Summary: Persistent prayer is commanded to us by Christ. If even the unjust judge will respond to it for bad reasons, how much more will the Father respond for good ones?
Asking and asking again
What is your prayer life like? How long can you pray without stopping? I am not talking about standard written or memorized prayers, I am talking about speaking with God concerning what is on your heart and working to remember everything that should be prayed for.
Another way of looking at the same question is, how long have you prayed for any one single thing? Has it been days, weeks, years, decades? Is your faith strong enough to keep asking God for the same thing again and again? Or do you give up on Him?
The meaning of this passage is given to us
Both Jesus at the end and the evangelist Luke at the beginning make sure we do not miss the purpose of this story.
• Always pray and don’t give up
• God will give justice to those who pray persistently
In the imbedded interpretations of this story, we see more than we expect but not as much as we would like.
We see more than we expect because Jesus does not always tell us the meaning of His parables. In fact, He usually doesn’t. This one is an exception to that rule.
We don’t see as much as we would like, because we are given a paradox, an apparent contradiction to reconcile.
If we pray and don’t give up, crying out to God day and night, He will quickly give us justice.
The idea of persistence in order to receive something quickly does not balance well. Persistence suggests that we must endure long delay and, perhaps, hardship. How then does God grant us our justice quickly? Jesus, in His characteristic fashion, even when He is being straightforward, leaves us with important questions.
The story begins with a judge
This is not a religious judge, but a civil judge. He usually oversees financial transactions and such. At first we might think that, even though he is not a believer, he practices judicial impartiality. Luke says, that he does not fear God and he doesn’t care what any person thinks.
In some ways, we might think if we can’t have one, we are doing ok to at least have the other. In some ways, if our judges don’t fear God, at least they don’t favor any people. At least they are impartial.
That may be our first impression of the description given, but it is not correct.
Introduce the second person, a widow who has been treated badly. Jesus doesn’t go into the details, so it doesn’t help to thicken the plot. He is simply introducing us to one of the most vulnerable members of His society. Today He might have said, "a homeless schizophrenic."
In that place and time, women were very dependent on the men in their lives. Their husbands owned the property and earned the living. Their sons took care of them in old age. Women, for the most part, could own no land and they had no opportunity to earn a secure income.
This particular widow has an enemy. Again, the plot remains thin. We are given only the bare bones of the story. We don’t get to judge for ourselves who was right and wrong, only that the widow had an enemy and that she wanted justice. I like the New International Readers Version’s way of wording her problem:
Someone is doing me wrong
There are too many ways a socially vulnerable person can be exploited for us to worry about the details.
Given: somebody was hurting this woman and she had no recourse, except this judge.
Then we are given the action of the story
She keeps coming to him.
This is the point and the primary action of the story. She does not come to him once and then give up when she does not get justice.
She does not say, "I guess that’s that."
She keeps appealing her case: Give me justice. Or as some translations say, "give me vengeance."
The idea that she needed vengeance suggests that something valuable was taken from her: perhaps her home, perhaps her livestock, perhaps even the life of a family member. She was demanding restitution. She was begging for the scales to be balanced.
And her asking was persistent. Jesus says, she pestered the Judge day and night.
The biblical concept of "day and night" has a ring of persistence and a lack of interruption. It is almost obsessive. The idea is one of constant attention and an inability to forget. In other words, that which is most important to us is on our minds day and night. We eat, drink, wake, sleep and dream about it.
• This is the impression the widow gave the judge.
• When the door bell rang, it was her
• When the phone rang, it was her