We all face quitting points in life. The question is: What do you do when you are tempted to lose heart? How should you respond when your faith begins to faint? Is there any counsel from the Lord to face those times when you feel like giving up?
The answer appears in Luke’s introduction to Jesus’ parable: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Did you hear the answer in the words of that verse? Prayer is the remedy for discouragement. Period. You should pray when you begin to lose heart. This is not a recommendation. It is not a suggestion that you can accept or reject at your discretion. It is not optional. The call to prayer is a moral imperative. “They ought always to pray,” Luke says. It is wrong to give up at life’s quitting points. You must pray your way through.
Of course, this is not an easy thing to do. Such diligence requires more than sporadic, halfhearted, or reactionary prayer. You ought always to pray. You are to continue steadfastly in prayer. You ought to pray until something happens. Diligence defeats discouragement. Continual prayer will keep you from losing heart. Persistent prayer revives the fainting heart. This is why 1 Thessalonians 5:17 exhorts us to “pray without ceasing.” What does this mean? Does it mean that you should do nothing but pray? No. It means that you are to do nothing without prayer. Don’t take a step without prayer. Don’t make a decision without prayer. Don’t take a step without prayer. Don’t take action without prayer. You ought to always pray and not lose heart.
Jesus illustrates the priority and power of prayer with another parable recorded in Luke 18:2–5:
In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city that kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’
This intriguing little parable has two main characters. First there is a judge, whom Jesus describes as a man “who neither feared God nor respected man.” What a stinging indictment! This expression tells us that this man was morally unfit to be a judge. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” teaches Proverbs 1:7; “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” As one who did not fear God, how could this man properly administer the law of God?
There are many people today who think one’s theology can be separated from one’s ethics. In fact, many people act as if the two should never be joined together! But Jesus married the two by telling us that this crooked judge’s lack of reverence for God corresponded with his lack of respect for people. I’ve often heard the statement “I couldn’t care less” thrown around by those who don’t really mean it. But it was actually the life philosophy of this judge. He literally couldn’t care less about God or anyone else. He was a heartless, wicked man whose every verdict was purely motivated by his crooked self-interests.
The other main character of the parable is a widow. And Jesus goes out of His way to describe her in desperate terms. First, she was a woman who lived in the highly chauvinistic culture of the ancient Near East. In a real sense, she had no personal rights. Her existence was tied to men in her life.
Likewise, she was a widow whose position, provision, and protection were all snatched away from her by the death of her husband. And, apparently, she didn’t have a father, son, brother, or anyone else to speak up on her behalf.
Furthermore, this poor woman had an adversary who she could not handle on her own. This most likely means that she was entangled in a financial dispute with some man who was taking advantage of her.
Worst of all, this helpless, desperate widow happened to live under the jurisdiction of this unscrupulous judge who neither feared God nor respected people.
So when this desperate loser went to this heartless winner for justice, he flatly refused to help her. Under normal circumstances, this would have been the end of the matter—leaving the widow helpless and hopeless. But the irony of this parable is that the loser wins. This widow did not have the power to force the judge to hear her case. She did not have any powerful connections to influence him. And she did not have any money to bribe him. But this widow did have something she could use to convince the judge to change his mind. In a word, she had persistence.
Imagine the scene. The widow came to the judge’s office, seeking justice against her adversary. The judge doesn’t just refuse to help; he demeans her and kicks her out. The nerve of such a nobody to think he would act on her behalf! He then gets back to work, plotting further crooked schemes, never expecting to see or hear from this widow again. But when he leaves the office for lunch, there she is, asking for justice. When he returns, she is still there asking for justice. At the end of the day, she follows him home, asking for justice. And when he leaves for work the next day, there she is asking for justice. Unfortunately for this judge, he can’t just issue a restraining order against this widow to make her leave him alone. So she keeps bothering him.
Finally, her punishing persistence wears him down and he agrees to hear her case and render justice. Can you hear him? “Will someone please help this old lady, before she knocks me out with unrelenting persistence!”
This is the parable Jesus tells to make the point that His disciples ought always to pray and not lose heart. Prayer is the remedy for discouragement. Persistent prayer revives the fainting heart.
H. B. Charles Jr., It Happens after Prayer: Biblical Motivation for Believing Prayer (Chicago, IL: Lift Every Voice, 2013).
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