That Jesus had to tell this parable is quite revealing. He knew that his disciples would face this very temptation. The temptation to not always pray, but instead to give up.
We can find plenty of reasons to give up praying. Failing faith, tiredness, spiritual apathy, lack of time, the constant struggle to stay focused and be disciplined.
But the parable Jesus tells suggests that he has one particular reason in mind. That sense of frustration because God doesn’t seem to be answering my prayers. Or that perhaps he doesn’t even care and isn’t moved by my concerns.
In his story, a persistent widow keeps coming to this unjust judge, who neither fears God nor has any respect for his fellow human beings. No wonder Jesus describes him as unrighteous. He clearly lacks the character and integrity you’d want to see in a judge. Your heart would sink if you were up before him in a court of law. What hope would you have of a fair hearing and a just ruling?
And yet surprisingly this ungodly, disrespectful judge eventually grants justice to the persistent widow. Not because he’s suddenly gained a conscience or got converted. But rather because the widow “keeps bothering” him and “so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.” (Luke 18:5)
Clearly this is a compare and contrast kind of parable. And the contrast is a powerful one:
“Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 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.” (Luke 18:6-8)
If this widow didn’t give up and in the end got justice even from the wicked judge. If she persevered even though on a human level she had zero hope of finding justice. Well, why on earth would we ever give up praying to the sovereign God of the whole universe, the one who has righteousness and justice as the very foundation of his throne? (Psalm 89:14)
We’d be utterly foolish to stop praying to that kind of God, wouldn’t we? To think that he isn’t concerned about his children’s needs?
“Nevertheless”, concludes Jesus, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” That is, will he find us always praying or will we already have given up?