Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (New International Version)
God wants us to pray! Prayer happens from a place of faith because to pray, one must believe that God is good and answers prayer. Conversely, prayerlessness is faithlessness. A person of little faith prays only a little. A person full of faith cannot stop praying.
Today’s Gospel lesson is a parable about not losing heart, about justice, and ultimately about faith.
Be Persistent In Prayer
For the Gospel writer, Luke, the widow, along with orphans, the diseased, and the handicapped, represent those who are dependent and vulnerable. And so, Jesus took a particular interest in them. (Luke 20:47, 21:3)
Widows are also presented by Luke as prophetic, active, and faithful. The widow in Christ’s parable, much like the other widows mentioned by Luke, is persistent and persuasive enough to get the justice she demands – even from an unjust judge. Her persistent petitioning is held up as a lesson in prayer.
Don’t lose heart and give up praying when your prayers are not answered as quickly as you want. No matter the prayer, we typically hope for and even expect them to be answered quickly. And if they don’t, we may get upset or discouraged.
“We must patiently, believingly, continue in prayer until we obtain an answer… Most frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained, and in not expecting the blessing.”George Müller
We pray daily for a variety of situations as individuals and as a congregation. Not all those prayers get answered in the ways we expect. Many times, it can seem like nothing is changing, or things are just getting worse. It is possible for us to despair in those moments and give up.
Yet, even if we do not immediately see an answer to our prayers, we need to keep praying. Even if we are suffering and seeing darkness all around us, we should not stop crying out to the Lord. And the content of those prayers is important.
Be Persistent In Justice
The parable is like a sandwich. The two pieces of rye bread are prayer and faith, with justice being the ham and cheese between them. The meat of the parable is in the ingredients of the prayers.
The widow is the vulnerable justice-seeker, and the powerholder is the unjust judge. The powerful and just God replaces the unjust authority’s reluctance, granting justice to vulnerable people who cry out to him day and night.
We are to persistently and passionately pray as Jesus instructed us:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation….”
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:2-4, 9-10, NIV)
Jesus said, “Seek his kingdom, and these things [food, clothing, basic necessities] will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near, and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:31-34, NIV)
Be Persistent In Faith
Christ’s parable ends with a question: When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? In Luke’s Gospel, there are several folks whom Jesus commended for their faith:
- A Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant, being confident that Christ could do so without even being present to do it. Jesus commented, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith, even in Israel.” (Luke 7:1-10)
- A “sinful” woman anointed the feet of Jesus with perfume and her tears, loving the Lord despite the judgmental people around her. Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)
- Friends of a paralyzed man dug through a roof to get him access to Jesus, knowing that Christ could heal. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:17-26)
- An unclean woman, because of a chronic issue of bleeding, touched the edge of Christ’s cloak, believing that even this small touch will heal her. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:43-48)
- A Samaritan leper cried out for mercy, recognizing that Jesus is the Christ who could heal him; and then fell at his feet in profound gratitude. Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19)
- A blind beggar called out to Jesus, seeing with spiritual eyes who Jesus really is. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” (Luke 18:35-43)
So, will Jesus find faith on the earth when he returns? Yes, he will, but it may likely be in unexpected places — not among the religious professionals or the ones certain of their own righteousness, but among the outsiders, the unlovely, the unclean, the ones certain of their sinfulness.
Perhaps the best sign of faith is a willingness to persist in prayer, like widow who persisted against all odds in her struggle for justice with the powerful judge.
We must have faith in Christ, and not in faith itself.
If we are honest, every one of us who has made a difficult prayer request, mustering-up all the faith we can, and then being disappointed when it did not happen, has been hurt. The unstable person vacillates when this happens, playing the “God-loves-me, God-loves-me-not” game. The person of faith, however, believes God answers prayer, and that if it is not answered when I want, God knows what’s up and will answer it in God’s own good time and grace.
None of this is about the amount of faith. Maybe you have told yourself, or somebody else has said to you, that you don’t have enough faith, and that’s why your prayer was not answered.
Know this: positive thinking is not the same as Christian faith. Faith is neither a matter of optimism nor of sending $19.95 to some hack preacher who promises to give you the secret of answered prayer, along with a free gold cross.
Taking a lesson from Christ’s parable about the persistent widow, we can put aside tepid, milquetoast, mumbling prayers with hunched shoulders (i.e. “Well, God, if it is your will, could you help me?”) and instead, because of our union with Jesus Christ and our redemption in him, pray confidently and boldly. In Christ, we have the privilege and authority to do so.
Blessed heavenly Father, we praise you for the grace we possess through the Lord Jesus Christ. We rejoice in Christ’s teaching, the gift of faith, the privilege to approach your throne with boldness, and the victory you have provided for us through Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
We pray your mercy over our sins, the sins of other believers, and the sins of our world. We confess the sin of prayerlessness, faithlessness, apathy, complacency, and indifference to your concerns for righteousness and justice. We acknowledge the wickedness of our world through injustice, oppression, and exploitation of others.
We recognize that the kingdom of darkness has laid strategies against us, trying to keep your people from faith and prayer. So, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we claim our place as children of God. We smash and pull down all the strongholds which Satan has erected against humanity – and pray that the power of Christ’s resurrection would hinder and frustrate the plans formed against us.
We, your people, accept the role of standing in the gap for others in prayer. In Christ, we are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. So, we bring all the work of the Lord Jesus Christ – his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and glorification directly against all of Satan’s power in their lives.
By faith we pray for fruitful lives of spiritual abundance, social justice, and sanctified relationships in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.