Growing up, there was a Jewish friend of our family we always lovingly referred to as our “aunt.” She was a dear soul in many ways. One of her passions in life was pursuing a sense of justice in life which typically involved “fighting city hall.” If she felt there was a wrong being imposed on the community she would fight against it with a pen that was as mighty as any sword. She was both tenacious and persistent in her quest to seek justice and protection for the people. When the city officials encountered her, they realized they were either in for a long battle or their ultimate resignation to her persistent pleas.
Luke 18 tells a parable about a similarly persistent woman who was not about to give up. She repeatedly came to an unjust judge to plead for protection from her adversary. Initially the judge refused to see her. But she was so persistent that she wore him down with her requests. It is similar to the prayers of the persistent friend in Luke 11. One prayed for protection and the other for provision.
Some people think that this parable compares God to the unjust judge meaning we should persist in prayer for what we want until we “wear God down.” But that interpretation is in contrast with what all of scripture says about God’s just, loving, and faithful heart toward us. A better interpretation sees it as contrasting God’s faithful love to the unjust and begrudging judge in the parable.
We understand the persistent widow’s plea as we come up against unjust and corrupt individuals and organizations. Whether it is an unjust boss, the city council, or legislative body, we make our pleas to appeal their sense of rightness. The more passionate our cause, the persistent we are in our pleas.
But God is not like the unjust judge, the begrudging boss or the reluctant legislator. Praying to God is not like fighting city hall. Our God is a loving and faithful God who is always willing and able to hear and answer us when we pray according to his perfect will; not for the candy we want but for the nutrition we need. He longs to protect us and to provide for us. We persist in prayer, not because we need to persuade him to see our cause, but to seek his timing and will. We persist in faith, knowing that his answer will be best for us. Our prayers are not a means of wrestling or fighting against God to get what we want, but to work persistently and consistently with God to bring about what he wants . . . his good and pleasing will for us and the fulfillment of his will.
Jesus links the parable of the persistent widow with the condition of the faithful who will be subject to such injustice and terror in the final days. In that time, there will be no reasoning with or fighting against our oppressors. Our only “weapon” will be our faithful and persistent prayers. Best we learn to pray that way now!
As we persist in asking for God’s protection for our loved ones and in pleading for his mercy to fall upon those who desperately need it, let’s be in persistent prayer also to know him more. Let’s not be satisfied with a bit of God but continually come before him asking for all of him; learning also to yield all of ourselves to the pursuit of his purpose. In faith, let’s not give up but persist in praying for his will to be done. . . On earth as it is in heaven.