PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER DIRECTLY TIED TO PERSEVERANCE IN FAITH UNTIL CHRIST RETURNS
The delay in the consummation of the kingdom of God upon Christ returning means that in this church age we need to live by faith and be persistent in our prayers as we depend upon our Heavenly Father. We need perseverance in faith and perseverance in our prayers. We can’t lose heart and give up no matter how difficult things get, no matter the oppression, no matter how long things seem to be taking from our limited perspective.
This is a parable of contrasts. The elect are in such a better position than this poor widow. God is so much more righteous and compassionate than this wicked judge. But the parallel shows up in the outcomes. Persistence yields results. But in the case of prayer it is not because we are browbeating God into giving in to us. It is because of the gracious nature of our loving Heavenly Father who delights in doing what is best for His elect.
Donald Miller: The best way of reminding ourselves of the impermanence of the present order and keeping our expectancy of the coming Kingdom sharp, while at the same time developing patient steadfastness in waiting for it, is to pray. The Kingdom may be long delayed in coming. Bitter suffering may be the lot of those who wait for it. The temptation to despair will be great. The sigh, “O Lord, how long?” will often be on the lips of Christians. The one resource against succumbing to such temptation is prayer. Should prayer cease, Christians would lose heart (18:1).
(:1) PROLOGUE– POINT OF THE PARABLE – PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER IS KEY
“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray
and not to lose heart,”
the times of suffering and affliction pressure believers into wanting to give up; the longing and expectation for the Second Coming seems too far off and unobtainable so that we allow our present circumstances to overwhelm us
J. Ligon Duncan: the first bit of good news in this passage is that your God is more willing to hear your prayer than you are to pray it. And if you’re a hopeless person then you understand how important that is, because if you’ve ever lost hope, you know what it is to lose the ability to even pray.
MacArthur: In the time between the first and Second Coming, in the time between the first and Second Coming we are not to lose heart but rather we are to pray. We are living in that period of time now. Yes there is the invisible kingdom the Lord is building through salvation as He comes to take up His royal throne in the hearts of those who put their trust in Christ. There is that invisible kingdom being built. But the visible kingdom, the kingdom of righteousness, the destruction of the ungodly, the binding of Satan, the end of the reign of Satan and sin, the establishment of the glorious kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace and finally the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth are all associated with His Second Coming, which will be triggered by the rapture of the church. That’s all in the future. And so He is saying you need to view that event with prayer and not to lose heart. That’s the key to unlocking the meaning of the story. . .
This is a call to eschatological prayer, pray that the Lord will come and pray for the strength to endure until He arrives, to endure the flesh, the world, the devil, the hostility against the gospel, persecution, rejection, and even martyrdom. This is eschatological praying.
I. (:2-5) STORY OF THE PARABLE – PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF
A. (:2) Unrighteous Judge
“saying, ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God,
and did not respect man.’”
This is a bad quality for a judge; he should be all about righteousness and delivering justice without prejudice no matter who appears before him
2 Cor. 8:21 “for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men”
MacArthur: to say about someone that he had absolutely no reverence for God and could never ever do anything that would make him feel shame in his behavior toward people is to say he is impervious to any appeal to justice or righteousness. This judge was shameless. He had no spark of honor, no sense of character, no point apparently…no noble point to which he could be appealed. Neither for God’s sake nor for man’s sake would he be moved to do what is right. This is the worst possible human being and his wickedness has all kinds of tragic implications because he is making decisions that affect people’s lives.
B. (:3) Oppressed Widow
“And there was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying,
‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’”
She is in the most vulnerable of positions; a widow who is being taken advantage of and oppressed by her opponent
Morris: The widow was almost a symbol of helplessness. She was in no position to bribe the judge and she had no protector to bring pressure to bear on him. She was armed with nothing but the fact that right was evidently on her side (she asked not for vengeance but for justice) and her own persistence.
C. (:4-5) Persistent Entreaties Pay Off
1. (:4a) Initially Unwilling to Respond
“And for a while he was unwilling;”
Gives no reason or justification for refusing to act on a legitimate case – just is unwilling
2. (:4b) Unmotivated by Right Reasons
“but afterward he said to himself,
‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man,’”
Right evaluation of his own wickedness
3. (:5) Finally Motivated by Persistence
“yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, lest by continually coming she wear me out.”
