If God chose to answer one of your prayers, today, which one would it be? What have you been begging Him to do for a long, long time? Years? Decades? What is it that occupies your prayers? What is it that drives you to your knees? What is it that keeps you awake at night? Whatever it is, thank God for it because He is using it to develop prayer as a lifestyle, a spiritual discipline that will grow your faith. Too many of us are content with “saying prayers.” But God wants more. He wants us to practice a lifestyle of prayer. In fact, He wants us to nag Him to fulfill His will in our lives and the lives of those whom we love.
In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus tells His disciples a parable to convince them of the value of persevering in prayer.
The Purpose of the Parable (v. 1)
The word “parable” means, literally, “a placing beside.” A parable is a simple comparison that is made for the purpose of teaching spiritual truth. Luke informs us that Jesus told this parable to convince His disciples they “ought always to pray.” Continuous prayer is a necessity; it is a spiritual duty, and moral obligation for a disciple of Christ. Followers of Jesus are not to “lose heart,” that is, to give in to evil, to lose heart, or to play the coward. Instead, Jesus says, we are to obtain the strength and courage we need through prayer.
The Persons in the Parable (vv. 2-5)
There are two main characters: an unjust judge and a widow. The unrighteous judge probably worked by bribery only, as was common in Jesus’ day. This man did not fear God nor respect man. He spoke one language only—the language of money. The widow was being oppressed in some manner, but being poor and unable to bribe the judge, she found herself helpless and, therefore, in need of legal protection. However, because of her persistence the judge came to her aid simply to get her off of his back.
The Promises in the Parable (vv. 6-8)
Jesus then contrasted God with the unjust judge and gives us four promises. God will bring about His will for His children. Therefore, we should pray, pray, and pray some more.
- God will vindicate His children. To vindicate means to bring justice for someone. Follow Jesus’ logic in this verse: If this unrighteous, uncaring judge will answer the persistent widow then will not God, who is both righteous and caring, answer the persistent prayers of His people who cry to him day and night? God knows when and where His children need protection and He will provide it.
- God will answer persistent prayer. Though we may cry out to God day and night, we are assured that He hears us and will answer. The fact that we must wait does not mean something is deficient in God’s care for us. Herschel Hobbs writes, “This does not mean that God is indifferent to our cries. To the one praying it may seem that He delays His answer. But He is longsuffering upon us. It may be that even though we pray, our hearts are not conditioned so as to receive the answer. We often say that our prayers are not answered. But ‘no’ is an answer. What we mean is that we do not always get what we want.” One of the reasons we must wait for God’s answer is that there is change needed in our hearts without which we will not be able to fully receive His answer. During our time of waiting, God is strengthening our faith. But rest assured, He will answer in His time.
- God will answer prayer in His time. The word delay brings up the issue of timing. When does God answer? He answers, but not always according to our schedule. An illustration of this is found in Jesus’ healing of Lazarus (see John 11). When Jesus heard the request to come heal Lazarus, he stayed where He was for two days longer (v. 6). Why? So that God would receive greater glory and more would believe (vv. 14-15). God has His own schedule. He will answer us, but it will be in His time—not ours. This should not make us apathetic and complacent (Who cares anyway?). Instead, it should produce in us a greater perseverance. God often uses delay to stir up our faith so that we pray even more.
- God will reward persevering faith. When Jesus returns, “will He find faith on the earth?” Our world will become more and more like that in the days of Noah—faithless, filled with evil, and the majority of people will be deceived. In Matthew 24, Jesus warned His disciples: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” But there is blessing that awaits the faithful. Believers who persevere in prayer until Jesus returns will find great reward: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
[This blog post is a brief summary of last Sunday’s sermon at Cornerstone Community Church, God Wants You to Nag Him.]