1And 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)
As we have been focusing on the subject and practice of prayer at Providence for the last several months, it’s possible that some of us have grown in this discipline and joy in ways that we never have before. I’ve certainly been encouraged to hear your stories of growth and encouragement as you’ve been challenged in your prayer life.
But one great impediment to continuing in prayer is the thought that prayer is not effective. Most often, the reason we begin to believe that prayer is not effective is that we pray a short season, do not see a quick answer, and then conclude that God has said, “no” or that prayer simply does not work. In light of that danger, let’s be reminded of the Lord’s teaching regarding persistent prayer in Luke 18:1-8.
I love it when the Bible tells us the point of a passage right up front. That’s what Luke does for us in 18:1. “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” It would take a world-class blunder to misinterpret this parable after reading that verse. The point of the parable is that we should pray persistently, constantly, and not give up. But we might ask, what in the parable should lead us to that conviction?
The whole thing compares and contrasts a wicked judge to our good God. This bad judge gave justice out of exasperation because of the persistence of the widow. If even a bad judge will answer a persistent request, how much more will God do so, who loves us (18:6-7)? Jesus affirms, “He will give justice to them speedily” (18:8) We can pray always and without losing heart because we know the character of our God – He is good and desires to hear our prayers and take care of us.
But v8 may be where some of us check out in our prayers. We see the word “speedily” and conclude that something is wrong with our prayer or something is wrong with God or we just stop praying without thinking deeply about any of it. But consider that what may be “speedily” to you is not “speedily” to God. Consider also that God has an impeccable sense of timing (Rom 5:6; Gal 4:4). He never does things to soon or too late. He’s always right on time. And Luke seems to anticipate that our tendency is to think that God is not answering “speedily” enough. After all, what was the main point? It was that we should always pray and not lose heart. “Not lose heart” implies that there will be times when God does not answer as soon as we would like. Perhaps we should leave Him with the job of interpreting and applying the word “speedily,” and take it as our responsibility – and joy – to take the main point and run with it by always praying and not losing heart.
What great petition have you been bringing before the Lord recently that has yet to be answered? Are you tempted to give up? Don’t do it! Pray always and don’t lose heart. A delayed answer should not be considered an automatic, “no.” For those who belong to Christ, a delayed answer can only mean two things, “not yet” or “I have something better” (Rom 8:28-30). The One who hears us is not deaf or paralyzed. He’s wise and loving and all-powerful. He’ll act at the right time and in the best way. So persist in prayer, family.