The passage can be read here.
I’ve heard preachers say this parable is about a nagging woman – it isn’t. There is usually a major point to a parable and trying to ‘over egg the pudding’ or over interpreting it will lead us into error. Luke helpfully states the purpose of the parable; ‘to show them that they should always pray and not give up’. So there we have it, let’s not argue with the word of God – that never ends well. It is a little bit more complicated. Notice, Jesus has been speaking about his return (v 21-37), remember chapters and verses were added later for our convenience, and he ends this section by referring again to his return (v 8). Therefore, it makes sense to say Jesus was speaking of the suffering church praying for justice before he returns. That would make it even more relevant for us.
In Jesus’ day judges were often gentiles charged with keeping the peace. They were pragmatic and accessible and would therefore have been besieged by people seeking justice. The widow was probably one of many seeking justice but she was different, she was persistent. Her cause was right, she didn’t seek a favour – she sought justice.
The point is not that God is like the unjust judge and we have to berate him to get justice. In fact it is quite the opposite; God is completely just, has no favourites and will always act justly. It’s that we should pray and not give up, just like the widow, we should keep going. We’ve had an encouraging week with prayer at our church. We have a new initiative at Eb in that we have a prayer phone. We take turns to monitor a dedicated phone (I don’t mean that the phone is holy just that it has the sole purpose of receiving prayer requests) where people in need of prayer text in the need. The person monitoring the phone then sends out an email to a group of volunteers, eleven at the moment but increasing, who will pray. In case you are wondering, the number is 07503 179393. It’s been great to see God answer prayer, we’ve prayed for a young woman who was very ill in hospital and today we had news that she’s been allowed home, for a newly qualified teacher who was having his lesson observed and it went well, for a woman expecting a baby and a beautiful little girl arrived on Wednesday and we prayed for the step father of one of our youth group who had been rushed into hospital and he is now doing well. Praise the Lord! It is amazing to think that the God who made the universe hears our prayers – even the silent prayers. Yet there are other things that I have been praying about for many years and there is no end in sight. Does that mean I should stop praying? No, we should pray and not give up! Paul wrote to the church in Rome; ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer’ (Romans 12:12).
In the final verse of today’s passage Jesus asked a question; “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Jesus asked plenty of questions during his ministry and it was not that he didn’t know the answer. It was to probe the understanding and thinking of his hearers. Here his question directly challenges us. When Jesus returns, will he find people praying in faith? Will we be among them?
Lord thank you for the privilege we have that we can bring the concerns of our hearts to you. Thank you that we do not have to go through any intermediary, that we have direct access through Jesus by your Spirit. May we never become complacent and help us to pray and not give up.