Summary: The tenacious widow serves as a lesson about prayer for us. God doesn't mind if we are prayerful pests. He'd much rather have us pray for any reason or any occasion than have us remain silent.
Luke 18:1-8 “Being a Pest”
Prayer is one of the core spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. Billions of Christians have prayed throughout the millennia (along with those of other faith traditions). Thousands of books have been written on the subject of prayer, and yet prayer still remains a mystery and an art.
We can’t get our minds wrapped around prayer. When God answers a half-hearted prayer to find us a parking spot, yet remains dead silent when we pound on the doors of heaven asking for God to save our job, our house, our friend, we wonder. Answers elude us when we question why God answered another’s prayer and not ours, or visa versa.
While the story of the persistent petitioner doesn’t tell us everything we know about prayer, it does offer us a glimpse of some important, ageless prayer truths.
A widow petitions a judge for a just settlement. The judge doesn’t respond to her—he might have been waiting for a bribe. The woman is insistent and eventually wears the judge down and he grants her request. As Jesus states at the very beginning of this parable the message of the parable is, “Always keep praying and never lose heart.”
There are several elements in this parable that distract us. For example, God is not like a crooked judge, and prayer is not to be used to try to wear God down—to pester God until he gives in to our demands. Each and every one of us have probably tried that and realized that it doesn’t work. These elements of the story make it interesting and add to its dramatic tension, but they are not meant to give us greater insight to the prayer relationship that we have with God. So, the main thing continues to be the main thing: Always keep praying and never lose heart.”
HOW NOT TO PRAY
Persistent prayer is not meant to be mindless repetition. We are not sending out an “SOS” hoping that God will tune into our frequency and eventually answer our prayers.
Though we may bring up our prayer requests over and over, our purpose should not be to wear God down.
Persistence is not a time for striking deals, either. There is not an instance in Scripture where God responded to an offer to make a deal. The Lord does not seek to gain advantage over us, or to force us and manipulate us to do something. This is not the path of love.
PRAY AND NOT LOSE HEART
Sometimes prayer changes God’s mind. Abraham, Moses and King Hezekiah all prayed and God changed his mind. King David prayed, though, for the life of his son and God’s mind was not changed. The child still died.
Persistent prayer reminds us of our need and of God’s abundant grace. By praying we admit that we are not the higher power in our lives. We recognize that we have a need and that God has the ability to meet that need.
Persistent prayer enables us to hope. In prayer we believe that God will answer, and that somehow prayer is not an empty religious exercise. We pray expectantly. Without prayer we can easily despair and be defeated.