In Lk. 18:1-8 the Lord told a parable “to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (v. 1). The crux of the parable is that a widow persisted in bringing her petition before the judge in her city. This judge, the Lord said, “did not fear God and did not respect man” (v. 2). Initially the judge was unwilling to act on behalf of the widow, but she continued to come before him anyway. Finally the judge gave in to her and settled her case in her favor.
In vs. 6-8 Luke recorded the point of this parable. He wrote, “And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring abut justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'”
The lesson for disciples to understand from this parable is that God does not have to be nagged in order to act on behalf of His people. He will, in fact, bring about justice for His people, and He will not delay His response to their prayers. Our God is not like the unrighteous judge. He is already inclined in our favor because we have been purchased by the blood of His one and only Son. His desire is to respond favorably to our petitions, so long as those requests are in accordance with His revealed will.
This truth should be of great comfort to Christians. As we struggle with the many challenges of life, we are not left without recourse by our God. He stands ready to act on our behalf, if we will only bring our needs before Him in prayer. Unlike the gods of the pagans, or the unrighteous judge in the parable, our God does not have to be goaded into answering our prayers. All we have to do is to ask in faith, nothing doubting. This is what James said in Jas. 1:5-8. In context James was speaking about asking for wisdom from God, but the principle still stands. If we expect God to answer our prayers, we must ask in faith.
This is a principle that the Lord alluded to in the parable in Lk. 18. In v. 8 as the Lord declared that God would bring justice quickly for His people, He asked, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” His question points us squarely to the matter of faith. As we make our requests to the Lord in prayer, we must believe that He will answer our prayers and grant them. For the Lord to wonder if He would find faith on the earth at His return suggests that we need to give this more attention than perhaps we have previously done.
There is another aspect of this parable that is interesting, and which bears upon the question of prayer. In v. 7 the Lord said that God would bring justice for His elect “who cry to Him day and night”. This phrase suggests that the prayers of the elect will be offered continually until an answer is received from the Lord. While we do not have to nag God in order to get a response from Him, it is clear that He expects us to repeatedly offer our petitions to Him. This repetitive asking demonstrates our dependence upon Him, and also indicates our faith in Him. Too often we pray about something once or twice and give up on it. Then we wonder why our request was denied.
If we truly have faith in God, we will pray continually until our petitions are answered. We will pray in confidence that God will answer in the way that is best for us, and in confidence that He will not delay long over our requests.