Luke 18:1-8: Persistence in Prayer

tenacious-faithOh, how discouragement settles in our bones.  We quit when details don’t go our way.  We leave when life gets uncomfortable.  The pain stabs us, our lungs burn, our legs become a lead weight, and we stop running the race.  We pray, but when God doesn’t deliver on our terms, we pout and quit talking to Him.  Our attention wanders, our prayers falter, and despair envelops us.

Jesus talked about persistence in prayer.  He just finished teaching His disciples about the swiftness of His return.  When He returns, no time will exist to dash about and prepare.  We live in those end times, doing so since Jesus returned to heaven to rule and reign at the right hand of the Father.  The end times are days of persistent prayer.

We understand life from our short, near-sighted perspective.  Our culture slithers from the mud pit into the hell hole, and we lose heart, becoming despondent.  Why pray?  It makes no difference.  And the fabric of society strains and tears all the more.

Is the Church immune?  No, our Lord’s bulwark of truth riddles herself with error and complacency.  (Of course, we won’t admit our part of the slide into heresy, as we continue to pick, choose, and change God’s teaching to what we want it to be.)

Our lives become an oxymoron, both anxious and apathetic.  Life beats us down, and a sense of being powerless overtakes us.  So, Jesus tells a parable.  A judge lived who didn’t fear God or respect others.  Now, if you don’t care about God or others, you only act in your self-interest.  Ah, so he’s a rogue judge, expecting a bribe on the side.

Jesus likes to dust off and use such disagreeable characters in His parables.  For the knaves and scoundrels in his stories all touch a part of us—if we’re honest!  Jesus earlier spoke of the dishonest steward; now He hauls out the crooked judge.

Why such a cast of characters?  Grace: Jesus is all about grace, not merits, works, or if others like you.  We may not like the judge, but we must still deal with him.

So, a widow kept coming to the judge seeking justice.  Over and again, she kept coming to this magistrate, who didn’t care for her or carrying out justice.  Still, the old lady persisted like a fly buzzing around him, refusing to leave.

Now, why would such a story gain traction?  Old widows and the courts were different in those days.  The poor, including widows, couldn’t afford others to represent them in court.  Worse still, without a man to represent them in court, they only had a negligible, legal standing.

Corrupt judges: The norm in those times, not the exception.  Corruption and bribery: The normal, ordinary way of life, with widows lacking the money to bribe the judges.  The widow is at a double disadvantage.  First, she can’t afford a lawyer.  Second, she is going before a crooked judge with no money to bribe him.

What can she do?  All she can do is show up one day, the next, and the following, seeking justice against her enemy.  The old lady refuses to take “no” for an answer.

The judge admits he cares little for this widow, much less her case.  He confesses: “I don’t fear God or respect people, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will grant her justice.  Otherwise, she will wear me down with her constant pleas.”

Jesus paints this picture as an image of faithful prayer?  He gives us this picture about how should always pray and not lose heart?  Well, yes!  Like her, we don’t have a legal leg to stand on.

But we’re worse off than the widow: she isn’t guilty under the Law; we are!  We have no case against our enemy, the devil.  Even more, God isn’t corrupt, so we can’t bribe Him with our good works.  So, unless someone intervenes, we’re doomed!

So, what happens with the widow?  The judge keeps postponing her case, but she still keeps coming to court.  Exasperated, he cries out: “I don’t care about God, justice, or this woman, but I will still judge in her favor.  For if I don’t, she’ll grind me to dust with her constant appeals.”  The judge rewards her persistent petitions.  Though crooked and lazy, he still grants her justice.

Learn a lesson from the dishonest judge.  Jesus moves from the lesser to the greater.  God is not a crooked judge expecting a bribe.  He is righteous, holy, as well as wise.  Now, if a self-serving judge, without concern for others, acts in such a way, how will it be for God?  He delights in forgiving sins and giving His righteousness to the ungodly!

