Sermon on Luke 18:1-8a
Text: Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 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 ? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”
What is prayer? How would you define prayer? Our catechism gives this definition, “An act of worship in which we speak to God from our hearts.” I, often, will give this definition, “A heart-to-heart talk with God.” However we might define it, we know from the Scriptures that prayer is a privilege that is given to believers, because they have had the wall of sin that separated them from God removed by the work of Jesus. At the same time, we also read that we are commanded to pray by our God. This morning, we are going to look at one aspect that God desires in our prayer life and that is persistence. PERSISTENT PRAYER: 1. Patterned After The Widow’s Example and 2. Encouraged By The Lord’s Praise.
Jesus begins our text by telling a parable. A parable, as you may recall, is a story that Jesus told, using everyday events to teach a spiritual truth. In this instance, Jesus tells a parable to help us understand what it means to “always pray and not give up.” He begins by introducing us to a judge. One would expect that such an official would be a just man. He would be a person to whom the other citizens of the community could look up to and respect. However, we are told that this judge “neither feared God nor cared about men.” He was the exact opposite of what you would expect. He was a man with no principles, no sense of justice, and no conscience. This judge acted as if God did not exist, so he felt there was no one to whom he was accountable. God’s warnings about injustice meant nothing. The opinions of his fellow citizens meant nothing to him, either. He was an unjust judge.
Ancient records tell us little about the judicial system of Jesus’ day. Our parable suggests that there were no lawyers or due process of law, as we find today. It does not appear that there was a jury. Cases were brought before the judge and he was the one who made the rulings.
It was into this man’s court that another figure appears. She was a widow, who came because of an adversary was coming against her. She may have been involved in a lawsuit by the adversary or he may have been threatening to sue her or take her property from her. The fact that he is called an adversary makes it safe to assume that her cause was a just one. Her legal opponent was trying to twist the law to his advantage. So, the woman took her case to this unjust judge for justice, that is, to obtain protection from the law. This judge was the only one who could help this woman.
Remember that this judge was a hardhearted man. So, we read, “For some time he refused.” He simply refused to help her. Human misery had no effect on him. However, there was something that this widow had in her favor, that the judge did not take into account. She was persistent. She would not stop her appeals for help. She knew that the judge had no concern for God’s justice or for justice among men. Yet, she also knew that no one likes to be bothered with appeals indefinitely.
The widow was right. The unjust judge says in verse 5, “Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!” Fear of God and respect for men would have required that he protect this widow from her adversary. He did not care about either of those things. However, it was a nuisance to have this woman bothering him so often. It was for this reason that he decided to settle the case. He did it just to get rid of her.
The meaning of Jesus’ parable is clear. The widow is determined and the judge finally helps her in order to help himself. His only interest is his own peace of mind and comfort, not hers. Jesus provides his own application of the parable when he said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.” By this, we are not saying that God is an unjust judge. Jesus is using an argument from the lesser to the greater. If this is how an unjust judge acts, who does not care anything about the people who come to him with their pleas, how much more will our God act to his “chosen ones?” Jesus’ purpose is to show the contrast between the unjust judge and the God of justice.
First of all, there was no relationship between the widow and the judge. She was merely a litigant that came into his courtroom. There is a marvelous relationship between God and his chosen ones. We were chosen before the creation of the world to be his children. Because sin made it impossible for us to be with him for all eternity, God sent his Son into the world to be our Savior. Jesus was in a perfect relationship with his Father, including the fact that he did everything his Father wanted him to do. So that we could be with our Father, Jesus willingly went to the cross where he gave his life as a payment for our sins. He died for us and he rose again. Furthermore, he sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts, so that we could be adopted into his family. This shows us the wonderful relationship that God has with us.
There is another difference between the unjust judge and our God. The unjust judge eventually gave into the widow’s pleas just to get rid of her. He didn’t want to be bothered by her anymore. God doesn’t feel that way about us. When we pray to him, it isn’t a bother to him. Rather, he invites us and urges us to pray to him with all on our minds. He says in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
Another difference between us and the parable that Jesus told is the fact that it appears the widow got her request answered after a relatively short period of time. The unjust judge gave in because he got tired of her. When we pray to our God, it may, at times to our eyes, appear that he ‘keeps putting us off.’ We need to remember all of God’s promises. In those times when it appears that God has forgotten, that he is far way or delays unnecessarily, we need to remember God’s promises, such as we find in Hebrews 13:6, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” When God delays, it is always for our good. Sometimes he delays to remove any selfishness from our petitions. Sometimes he delays to make our longing greater and so that we appreciate all the more what he gives to us. It may be that he is delaying because quick and easy answers do not strengthen our faith. Whatever the reason it may be for the delay, we know that it is always for our benefit.
God is always willing to hear our prayers. However, that wasn’t the main point of the parable, was it? We read that the reason Jesus told his disciples and us this parable. It was to “show them that they should always pray and not give up.” How persistent are we in our prayers? It is easy for us to become weary in our prayer life. Sometimes we think that God really doesn’t care about the little problems in our lives. ‘I am just one among the millions on this earth.’ We, sometimes, think that our prayers don’t do any good. ‘God is going to do what God is going to do, so it really doesn’t matter what I want, anyway.’ Sometimes, we pray once and figure that we have done our part and the rest is up to God. For these and many other reasons, we are not always as persistent in our prayer life, as we should be.
At times, we have problems with our prayers in general. We try everything else and go to God as our last resort. ‘Nothing else seems to work, so we might as well try God.’ Sometimes, when we pray, we say that we trust that God will take care of it. However, we find ourselves taking the problem back and stewing on it a little longer. Real courage requires that we leave the problem with God. Then, we are saying that we trust that God will take care of it and we don’t need to worry about it any longer.
Unfortunately, when it comes to prayer, often we are just as bad as the two-year-old learning his table prayers. They struggle with the words and they don’t seem to come out right. Yet, just as we encourage our little ones to keep up with their praying, we need the same encouragement. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to use all of the right theological jargon. It is an act of worship that we, God’s children, do. It is us opening up to our heavenly Father with everything that is in our hearts, our sins: our hopes, our cares, etc. There is one thing we can learn from the little ones, and that is the point that Jesus makes in this parable. We are to be persistent in our requests. Little ones are not afraid to ask for things and they are willing to ask more than once. We pray that God would give us the same boldness and persistence in making our requests of him. We also need to note that, just because we are persistent, we will not always get what we pray for. God, in his infinite wisdom, may see that what we are praying for is not in our best interests, and may say “No.” Yet, that still does not deter us, because we know that our God loves us and will always do what is best for us.
God has given us a wonderful right to pray to him. It is ours because of the work of his Son. As we consider our prayer life, first of all, we pray that God would forgive us for the times that we have not prayed as we should. We pray that God would strengthen our faith so that we trust that he will hear and answer all of our prayers. This morning, we especially pray that God would help us to be persistent and bold in our prayer life. Amen.
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