The Parable of the Widow and the Judge

painting depicting saint lucy pleading before a judge

Prayer and faith are tied closely together, and that is at the heart of a parable we have in Luke 18 and starting in verse 1:

He also spoke a parable to them that they must always pray, and not give up, saying, “A certain judge was in a city, who didn’t fear God, and didn’t respect man. A widow was in that city, and she came often to him, saying, ‘Defend me from my adversary!’

“He wouldn’t for a while, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I don’t fear God, nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will defend her, or else she will wear me out by her continual coming.'”

The Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says. Won’t God avenge his elect, who are crying out to him day and night, and yet he exercises patience with them?”

Matthew 6 records Jesus telling us to not be anxious about the future but to rather be prayerful. We also find prayers of thanksgiving in the New Testament as well as prayers of supplication and forgiveness. This prayer in Luke, however, is little different. Here, the widow is directly calling for intervention. Jesus uses this plea to teach that God’s intervention sometimes take time, and God’s time should not discourage our prayer.

The Patient Prayer

Psalm 130:5 – 7:

I wait for Yahweh. My soul waits. I hope in his word. My soul longs for the Lord more than watchmen long for the morning; More than watchmen for the morning. Israel, hope in Yahweh, For with Yahweh there is lovingkindness. With him is abundant redemption.

God’s people often wait on the Lord. Take Hannah in I Samuel chapters 1 and 2 for example. She prayed over and again for a child, but it did not happen right away. Instead, it happened when God was ready, and her child would be one of the great leaders of God’s people. Take Daniel as well, who continued in prayer, even when it was prohibited by law. Despite all circumstances, he continued to pray — even when it looked like it might cost him his life.

The Accepting Prayer

The other side of this is that our prayers for intervention sometimes don’t get the answer we want. In II Corinthians 12:7 – 9, Paul asks for a “thorn of the flesh” to be removed. Paul prayed three times over this, but God says His grace is sufficient. Paul’s prayer did not go unanswered, but the answer was not what he wanted.

So why do we continue in prayer if we know we might have to wait or that we might not get the answer we want? It’s because our prayer life is not transactional; rather it’s relational. We grow closer to God every time we pray. Accepting God’s answers teaches us humility and grace. An active prayer life, especially we have to be patient in prayer, makes us more like Christ, whom we are supposed to imitate.

lesson by Herb Smelser