One of Jesus’ favorite teaching methods was telling stories with powerful points. They’re called parables.
They teach a lesson in a surprising way or with tension. Parables are meant to be a bit shocking or jarring. That’s what makes them memorable. In Luke 18 Jesus instructs his listeners to consider what an unrighteous judge is like when dealing with a desperate and persistent widow.
1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1–8 (ESV)
The judge was motivated by the persistence of the woman, even though he was unrighteous and uncaring. Jesus’ point is to consider how a righteous and caring God is ready to respond to the cries of his desperate children who need his help.
In this parable, Jesus elevates the value of persistence in prayer based on the character of God. As you think about prayer and your position of desperation, do you know that your view of God is vitally important? Prayer is the voice of desperation, and it is based upon what you believe to be true about God. So, how do you pray in light of this passage?
Luke tells us in the first verse: “…they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
Two Ways to Pray
1. Pray consistently. To “always pray” doesn’t mean that you are praying non-stop. But it does mean that you continually connect your life to your need for God’s help. It means you live in such a way that you are always mindful of God’s role in your life.
The idea is to live with a consistent prayer-mindedness.
Disconnect yourself from prayer, and it won’t be long until you fall into a pattern where God’s purposes are not on your mind. Self-sufficiency and prayerlessness are connected. They feed off one another.
Instead, Jesus calls us to embrace the posture of this woman. She knew if the judge didn’t help her, there was no hope for justice.
Do you know you need God’s help? In what area of your life is that painfully evident right now? Is there something for which you know that unless God moves, there doesn’t seem to be any hope for change? Do you believe He hears you?
Desperation is a place where you pray consistently because you are mindful of your need for God’s help.
2. Pray faithfully. The other statement in this text is helpful and encouraging. It says that we should pray and “not lose heart.” This means to not give up – to not quit. In the context of Luke 18, Jesus is specifically referring to not losing heart about his return. We need to be careful that we not fall into unbelief—living as if Jesus is not coming back, as if God has forgotten about us, or as if nothing is ever going to change.
Jesus invites us to keep praying and not quit. But not just about the Lord’s return. This parable invites us to a posture of faithful prayer.
Is there anything that the Lord is asking you to start praying about again? Do you find yourself tired? Cynical? Discouraged?
Giving voice to desperation through prayer not only puts you in a position to seek God’s help. It does that, but even more. Embracing dependency through prayer helps you remain faithful. Crying out to God is part of the means of keeping you on the right track. Prayer reminds you who you are and who God is.
In other words, you pray because you’re desperate. But you also pray – consistently and faithfully – so that you stay desperate.