The story of the Unjust Judge, one of Jesus’ parables, explains that although the Judge was unjust, still because of a widow’s persistent pleas, he granted her request. Many sermons have challenged believers to be relentless in prayer, based upon this passage and parable. For thirty years, I have believed that one of the primary messages of this parable (Luke 18:1-7) was that our prayers should be persistent.
G. Campbell Morgan points out that the parable draws two points of contrast between the Unjust Judge and God. First is the fact that the Judge was unjust or unrighteous, whereas God is always just and right. He will “avenge.” Notice the word is not revenge. To avenge is to perform justice. God’s actions toward us are always just. He cannot do anything unrighteous.
The second contrast is the necessity of persistent pleading, which was required to move the Unjust Judge to meet the widow’s need. In context, Jesus gave the parable on purpose: “to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” (Luke 18:1) If we would always pray, we would not need to beg and plead.
WHAT IS A PRAYER LIFE?
Morgan explains, “The prayer life does not consist of perpetual repetition of our petitions. The prayer life consists of life that is always upward and onward and Godward. The passion of the heart is for the kingdom of God; the devotion of the mind is to His will; the attitude of the spirit is conformity . . . the higher we climb in the realm of prayer, the more unceasing will prayer be, and the fewer will be the petitions.”
HOW GOD VIEWS PRAYER
Our gracious God is the opposite of the Unjust Judge. He is “not willing that any should perish” (II Peter 3:9), but is eager to pardon sinners. (Isaiah 55:7)
Likewise, God is so full of compassion, so full of power and unlimited ability, and so absolutely just that “the foremost wish of the weakest, feeblest, frailest soul brings an answer.” (-Morgan) That is why we “ought always to pray and not to faint.” There ought to be no fainting among the people of God, because they are praying.
THE HEART OF PRAYER
Prayer without ceasing is a life lived with a perpetual desire for His Name, His Kingdom, and His Will. Morgan comments, “The man who makes prayer a scheme by which occasionally he tries to get something for himself has not learned the deep profound secret of prayer. Prayer is life passionately wanting, wishing, desiring God’s triumph. . . . When men so pray they do not faint. They mount up with wings as eagles, they run without weariness, they tramp the hardest, roughest road, and they do not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
We had it all wrong. Although we may profitably use a list, prayer is not repeating or rehearsing a list. It is not reminding God that we are still waiting. Instead, it is bringing all my aspirations to Him, not to convince Him, but to ascertain His preference about it. It works like the chorus by Margaret W. Brown, which we sang in our youth group many years ago:
“I keep in touch with Jesus, and He keeps touch with me. And so we walk together, in perfect harmony. There’s not a day that passes, there’s not an hour goes by, but that we have sweet fellowship, my precious Lord and I.”
Jesus ended the parable with a question: “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (verse 8) Our daily life is a life of faith, or else we walk by sight (II Corinthians 5:7).
John H. Sammis captured the idea:
“When we walk with the Lord in the light of His word, what a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.” (Trust and Obey)
As a young teenager, I walked with Him and enjoyed that sweet fellowship and prayer. But as I grew older, my vistas became clouded with humanistic ideas of success. In the process, I became susceptible to man-centered concepts of prayer.
Have you had it wrong? He still resists the proud, but gives grace – undeserved favor – to the humble.
[G. Campbell Morgan quotations are from the sermon Prayer or Fainting The Westminster Pulpit, Vol 3 (London: Pickering and Inglis).]