The Parable of the Persistent Widow

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

People ask, “If the Lord’s return is a foregone conclusion (Matt. 24:36), why is it important for me to pray for it”   In this study we will answer this question, using the Parable of the Persistent Widow as our guide.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ “

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:1-8)

Let’s Put This In Its Proper Context

The background for this parable is found in Luke 17:20-37.  A pharisee had asked the Lord, “When will the kingdom come?”  This question established that the context for all that follows is the coming kingdom.  In response the Lord told him that he shouldn’t think of the kingdom as something he could watch for, because the kingdom is “within you.”

When Luke wrote this, the Holy spirit prompted Him to use an interesting word for the one we translate “within” because it also means “in your midst.” In the general sense I believe Jesus was speaking of phase one of the Kingdom, the “invisible” phase that consists of born again believers all over the world.  But in the specific sense He was also speaking to the Pharisee, telling him that the personification of the kingdom was standing right there in front of Him.

Then He told His disciples that one day soon they would long to see one of His days (days like this one when He was with them) but would not see it (Luke 17:22). He continued with an abbreviated description of events leading up to the time of His return.  The rest of Luke 17 is sometimes called “the little apocalypse” because it speaks of end times events like it’s a summary of Matt 24.

After that He told them the parable of the persistent widow. His point was that if even a corrupt judge could eventually be persuaded by the persistence of a widow, someone without standing or influence in their day, how much more likely would the Lord be to respond to the persistent prayers of His people?

It’s Not The Only Time We’ve Been Told That

“Pray without ceasing,” Paul wrote in 1 Thes. 5:17. Good advice. Earlier the Lord had given us similar instruction.

“Ask and it will be given to you;” He said, “Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt; 7:7-11)

It’s funny in a way, how the Lord longs for our participation in His plan. He knows what we need before we ask (Matt. 6:8) yet He wants us to ask.  He knew we were going to pray for salvation before He created the world, yet He wants us to say the sinner’s prayer (Romans 10:17).   His return is a foregone conclusion, yet He wants us to keep praying for it, and to never give up till the day it happens. It’s almost as if He’s saying our prayers could influence the timing.

If so, it wouldn’t be the only time. Through His disciples He told the Jews in Jerusalem that as the time for the Great Tribulation draws near, to pray that it will not begin on a Sabbath or in the winter (Matt. 24:20). Does that mean He would alter the start date of the worst period of judgment ever to befall humanity to accommodate the needs of what will surely be a religious minority? Does prayer really have that kind of power?

To drive home the point He began in the widow’s story, the Lord closed with a question. “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).  Though His return is certain, will there be anyone left with the persistence to still be praying for it when He comes?

Prayer Power

The prayers of righteous people are powerful and effective, the Bible tells us (James 5:16), sufficient to forgive sins and heal the sick.  And, if the above examples are any indication, to influence the timing of God’s plan as well.  But the lack of persistence in our prayers can indicate a lack of desire as well as a lack of faith.  Do people not pray for the Lord’s return because they don’t really want Him to return yet, or because they don’t think He’s going to, or both?

The widow hounded the judge to a point where he thought her obnoxious, and he answered her request just to get her off his back.  Jesus was telling us God rewards our persistence as well.  And Paul said there’s a crown in store for all those who long for the Lord’s coming (2 Tim. 4:18).

Pray without ceasing.  Ask and it will be given to you.  Be persistent, especially when praying for His return.  Let the Lord know that at least in some hearts, there’s still faith on Earth.  Maybe if enough of us persist in this, we can hasten the day of His coming. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah 04-26-14.