The Parable of the Persistent Widow
Luke 18: 1-8
Sermon preached by
The Reverend Dr. Sam Cappleman
18 October 1998
Sometimes this parable seems to get interpreted that we have to nag God to get our prayers answered. Its as if we have to keep on at Him in order to get Him to answer our prayers and if we don't ask Him enough times He won't do anything to answer us. This seems to paint a picture of God as a fickle, petulant power hungry character, dispensing favours as He wishes, when He wants. This doesn't seem to be the same God as described in the rest of the Bible, so what's going on here?
To get a fuller picture we need to understand the context of the passage. The context of the passage, which starts in Chapter 17 v 20, is the Second Coming. Jesus is being asked by the (Jewish) Pharisees when the Kingdom of God is coming, when will they see God's justice and rule on earth. Jesus replies that the Kingdom is already here, in each one of us, but it will be obvious to all when the Kingdom fully comes when Christ, the Son of Man, returns. Today's gospel passage then ends with the question. 'When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?'. When He returns, what evidence of faith will He find in our lives? That's why the passage starts with a parable about prayer. When and what to pray.
Jesus says we are to pray at all times and not give up. Jews, typically prayed three times a day, 'so as not to tire God'. A bit like when the banks were only open 9:30 to 3:30 or shops 9:00 until 5:00. If you didn't get in at the right time you'd missed your chance until the next day. Jesus says that prayer to the Father is not like that. We can cry out to Him day and night, 24 hours a day, in church or out of church, at home, at work, at school or wherever we are. He is always available to us, waiting to hear from us. We should therefore be persistent in prayer, pray to Him at all times, and don't give up.
Don't give up before He returns, the context of the passage is the Second Coming. Pray until He comes, don't get despondent and give up before He returns. Perhaps even though sometimes we don't feel important enough, or good enough, to bother God. How interesting that Jesus uses the image of a widow in the parable, a person with few real rights or status in Jewish society, to illustrate the person who is asking the judge for justice, and receives it. She perhaps didn't feel important enough in one sense to bother the judge, but she did. And the judge, who neither fears God or respects men, gives her justice she desires. Jesus then says, God, who does love men and women, will not keep putting them off. No nagging here. When we cry out to God, He will not put us off. He does hear our prayers and answers them. But we shouldn't over look the subject of the widows plea—justice.
The Pharisees have just asked Jesus when His rule and justice will come. The widow wants justice and a fair rule to come. Doesn't it make sense then that our prayers, our supplications should sometimes centre around making God's rule and justice a reality here on earth? (Neither should we miss the fact that there are many other types of prayer, such as thanksgiving, confession and adoration to name but three). And playing our part (in prayer) in helping God's rule and justice to become a reality on earth as an unending task. Prayer that God's Kingdom and justice will break into every situation.
- Where we see injustice, in the world, in the workplace, or wherever we may be, we should pray for God's Kingdom to come.
- When we see that things are not in accord with His rule we should pray.
- When we see sickness, suffering, famine, sadness, wars, anger, jealousy…
…… the list is endless, as should be our prayers. We should pray all times and not give up. Because God does answer prayers, He wants His justice, His Kingdom and His rule to come.
Think of the Lord's prayer, Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy Kingdom come…. It is so important that Jesus teaches us that we should pray for it to come. Our responsibility is to help that come about through persistent prayer. Sometimes praying for something once, sometimes praying the same thing repeatedly. Like a big block of ice needs a long time exposed to heat to melt, sometimes we need to hold things before the Lord for a long time before we see any tangible evidence of change and His intervention in a situation. Luke, as a physician, knew perhaps better than others that sometimes healing takes a while to complete, and needs constant care to bring it about. Yes, God can act outside the laws of nature, but often it appears He chooses not to. In a way that's not even our responsibility. For what Jesus calls us to until He returns is to pray at all times, to cry to him day and night, never giving up, being persistent, even when it appears nothing is happening.
Pray at all times. That His Kingdom, justice and rule would indeed be seen on earth and in our lives. So that when He returns, we, and the world, are as ready as possible—and that He will find faith on earth.