Summary: In the Parable of the Persistent Widow, Jesus was training and preparing His disciples to “watch and pray.” Jesus was teaching His faithful about faith in Him, and the life of prayer, which flows from such faith.
Jesus told His disciples a parable that they should always pray and not lose heart. Jesus was training and preparing them for when they would no longer see Him walk the earth but would, instead, have to “watch and pray.” Jesus was teaching His faithful about faith in Him, and the life of prayer, which flows from such faith.
In the parable, we find an authority figure, a dishonest judge. He doesn’t fear God or people, and probably has sticky fingers, expecting a bribe. The person appealing to the judge is an irritating widow. She keeps showing up in his courtroom day after day, demanding justice.
The corrupt judge, however, couldn’t care less about justice. Yet, the judge is tired of this woman wearing him down with her persistent petitions. So, reluctantly, he gives this woman justice, hoping she would finally leave him alone. That’s the picture of a tenacious faith in persistent prayer!
So what’s the point of this parable? Jesus points us from the lesser to the greater, from the judge to God. However, God isn’t like the judge in the parable. Oh, He’s a judge, but He’s not unrighteous. He’s the righteous Judge whose pronouncements are pure and holy.
So what’s the point? If the persistent petitions of a woman seeking justice can persuade a dishonest judge, then how much more will God, who is righteous, work justice for His people? Bribes won’t deter God from being a faithful judge. He won’t drag His feet. He will do justice and carry it out as best serves His people.
The focal point of the parable is patient and enduring persistence--the true and persistent prayer that flows out from faith. John 9:31 says, “God does not listen to sinners.” Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” God will only hear the prayers of those who have faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, those washed clean by His blood.
That’s why it’s pointless to think that an unbeliever can truly pray. True prayer is not an exercise of unbelief; it is nothing less than an act of faith. True prayer is trusting in God’s promise that He will hear you and answer you. Even if your faith is the size of a mustard seed, even if your faith is but a hairline crack in the bulwark of unbelief, you can still pray. And God will still hear.
That’s why the parable ends as it does. The point is not if people will pray when Jesus returns on the Last Day. Oh, that will happen. The point is this: will Jesus find faith, for only true faith leads to true prayer that God will hear and answer!
So why do you lose heart and fail to pray as you should? Is it your impatience? Impatience kills faithful, persistent prayer. Prayer is an exercise in faithful patience. And the character of faith is to endure patiently, persisting in the face of difficulty. Faith is long-suffering and enduring. In the parable, the woman keeps coming back to the judge. She doesn’t quit.
Yet, we often lose patience in our life of prayer. We don’t get what we want. And if we do, we don’t get it fast enough. And so we quit, or look for something else that we think will work. Our prayers are shallow, sporadic, undisciplined, and anemic. We pray like we often exercise. We go to the gym a few times, lift a few weights, and then decide, “This exercise stuff is for the birds. I haven’t lost an ounce of fat.”
Prayer is an exercise of faith over the long-haul. Prayer is a marathon, not a 50-yard dash. That’s why the Apostle Paul encourages us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But we quickly lose interest, thinking, “What’s the point when it looks like prayer doesn’t do anything?”
Jesus says, “Won’t God grant His chosen people justice when they cry out to Him day and night?” The answer is, “Yes.” And so we, as God’s people, pray. We pray for relief from the problems that afflict us. We pray day after day, week after week. Some problems get better; some don’t, and some stay the same. Yet, we persist in prayer because that’s what faith does. That’s what faith does!
We have this crazy notion that God is a divine-vending machine high in heaven. Put in your quarters of prayer and praise, and out pops the blessing you demand. Many preachers are willing to serve up that false teaching to indulge you. Don’t be deceived. Prayer is persistent as it is patient.
Our prayer-life is as Jacob wrestling with God after crossing the Jabbok River. After wrestling through the night, Jacob finally pinned God down. Even with his hip knocked out of joint, Jacob wouldn’t let God go, until he received His blessing. That’s the tenacious persistence of faith.