Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote, “Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer.” How true that is! Prayer not only requires time and sustained attention, precious commodities in our distracted age, but it is a work of faith, a spiritual exertion of the heart. The biggest challenge to prayer is not that we’re too busy (we always find time for the things we value), but that we’re too unbelieving. We are weak in prayer because we are weak in faith.
But the Scriptures command us not only to pray, but to pray always. We are to be “constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12), “praying at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18), continuing “steadfastly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2), and praying “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How can our lives as Christians be so characterized by consistent, faithful, steadfast prayer when the discipline of prayer is so challenging to our fallen human nature?
Because prayer is an expression of faith, devotion to prayer begins with a conviction in the heart concerning the character of the God to whom we pray. And this is where we learn much from the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8.
Jesus spoke of a widow who kept coming to a certain judge to demand justice. She had been wronged in some way, and being a widow, was powerless to defend herself. She needed the judge to vindicate her cause. But the judge could care less about the plight of the woman. By his own admission, he neither feared God nor respected man. Neither piety nor decency compelled him to act on behalf of the widow. And so he ignored her complaints.
The judge may have been hard-hearted but he was human. He could only take so much of the widow’s constant badgering. Every day in the courtroom, it was the same thing over and over again: “Please, your honor, give me justice against my adversary. I’m begging you, you must help me.” Worn down, the judge couldn’t take anymore. The only way to get rid of this woman and her constant pestering was to fulfill her request for justice (which was only his job, after all!). And so he finally did hear and answer her supplication.
The point of the parable is that if even a wicked man like the unrighteous judge will grant the request of the widow, how much more should we expect a good, loving, and righteous Father to answer the cries of his own people? “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” (vs. 7, 8).
God has shown his love and goodness toward us in the most wonderful way, but giving us the gift of eternal life in his Son Jesus Christ. This same God hears our prayers, and because he is both perfectly righteous and loving, he will answer them. He will answer them in his way, and in his timing, but he will act.
So we can pray to him with confidence, not losing heart when nothing seems to change. He will answer. If the widow prayed persistently to an unrighteous judge, how much more ought we to keep bringing our supplication to a loving Father? The more you know the God to whom you pray, the God who gave you Jesus, the more naturally you will return to him again and again with your prayers.
Soli Deo Gloria!