“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;” (Luke 18:1)
Parables were a frequent teaching tool of Jesus Christ. He used them to unpack deep and powerful truths about the kingdom and will of God in language that everyone could understand. Interpreting and applying the parables is a critical part of seeing how the Scriptures can be lived out in our daily lives.
#1 Rare Application of a Parable
As Jesus continued to rise in popularity and appeal with the crowds, He began to increasingly use parables in His sermons and lessons (Mark 4:33-34). Then, later on, He would explain the meaning of His parables to the twelve disciples (Matthew 13:10, 18). He did this to fulfill prophecies made in the Old Testament concerning Himself, and to show the truth of God to those who would not otherwise accept it (Matthew 13:13-15).
There are rare examples when the meaning of a parable is given; for example, He gives the parable of the sower and the seed to the people, then gives the explanation and interpretation to His disciples (Matthew 13:1-23). In general, however, we are left to interpret the Scriptures on our own. We have strong foundations based on the collective ministry of Jesus to arrive at sound conclusions as to their meaning, but they are meant to be a mechanism for our wrestling with the will of God. The goal of meditating upon these passages is to arrive at a lesson we can learn and apply to our lives.
This parable, about a persistent widow, is prefaced with the meaning before Jesus even begins to speak (Luke 18:1). In this way, the application is the parable is specific and obvious.
#2 Requesting Advocacy from Power
In the parable, a poor woman goes before the town judge to plead for justice on her behalf (Luke 18:3). She repeatedly brought her suit before this magistrate, who did not have a strong affinity for justice or respect for God’s authority (Luke 18:2). However, this woman was persistent in demanding that her case be given a fair trial. Finally, exhausted by her pestering, the judge gives her whatever she wants so that she will leave him alone (Luke 18:5).
Jesus then draws the line between human justice and divine justice. If people who hate us may give us what we want in order to appease us, how much more would God show us favor out of His abundant love (Luke 18:7)? The key is to remain persistent in our prayers.
The key to the lesson is in the persistence. If we continually seek God’s face, He will grant us the desires of our heart (Matthew 7:7-8).
#3 Rejection and Arrogance vs. Perfection
Jesus drives this point home further by pointing to the responses of the unjust judge (Luke 18:6). He is very careful to show that he is not a righteous man, and is not interested in doing what is right or in having compassion on others. But the woman is faithful to keep demanding what is right, and her persistence pays off.
The parable presents a “lesser to greater” argument, which is used by other New Testament writers. In Luke 11:11-13, Jesus observes that human parents desire to give good gifts to their children, and confirms that it is even more true of God. This follows a logical line from a “lesser” truth to a “greater” application of that truth.
Romans 5:9-10 is another example of this kind of logic. In these verses, Paul draws a link between our redeemed status and God’s grace. We are redeemed from sin while we were enemies of God, opposed to him by our sinful nature; that redemption is even more powerful and valid once we have turned back to Him and are restored to a right relationship with Him. It also shows that we can be saved to eternal life, and that salvation is even more powerful to rescue us from eternal punishment.
#4 Redemption Always Provided
The issue of redemption is paramount in this lesson of Jesus. Jesus says that God is sure to look with favor upon those He loves (Luke 18:7), using the term “elect” to refer to believers that are saved through faith in Christ. God promises to receive all those who believe in Him (John 1:12) and the power of His free gift of salvation.
Again, the line between humanity and God is clear: if an unjust judge will eventually cave to a petition for justice from the widow, how much more will God come to the rescue of those that continually pray to Him? Our persistent prayers show that we have devoted our hearts to God’s provision, and that we seek Him to find the source and direction of our lives (John 6:68-69). God will be faithful to care for us because His love and faithfulness are perfect and all-sufficient for us.
One prayer is not enough; we are called to continually bring our requests to God with boldness and confidence (1 John 3:21-22). The spirit of the phrase “ask and it will be given to you” is the sense that we should not just ask and leave it alone, but to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. If we are as persistent as the widow in this parable to seek the goodness of God, we can be assured that He will answer and provide for us.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.