And he [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Give me justice against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'" And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 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)
Jim Cole-Rous, Director of Content at Network 211, wrote a wonderful devotional about this passage here. I have reworked one of his points for this article.
God's ways are hard to understand. He does not operate as we want him to. We pray for help and are sometimes confused when we don't see Him do what we want. This causes a lot of people to say that God is not real or that He doesn't care.
Jesus told this parable to provide a contrast. The corrupt judge only gave the widow justice because she badgered him and he wanted peace. However, God is not like that and wants good for His children. So if a corrupt judge will give justice, wouldn't a loving God be even more willing to do so?
I cannot say with certainty what God will do in your life in any particular case. However, I can say with confidence that God will be with you in every one of life's situations.
The point of this parable is not that God will answer us if we keep badgering Him. The real message is in the opening and closing that people skim over.
Will we lose heart in the face of trouble?
Luke says that the purpose of the parable is that believers would always pray and "not lose heart." Why is it necessary to include this phrase? Because our prayers may not be answered how and when we want. When this happens we can become discouraged. Jesus tells us to not do so.
Jesus' final words are "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" In other words, will his followers have lost heart in the face of trouble? Or will they have continued to trust God?
So, when you have trouble, the answer is not how many times you pray about it. What God wants is for you to truly trust in Him when you do pray. You are praying to a compassionate God who loves you. Believe that and continue to ask Him to help you.
Bob Caldwell is Theologian in Residence at Network 211.