Wear me out – lit. “hit under the eye”
Lenski: it is certainly about as low a motive as can move any judge to act . . . Not the widow’s unquestioned right and her opponent’s flagrant wrong against her move this judge, move him at last, but his own personal ease and peace which this widow’s constant coming and pleading destroy.
II. (:6-8a) APPLICATION OF THE PARABLE – GOD WILL DO WHAT’S RIGHT
A. (:6) Argument From the Lesser to the Greater
“And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said;’”
If we see how the unrighteous judge responds, how much greater hope should we have that our righteous God will do what is right for us
B. (:7-8a) Argument From Family Relationship
1. (:7) God Will Do What’s Right
“now shall not God bring about justice for His elect,
who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?”
– God loves justice
– God loves His elect
– God hears our cries
Ray Stedman: this widow found the secret of handling reluctant judges! She discovered, in other words, the key to power. She found the one principle on which even a reluctant judge would act, despite his formidable defenses. Now, says Jesus, prayer is the countering principle which is the key to the Father-heart of God. Persistent pressure was the key to this unrighteous judge, perpetual prayer is the key to the activity of God. . .
It is sometimes taught that Jesus is here encouraging what is called “prevailing prayer,” which is often another way of describing an attempt to belabor God, to give him no peace, to picket the throne of heaven until we get the request we want. This is an absolutely un-Biblical and totally un-Christian attitude in prayer.
2. (:8a) God Will Do It Quickly
“I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily.”
Even though it seems to us like God is delaying and taking a long time to respond
(:8b) EPILOGUE – PERSEVERANCE IN FAITH IS KEY
“However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
This is the more important question
Geldenhuys: His question is intended as a warning that believers should take heed not to let their faith waver, notwithstanding His apparent delay in coming. So He concludes the parable with a powerful summons to His followers to maintain true belief in Him, through whom the Father will give final victory.
Deffinbaugh: I believe Jesus is saying something like this: “You can count on the fact that I will return and that I will bring about justice on the earth when I come. The issue for you to concern yourselves about isn’t whether I will fulfill My promises, but whether you will be found faithful when I return.” We need not worry about our Lord’s faithfulness, but only our own. . .
How very different with God. God is good. God is righteous and just. God does not need to be forced to bring about justice by His saints. God has promised to do so, and He will. His love of justice, His love for His own (and His compassion for the oppressed) predispose Him to act to bring about justice. It is this positive aspect of His character which promotes the perseverance of the saints in prayer, while it is the very wickedness of the unjust judge which required the same perseverance from the widow. The character of God is our motivation not to lose heart and to press on in prayer for His coming and for the establishment of justice on the earth.
Piper: Luke 18:1–8 is really part of this end-time teaching [from chap. 17]. It closes in verse 8 with the question, “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Will the warnings of Jesus to remember Lot’s wife, to keep the heart fixed on Christ, and to not love the world—will these warnings secure the faith of the disciples? Will they endure to the end? Will the Son of man find us trusting him, or busy securing our lives in this world?
So the implication seems to be: prayer and faith stand and fall together. If we lose heart and drift away from prayer, then the Son of man will not find faith in us when he comes. Faith is the furnace of our lives. Its fuel is the grace of God. And the divinely appointed shovel for feeding the burner is prayer. If you lose heart and lay down the shovel, the fire will go out, you will grow cold and hard, and when the lightning flashes from sky to sky and the Son of man appears in glory, he will spew you out of his mouth (Revelation 3:16).
MacArthur: We are true Christians and we have been given a tremendous promise. This is how it’s all going to end. In the meantime we suffer and we’re rejected and persecuted and alienated and the gospel is resisted and Christ is dishonored and sometimes maybe we think it’s going on too long and too long. We continue to pray and plead for the glory of Christ, the honor of Christ. And when you live that way and pray that way and plead that way, it changes everything about your life. How you view every part of your life. Yes it’s been 2,000. But our hope burns shining bright, and our love for Christ is still true and pure and our confidence that He keeps His Word is fast and firm. And so we pray persistently calling on Him to come, to glorify Himself, to vindicate Himself, to punish sinners, dethrone Satan, establish a righteous kingdom and peace on the earth, reign as King of kings and Lord of lords and create the eternal new heaven and the new earth. We say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” and it ought to be on our lips day after day after day, says our Lord. Live in that kind of anticipation until He comes. And watch how it changes your life.