“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” –Luke 18:1
Do you lose heart? Do you find yourself growing weary of daily coming to the Lord only to be met with a “no” or “not now” answer? Do you even believe he will answer you when you call to him?
This verse begins the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. Jesus told parables to bring truths to greater light for those who had ears to hear it, and to further blind those who were unwilling to see the light. In this case, Luke tells us that Jesus is telling this parable to encourage his hearers and to teach them that they should always pray. We know that these hearers are his disciples because of the previous verses that reveal that Jesus is simply continuing his teaching to them from Luke 17.
So why does Jesus see the need to encourage them and spur them on to fervency in prayer? He knows what’s coming. There was going to be a day where he was no longer with them. There was coming a day where all of the external circumstances would seem like God had forgotten them. In those days, discouragement and fear over God’s care for them would surely follow. So he teaches them through a parable—a parable that highlights the character of God.
Jesus, through the parable of the persistent widow, was showing his disciples that by the very nature of his character, God is able and willing to answer prayer and give good gifts to his children. Why was he doing this? So they wouldn’t lose heart. Jesus knows the human condition. He knows our tendency to grow weary—especially when our prayers seem to be unanswered. He experienced it acutely. He knows what it feels like to be tempted towards discouragement—and even more than that, he knows the answer for it. So he tells the disciples (and us) a parable. The ones who have ears will hear and not lose heart.
So what are the implications of this for us? Jesus is showing us how we must beseech God in our distress—boldly and with hope. We can approach him boldly because we know that, unlike the judge in the parable, God is a gracious and merciful God who delights in giving good things to us. And we can come with hope because we know that he will act. His character tells us so.
Jesus wants us to see the kindness of the Father in greater measure in this parable. He wants us to look at the character of this judge, in stark contrast to the gracious and merciful character of the Father, and have hope. God will answer our prayers. God will act on our behalf.
But then Jesus poses the real question: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Jesus begins and ends the parable with his reasoning for speaking in this way. Will you trust him? Will you look to the character of God for your basis for persisting even when you are overcome with adversity, or will you lose heart and fall away proving that you were never saved? The stakes are high, but you serve a faithful God. He will bring you to the last day. He will execute justice for you. He will answer your constant petitions to him. We don’t worship an absentee Father. Hold on to his promises to you. Cry out to him day and night. He will act.
This encourages me so much, especially when how I feel towards praying can be so up and down lately. I have seen him show up and rescue me from despair after days and days of begging him to give me eyes to see his glory. The day will come, dear Christian. Be like the persistent widow. Plead with God to answer you when you call to him. And he will show up. His character is gracious and kind. And he delights to give good gifts to his children.