“Won’t God grant justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he delay to help them?  I tell you, he will give them justice quickly.”  How fast?  As quick as Jesus getting to Jerusalem to die.  Jesus taught as much when He was on the expressway to the cross—His eyes fixed on Jerusalem like a runner to the finish line.

God didn’t send His Son to hang dead on a cross, only to ignore you in your time of need.  He didn’t command you to pray to Him, only to become brittle of ear and deaf to your petitions.  You are His child, whom He has chosen.  You are baptized, joined to Jesus in baptism to His death and life.  Jesus gives you the privilege of calling God “Father,” like a precious child coming to his Father in heaven.

Every prayer you pray will find its proper verdict in God.  Jesus promises as much in this parable.  Does He?  Only the thud of stony silence greets my prayers.  Not true!  If God doesn’t answer your prayers as you would like, He still does them justice in your standing before God and your resurrection from the dead.

God answers every petition for health and wholeness, and for peace and life in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  He will grant you all your prayers in the resurrection—quickly, as blazing fast as our Lord’s return when Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead.  Then, He will give to His chosen ones eternal life in both body and soul.

We too often look at prayer in a piecemeal fashion, with favors asked and favors received.  You ask for something and God gives you what you want.  You keep score, like a batting average: The higher, the better.

Scripture doesn’t describe prayer in this way.  God doesn’t guarantee to give you what you want—not when you understand what He teaches about prayer.  No, He promises to answer your prayers.

Don’t look at prayer as God answering one “yes,” another “no,” and another “not now.”  We rationalize God not answering our prayers in a way we like or can understand.  So, we come up with a sound-bite.  What does Scripture teach?  2 Corinthians 1:20: “In Christ, every promise of God is ‘yes.’”  Again: “In Christ, every promise of God is ‘yes.’”

God bundles all your prayers and petitions and answers them “yes” in Christ Jesus.  He will carry out His justice for those times you cried out to Him in both daylight and darkness.  “Call out to me in the day trouble,” He comforts, “and I will deliver you” (Psalm 50:15).

God won’t bail you out of every scrape with His divine hand reaching down from heaven, plucking you from danger’s grip.  He will, however, deliver you.  You will see this in full clarity in your deliverance from death, in your resurrection.

Prayer is like a “trust fund.”  We give God all our cares and concerns, acting in faith, believing our Father in heaven receives our prayers because of Jesus.  With Jesus thrown into the mix, God will act on our prayers according to His goodness to save.

Jesus will fulfill your faith in full when He calls you forth to eternal life.  You will then realize how God wove your prayers into a glorious tapestry of His goodness and grace.  You will see with unfettered eyes how God attended to your every need—without you even noticing.

Every prayer and petition, sigh and groaning will receive its proper verdict in Christ.  God will answer your prayers, delivering you from death, raising you to new life.  Jesus is pointing us to the Last Day, when He will return and call forth the new creation.

Jesus lamented after the parable: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”  Jesus tosses us this end-times question.  Will we trust God’s verdict delivered on Calvary’s cross, spoken to us in our baptism?  Will God make the ungodly righteous in Christ Jesus, and will His righteousness cover us for all eternity?  Will baptism save us as Scripture testifies (1 Peter 3:21), and will we rest Jesus’ salvation for us?

Jesus’ love for you does not waver in the end times.  So, He created His Church with pastors to preach His life-creating, life-giving Word and deliver His body and blood.  He breathed out the Scriptures and poured out His Spirit.  God is giving “you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

Jesus is as focused on your confidence in Him as He was focused on the cross to win your salvation.  Don’t cry out, “I can’t believe” because faith is God’s work.  God will confirm your trust in Him, as He will with every word of prayer spoken in faith, on the day of His appearing, the day of your resurrection.


Will He find faith on the earth?  Yes, He will.  For He will call forth your body from the dust of the earth, O baptized believer—and He will fulfill your salvation.  Amen.