Persistent Prayer to the Righteous Judge

The Gospel of Luke 2  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:54
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Intro: What is prayer? What is prayer’s purpose?
Prayer is verbal expression of praise and petition to God. It includes confession & repentance, and thanksgiving. (ACTS)
The purpose of prayer is relating rightly to God. By expressing our praise and petition, our confession and thanksgiving, we rightly revere God, rely on God, and rest in God.
Revering (honoring) God as worthy of all glory, Relying on God for wisdom and strength, and recognizing his goodness in his sovereign will, we can Rest in God.
The examples that we have to teach prayer, or provide us a model, have a high view of God, and focus on his will for our lives and for all things.
Prayers are honest and humble. - Cast your cares, knowing that he cares! (1 Peter 5:7)
Prayer is a matter of relationship to God. It is for our good and for his glory.
As we continue our sequential study of the Gospel of Luke, these simple and foundational reminders about prayer provide us with a baseline for the theme in our text today, which is that we ought to persist in prayer and not become discouraged when God’s answer seems delayed, because God is faithful. He can always be trusted.
Luke 18:1–8 ESV
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
The moral of the story is, be really annoying until you get what you want. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. No!
This parable from Jesus illustrates the trustworthiness of God in his perfect justice, even when that justice is delayed from our perspective, and that we should nevertheless continue to relationally trust in him through prayer by pleading for his justice to come.
As we look more closely at the passage to prove that such ideas are what we should come away with, I’ve outlined our discussion with a series of simple questions that can help us reach biblical conclusions about the meaning of our text.
(The first two questions closely interconnected: What is the point, and how does the context inform the parable?)

What is the point of the parable?

Luke tells us right at the outset that the parable is about persistence in prayer and not losing heart. v.1
… always to pray - persistence
Persistence becomes the central activity of the parable on the part of the petitioner seeking justice. Persistence includes the idea of frequency and repetition. The widow came regularly and she came often.
Such persistence in prayer takes on the additional flavor of always, a good word in both Greek and English that means all the time and on every occasion. (The NT teaches the same idea in 1 Thess 5:17 “pray without ceasing” … also rejoice at all times (16) and give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (18). Paul also says in… [context is putting on the full armor of God]
Ephesians 6:18 ESV
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
What are we ultimately saying about prayer back in Luke 18? Frequently and repeatedly, at any time and on any occasion. - While you cannot literally be praying 24/7, you can recognize that you have direct relational access to God through prayer at any time and in any circumstance, so you ought to avail yourself of that frequently and repeatedly.
One preacher gave a sermon on prayer in which he compared prayer to a war-time walkie talkie (radio), an image that illustrates this point beautifully.
… not lose heart - to become discouraged or disheartened
...To the point of giving up, quitting.
In various other situations in our lives, we understand this well enough. *** (Illusts…)
Don’t lose heart. With all the evidence we see around us of mounting immorality, of labeling wrong right, even to the point of being genuinely illogical…. Knowing that such wickedness is the very cause of the coming judgment, and feeling like that means more hardship for true believers and especially the next generation of believers, we do not need to be disheartened or discouraged. God is not mocked, and his justice will be vindicated, which means that those who trust in him (belong to him by faith in Jesus) will be vindicated.
Here are some other scriptural examples that similarly urge us not to lose heart because we know God is faithful:
Galatians 6:9 ESV
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
2 Corinthians 4:16–18 ESV
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
This parable teaches that we should pray always and not to lose heart.

How does the context inform the parable?

Context becomes so incredibly helpful in interpreting (understanding and applying) the parable. (A couple of things we always say about interpreting the Bible is that we must interpret scripture with scripture and that context is king.)
The preceding context provides the following backdrop:
Two complications for disciples are the delay and the difficult days (17:22-37).
… the reality of suffering injustice, particularly for the cause of Christ, and the delay in receiving vindication… waiting for justice to be done, for wrongs to be made right.
You can see the connection as well then to not losing heart. - … Delay in receiving justice and just the inclination to be disheartened over ongoing trials.
This is a prayer for justice (vindication for God’s people), related to the coming of Christ’s Kingdom (also 17:22-37).
Although Christ inaugurated his kingdom on earth in the hearts of those who believe in him for salvation and serve him as Lord, we await the second, future phase of the kingdom, when Christ returns and his kingdom is made visible on earth and judgment is final.
So it is from the context that we understand Jesus to be teaching them to persist in prayer for justice, even though they must persevere with difficulty, and to them Christ’s return feels delayed.

What details are critical to our understanding in the parable proper?

