Persistence in Prayer

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 about men. 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 about men, 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!'”

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?” (Luke 18:1-8)

The lesson pivots on the a fortiori argument. This kind of argument first establishes one point, and then on this basis proposes another that, in the light of the prior, is advanced with even greater force. To illustrate, once it is assumed that calculus is more difficult than algebra, and calculus presupposes algebra, then if it is established that a person is proficient in calculus, we can assert with even greater force that he is proficient in algebra. Or, once it is assumed that a watermelon is heavier than an orange, then if a child can lift a watermelon, we can assert with even greater confidence that he can carry an orange.

This is the kind of argument that Jesus puts before us. He is, of course, not likening God to an unjust judge. Rather, the point is that if even an unjust judge, who does not respect God or care about men, would surrender to a widow’s persistence and see to it that she is vindicated, then how much more would God, who is just, hear the persistent pleas for justice from his chosen ones? The teaching is that “they should always pray and not give up.”

Perhaps there are things that we have been asking from God that have not happened, and time and suffering have wearied us to spiritual exhaustion. To us, Jesus offers something far greater than mere sympathy or sentimental counsel. He gives us solid reasons for faith that we can return to again and again:

First, he reminds us of the nature of God, that God himself is just, and not like an unjust man. Second, he reminds us that we are his chosen ones. We trust him because he first chose us. We love him because he first loved us. We do not have to wonder about his attitude – he has shown us that he cared for us even before we knew him, and we have come to know him because he cared for us in the first place. Then, these two truths, unassailable because they are based on God’s own character and decision instead of anything in us, are couched in the resistless logic of the a fortiori argument, that he is greater than an unjust man, so that they penetrate our consciousness with even greater force.

Therefore, if the things we ask for accord with God’s ideas of justice and goodness, then we ought to continue in prayer concerning them. Let us persist especially for the advance of the gospel, so that the fame of Jesus Christ may conquer all nations and convert many hearts, and that the Father’s doctrines and precepts may be established in all the earth. As verse 8 indicates, the question is not whether God is keen to enforce justice, but whether he will find faith among men.

At a time when reverence toward God appears to decline, even in the churches that claim his name, God honors us by making us a remnant. He has ordained us the heroes of this age. This is not to say that he shares his glory with us, since he shares his glory with no one, but that he glorifies himself by setting before the world, even before angels and demons, individuals who persist in faith and in prayer, even when all others forsake him. What a wonderful privilege to live as faithful believers in this evil and foolish generation, among evil and foolish men. May God continue to guide and uphold his people.