Summary: Jesus teaches us to pray always, never give up, and keep the faith until he returns. This kind of prayer keeps the line open with God throughout the day.
George Mueller prayed for a man for 63 years to come to Christ, and finally the man did so. When Mueller died, he had documented 50,000 answers to prayer! 5,000 of those were answered on the day he prayed for them, which means that about 90% of the time he had to keep praying and waiting! Sound familiar? Mueller once said “Don’t let yesterday’s seemingly unanswered prayers stop you from praying in faith today.”
Today’s parable is about prayer, and it’s unusual because the primary point of the parable is spelled out right up front. Luke 18:1 says, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Jesus gives two lessons: pray always, and never give up. And then he’ll add a third one later. Let’s think about each of these lessons.
When it comes to prayer, Jesus says,
1. Pray always
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray... (v. 1a)
Prayer is vital to our life. Prayer indicates a relationship with God. Imagine if you had a marriage where no one ever uttered a word. Some of you are thinking, “That would be heaven!” No, it wouldn’t! Relationships count on communication. And our relationship with God counts on prayer. Pray always!
To illustrate his point, Jesus uses a classic rabbi “lesser to greater” argument: “If this lesser thing is true, then certainly this greater thing would be true.” He describes this mean-spirited judge who fears neither God nor man. The judge only does the right thing because he’s so sick and tired of this woman continuing to pester him, and afraid she might escalate to a bodily attack! Jesus then contrasts the judge with God, who will certainly do the right thing for us. If the mean-spirited judge comes through (that’s the lesser argument), then how much more will God come through for you (that’s the greater argument). So Jesus says to always pray.
Scripture often encourages us to pray. The Apostle Paul urges the believers in Ephesus to “pray always” (Ephesians 6:18), and the believers in Thessalonica to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How do you pray continually? Imagine that the prayer line with God is always open.
In 2005 Randy Travis brought back a spiritual famous in the 60s called, “Jesus on the Mainline.” The song echoes today’s teaching: Jesus on the mainline, tell him what you want.” One of the verses reminds us that “his line is never busy.” You can talk to Jesus anytime, anyplace. Talk to him on your walks. Talk to him when you swim. (My former boss has her most vibrant prayer times while she swims laps in the pool every morning.) Talk to him when you’re shopping. (You can even talk out loud, because most people will just assume you are on some kind of a Bluetooth device!) Talk to him while you’re driving; people will think you’re singing with the radio. Talk to him in the shower. Talk to him before you get up and when you lie down at night. Talk to Jesus. Talk to God. You don’t have to use any fancy words. In fact, next week we’ll look at how “fancy” can sometimes get you in trouble. Just talk to him.
And listen. Find time to listen to God. Find time to listen to Jesus. Listen to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. The scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). As you read scripture, listen. Listen for what God might say to your soul. As you walk, listen. As you talk, listen. As you contemplate a difficult decision, listen. One-way communication is never good in a relationship. You need both talking and listening time with God.
Pray always, and #2,
2. Never give up
...and not give up (v. 1b)
In the story, we have a mean old judge, and then we have a widow. She had no family to support her. There was no social security in those days, no pension, no Air Force Village Widows’ Fund. It would have been easy to give up her righteous pursuit of justice. Yet, she reached down deep and matched the judge’s hard-heartedness with a fierce hard-headedness of her own that never gave up.
Winston Churchill gave a speech once to a graduating class that has been summarized into the words, “Never give up.” Listen to his actual words and imagine how they apply to the spiritual warfare behind your prayers. He said to the class that day, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”