In the case of this parable, the important details surround the two main characters, the first of which is…
The Judge -
Any devout Jew would know that OT law prescribed that a judge must fear God and therefore mete out justice according to God’s own law and authority. Based on the value God gave mankind in creation, a judge should not only care about justice but also about the people involved. This judge does neither. He neither fears God nor had regard for people. - Jesus obviously concludes (v. 6) that this judge is an unrighteous (wicked) man.
He does not even give the widow justice bc it is just, but merely out of concern for himself. Because she does not quit, he doesn’t want to get a black eye from her incessant jabbing. (beat me down is literally “hit under the eye”) He simply wants to be rid of her.
The Widow -
The fact that this plaintiff is a widow would also call to the minds of Jesus’ audience a picture of one of the most defenseless people in their society. If she’s coming herself, that means she has no other means of support. There’s no way she can afford to offer a bribe to this crooked judge; neither does she have any other protector to apply pressure on her behalf. And someone else is taking advantage of her defenseless position.
She is helpless… except to bring her case for justice again and again before the judge. She doesn’t quit bc justice is on her side, and bc in her case, giving up means she definitely will not receive justice. Perhaps she has no other choice but to persist, or she will lose everything. - Notice that she isn’t after vengeance, but justice.
We not only know that justice is on our side, but our hope for vindication is based upon the solid foundation of the character of God and his promise: God will vindicate his elect (v. 7).
(Let’s go there now, to vv. 6-8.)

As Jesus explains the implication and application of the parable…

What does he reveal should be our understanding of God and his activity?

How much more (argument from lesser to greater) - God is contrasted with the unjust judge.
If even the judge is willing to “give her justice,” from no other motivation than to be rid of her… If even the unrighteous judge says that he will give justice, how much more will God, who is perfectly righteous, give justice to his elect (his chosen ones, who humbly submit to and serve him)… who, which is important to this whole discussion, keep crying out to him in prayer day and night (another image to say at all hours and situations, repeatedly and frequently) for justice.
“Will he delay long? I tell you he’ll give justice speedily.” - Now, we have to make sure we pay attention to the context because it’s the only way we make sense of what Jesus is saying. V. 8 itself, along with the preceding context we discussed, gives us the marker of the Son of Man’s returning in glory to set up his visible kingdom. That’s when we can expect justice to be truly and plainly made evident and enacted. He will rule in perfect justice, and at the end will come a final judgement, the righteous to eternal life and the wicked to eternal punishment.
So what we’re seeing is that such justice is speedy, it comes quickly/soon on God’s timeframe. Peter explains this exact thing in the context of the parousia’s delay (return of Christ) and our struggle and suffering in the meantime:
2 Peter 3:8 ESV
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
So don’t think of God’s delay as being slow as humans are inclined to, but instead think of it as his patience so that more can come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9, cf. Rom 2:4).
God’s delay does not mean that injustice is winning. God is just and his justice will prevail.

What application does Jesus have for the disciples?

Keep coming to God for his intervention… trusting his way and his timing! (That’s not just an excuse to get God off the hook. It is actually the right way to pray!)
Persevere in faith. When he comes, will he find faith? This rhetorical question is not meant to suggest that he might not find faith, because Jesus knows that he will. The point both indicates the widespread wickedness of faithlessness in Jesus, and it challenges those who believe to remain strong in faith.
“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” -Eph 6:10
Conclusion: Why do you persist in prayer and not lose heart?
[Come back to see how an overview of the main ideas connects with what we said at the beginning.]
[And our current situations…]
1. God is completely trustworthy and his justice will prevail.
Hebrews 6:16–18 ESV
For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
Secondly, because we are commanded to do so...
2. When God tells us to do something, he does so for our own good. We ought not to think of obedience as something we must suffer through, but be thankful for the guidance to know what to do for our own good and God’s glory. - Even so the instruction to pray.
Allow me to conclude with just one example of something additional that we pray for, along with praying for God’s justice to prevail, that shows how we ought to pray according to God’s will revealed in his word.
Let’s say that you really desire to have peace from the internal turmoil you’re experiencing. You remember, or someone tells you, that we can have peace with God through faith in Jesus (which is the first and foundational peace that humans need):
Romans 5:1–2 ESV
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
(And what would you call it when you express to God that you realize your sinfulness and desire to repent of it, and that you are asking him to save you through Jesus, because you know you can’t merit righteousness but that forgiveness and restoration are offered in the righteousness that Jesus accomplished for you? You would call that a prayer of submission and surrender to God for salvation. And the change in status from enemy to son or daughter of God clearly means peace with God.)
Now because of the intercession of Jesus applied to you, and having the indwelling Holy Spirit, you also know that you should have peace in your heart even as you live daily, even in trials and suffering, while you wait for God’s justice. You seem to recall a verse that says something about the peace of God guarding your heart and mind, and you find it in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
Philippians 4:7 ESV
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
But it’s critical that you see the obedient practice which comes just before this in order to experience God’s peace in you:
Philippians 4:6 ESV
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Paul goes on to say that in this trusting and prayerful mindset we are the meditate on…
Philippians 4:8 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
And continue to put into practice what you have learned and know to be right from God’s revealed truth:
Philippians 4:9 ESV
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Peace is just one example of the many things we pray for along with praying for justice, in which we are called to seek help from God as well as obey as we do so. You can apply this principle in any way that you pray when you know you are praying according to God’s will… praying in a way that lines up with God’s revealed truth in the Bible:
What then is the bottom line that we learn from Jesus in Luke 18:1-8?
Persist in prayer and do not lose heart because God is just and his justice will prevail.
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