We all recognize prayer is an essential component of our spiritual vitality. When I read this parable, it excites and challenges me. I want to drop to my knees and wage war in the heavenlies with the same relentlessness this widow shows.
But that seems to be missing the point. Verse 6 points us back to the judge rather than the widow. And so, as we consider this parable, I think the point is comaring this earthly/ short-sighted/ hard-hearted/ tempermental judge to our heavenly/ all-knowing/ tender-hearted/ justice-delivering God.
At first glance, I want to know, “How can I be more persistent like the widow here?” But perhaps a better question to ask is, “How should the character of God impact how well I persevere in prayer?” Instead of, “Do I pray enough?” maybe I should be asking myself questions like, “What does the state of my prayer life reveal about the true condition of my faith?”
This parable serves as yet another reminder to get my eyes off of myself and fix them on the author and finisher of my faith. If the judge in this parable can give justice to this widow who is simply an afterthought and nuisance to him, how much more can we be confident that the God of the universe will deliver justice on behalf of his children when we cry out to him, “Abba, Father.”
I do not believe this parable teaches us that we can coerce God by arguing with him, by pestering him, or by praying louder and longer. I do not believe this parable teaches that there is a magic formula to garner God’s attention and expedite answers to your prayers. What I believe this parable is teaching is that we can trust God to make right decisions. I believe it teaches that God desires to answer our petitionary prayers, yet God’s will is always better for our lives than our own will. We do not always understand his timing or purposes, and the harsh reality is that injustice/ pain/ adversity will remain until Christ comes in the fullness of his kingdom.
But we ought always to pray and not lose heart.
That is the purpose of this parable explicitly stated in verse 1. We pray for his kingdom to come and we work tirelessly in the name of Christ to advocate, sacrifice, protect, and bear one another’s burden. It’s not just about my prayers and my pain. Perhaps others are crying out to God and he has chosen to use me or you or both of us to answer their prayer, to ease their pain, and to in some small way administer his justice here on earth.
I do believe there is a relationship between praying and losing heart, in that, if we stop praying we will lose heart. When we stop believing a prayer will be answered we stop praying. When we stop praying, we stop treating God as though he is God. May it never be, may it never be.
Let’s pray. Let’s pray outlandish, life-giving prayers that make little sense in what seems to be an increasingly cynical and sadistic world. Whether it be praying on a macro level for things like ending poverty, elimenating malnutrition, political stability/ peace or on a micro level such as mending a broken heart, restoring a fractured relationship, relieving a financial harship… whatever the case may be, let us persist in making our requests known to God. Unless God changes our heart/ attitude regarding a specific request, let’s keep praying until he answers it or until he comes in all his glory and establishes his justice completely and forever.
Let his kingdom come and may he use us as he wills. Let us be about the Father’s business.