Unwearied In Prayer
18:1-8 Jesus spoke a parable to them to show that it is necessary always to pray and not to lose heart. "There was a judge," he said, "in a town who neither feared God nor respected man. There was a widow in the same town who kept coming to him and saying, 'Vindicate me against my adversary.' For some time he refused. But afterwards he said to himself, 'Even though I neither fear God nor respect man, because she bothers me, I will vindicate this widow, lest by her constant coming she exhausts me.'" The Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And shall God not vindicate his own chosen ones who cry to him day and night, even though he seem to wait for long? But when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?"
This parable tells of the kind of thing which could, and often did, happen. There are two characters in it.
(i) The judge was clearly not a Jewish judge. All ordinary Jewish disputes were taken before the elders, and not into the public courts at all. If, under Jewish law, a matter was taken to arbitration, one man could not constitute a court. There were always three judges, one chosen by the plaintiff, one by the defendant, and one independently appointed.
This judge was one of the paid magistrates appointed either by Herod or by the Romans. Such judges were notorious. Unless a plaintiff had influence and money to bribe his way to a verdict he had no hope of ever getting his case settled. These judges were said to pervert justice for a dish of meat. People even punned on their title. Officially they were called Dayyaneh Gezeroth, which means judges of prohibitions or punishments. Popularly they were called Dayyaneh Gezeloth, which means robber judges.
(ii) The widow was the symbol of all who were poor and defenceless. It was obvious that she, without resource of any kind, had no hope of ever extracting justice from such a judge. But she had one weapon--persistence. It is possible that what the judge in the end feared was actual physical violence. The word translated, lest she exhausts me, can mean, lest she give me a black eye. It is possible to close a person's eye in two ways--either by sleep or by assault and battery! In either event, in the end her persistence won the day.
This parable is like the parable of the Friend at Midnight. It does not liken God to an unjust judge; it contrasts him to such a person. Jesus was saying, "If, in the end, an unjust and rapacious judge can be wearied into giving a widow woman justice, how much more will God, who is a loving Father, give his children what they need?"
That is true, but it is no reason why we should expect to get whatever we pray for. Often a father has to refuse the request of a child, because he knows that what the child asks would hurt rather than help. God is like that. We do not know what is to happen in the next hour, let alone the next week, or month, or year. Only God sees time whole, and, therefore, only God knows what is good for us in the long run. That is why Jesus said we must never be discouraged in prayer. That is why he wondered if men's faith would stand the long delays before the Son of Man should come. We will never grow weary in prayer and our faith will never falter if, after we have offered to God our prayers and requests, we add the perfect prayer, Thy will be done.
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