in his desperation for peace and desire to no longer be bothered, the judge granted the widow her request. Not because it was the right or wrong thing to do since we do not know the specifics of the case, but because he no longer wished to be bothered by the widow's persistence. Her stamina and relentless pursuit had her plea not only heard but granted in the affirmative. Like the widow, believers must apply that same persistence to their prayer life and do so by faith, knowing that their prayers will be heard and answered.
Malcolm Tolbert (1970) summarized the point of Jesus' parable in this way. He wrote, "The argument is from the lesser to the greater. If a corrupt judge will attend to the pleas of a poor widow for whom he has no concern, how much more will God be moved by the cries of His elect" (p. 140)1.
If there is one thing the Bible makes clear, it is the fact that God hears and answers the prayers of His people. Our problem is we often become impatient with God when our answer is not as immediate as we prefer. When we do not get the answer we want, we try to take matters into our own hands, making things worse. We should always heed the words of the psalmist who wrote, "Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord" (Ps. 27:14).
We must remind ourselves that God can tell us about the events of tomorrow better than we can recall those of yesterday. God knows what is best for us because He can see into tomorrow and beyond, which is why His answer to prayer is sometimes yes, sometimes wait, and sometimes no. The Bible says, "For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11).
We must trust in God to walk us through the trials of life and continue to lift our petitions to Him with a heart of thanksgiving and gratitude. He will hear and answer our prayer, every time, all the time. We must pray with the same openness and persistence as did the widow in the parable, for the Bible promises that a day of reckoning is coming. Isaiah the prophet wrote, "For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty, and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased" (Is. 2:12).
Yes, let us pray and wait upon the Lord "for vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord" (Rom. 12:19).
1. Tolbert, M. O. (1970). Luke. Clifton J. Allen (Ed.). The Broadman Bible Commentary (pp. 1-188). Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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