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Luke 18:1-18:8
Key Verse: 18:7a

Thank God that the kingdom of God is within us and that this kingdom of God will be visible to all people of the world at the time of the Lord Jesus’ second coming. We pray that we may live as his disciples following the life pattern of Christ against the pattern of this world. Today’s passage is Jesus’ parable concerning prayer, particularly persistent prayer, and his agony, anticipating faithlessness on the earth at the time of his return. He wants us to be spiritually awake and alive through prayer in view of his return and the faithless world. In this study may we learn how our Lord Jesus wants us to pray.

First, never-giving up in prayer (1). Look at verse 1. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” The word, “then”, indicates that this passage is related to the previous passage. Jesus wanted his disciples to be praying people at his second coming. At his first coming, although the world was dark, there were waiting and praying people like Simeon and Anna (Lk 2:25, 26).

When we try to do good, there are difficulties. So Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Doing good can involve many things. Definitely prayer is one good thing. God’s people are those who pray. But there can be times we lose heart and give up praying. Especially, when our prayer does not seem to be answered, it is easy to give up. But our Lord Jesus wants us to always pray and not give up. Jesus had already mentioned this attitude of prayer to his disciples in Luke chapter 11. A man came to his friend’s house at night and asked for three loaves of bread, because another friend of his came to visit him at night and he had nothing to give. According to Jesus, the friend inside would not give because of the friendship, but because of the man’s boldness or persistence. And then Jesus said, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seek finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Lk 11:5-10). Luke 1 tells about the prayer of Zechariah, a priest. He prayed for a son throughout his life, until he became very old. Finally the answer came from heaven, “Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (Lk 1:13).

Another excellent example regarding never-giving up prayer is Isaac. He prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. Isaac married at the age of forty and was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to her twin sons (25:20-21,26). So Isaac prayed for nearly twenty years when his wife was barren. Indeed he was a man of persistent prayer. We cannot forget Abraham’s persistent prayer in Genesis 18. He prayed for the people of Sodom the day previous to the destruction of the Sodom. He began, praying, “If there were fifty righteous people, will you really sweep away the city and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? He prayed, bargaining with God five times (18:23-33), until the number of the righteous reduced to 45, 40, 30, 20 and finally 10. God heard his intercessory prayer and rescued Lot (19:29) Beginning in 1844, George Muller (1805-1898) prayed for the salvation of five individuals. One was converted after eighteen months, the second, after five years, and the third, after six years. However, the other two remained unconverted. In an interview towards the close of his life George Muller said, “I have been praying every day for fifty-two years for two men, sons of a friend of my youth. They are not converted yet, but they will be! How can it be otherwise?” Then within months of his passing, the last friend on his prayer list was converted. We remember the mother of St. Augustine, Monica (331-387). Augustine wasn’t always a saint. In his youth he was a promiscuous young man, as well as a member of an agnostic cult. His mother, a devout Christian, prayed for him 30 years. There was a time of despair. But she accepted the advice of a bishop, “…it is impossible that the son of these tears should perish” and prayed, not giving up. God heard her prayer. God led him to meet St. Ambrose in Rome, whose message and life influenced him. He was converted by the words of Romans 13:13-14. He was baptized in 387, and she saw his baptism and breathed her last in that year.

In Luke 18:1, Jesus said that his disciples should always pray and not give up. Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:12, “…Be faithful in prayer,” and in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray continually.” So not giving up, faithfulness and continuation is an important characteristic of prayer.

Second, unjust judge and righteous God (2-8a). We can always pray, not giving up, when we know who God is. In order to help his disciple to know who God is, Jesus told them a parable. Look at verses 2-5. “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!”’” In this parable the judge was godless, having no fear of God, and merciless, having no care of men. Yet, as a judge he was in a position of power and authority. On the contrary, the widow had no human power and merit. Yet, she had an adversary, probably formidable opponent. She felt totally helpless not knowing what to do. However, she had one strength. That was her persistency. It was her weapon. With that she went to the judge with her plea for justice: “Grant me justice against my adversary.” Perhaps her property was forcefully taken away or her husband was killed unjustly. She went to the judge, not just one time but repeatedly and countlessly. We can imagine that she went to the judge wherever he went, even to the place where he was having lunch, and even to his vacation spot. The judge was so bothered with her nonstop coming that he felt he would eventually be worn out (“beaten down” in ESV; “beaten black and blue by her pounding” in MSG). Most probably by this point, the judge would be almost scared at the widow's appearance. It is stressed that the judge neither feared God nor cared about men. It was likely that no one scared him nor moved his heart. But in the end the widow’s continual and persistent coming won over the godless and cruel judge.

After telling the parable 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.” Here Jesus compared the unjust judge and God, who is just and righteous. How can such a comparison be possible? This comparison would be a humiliation to God. Yet, Jesus used this comparison strikingly so that his disciples would know that God is much better than the unjust judge in terms of hearing the plea of his people. And in Luke 11, Jesus compared God our Father in heaven with evil human fathers in regard to giving good gifts to the children. He said to his disciples, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven…” (11:13; Mt 7:11). Jesus uses such expressions to stress who God is. Here, if the unjust and merciless judge can give justice to the helpless unknown widow when she persistently pleaded with him, how much more will our Father in heaven give justice to his chosen ones? In this kind of expression, we can see Jesus’ earnest heart for his disciples to somehow know who God is.

God our Father is absolutely good, while all human fathers are evil in God’s sight. He is willing to give good gifts to their children. According to James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…”

Here Jesus said, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” Obviously, the answer is “Yes, he will.” He will bring about justice, for he is a just and righteous God. At the same time he is a merciful God. Luke 1:50 says, “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.”

As for the judge, the reason he had to give justice to the widow was that he might not be bothered anymore and become worn out. He is a limited selfish human being. But our God is different. He is limitless and sacrificial. He is not bothered by his children’ coming at all, even with their endless coming. He will not be worn out by their coming. Rather, the more they come, the happier he is. As for him there is no such a thing as lacking. He is rich and abundant. He is abounding in love and compassion and power and in every good thing.

We see that the judge granted justice to the widow reluctantly and gave it at the last moment. But our God brings about justice for his children willingly and quickly. He does not need to keep putting them off. He does not need to delay even one day. If he delays answering our prayers, there is a clear reason and it is for our sake. He gave Abraham a son 25 years after his life of faith so that he might be trained and refined in faith to be a father of many nations. His delay has a divine purpose.

We thank our God who is far above the unjust judge. He is righteous and merciful. He is sacrificial and limitless. He is willing and quick to answer the prayer of his people.

Third, rare faith on the earth at his coming (8b). Look at verse 8b. “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” As we previously considered, our God is good and righteous and more than willing to answer the prayer of his children. And those who have faith can pray. But Jesus’ question and agony is “Will there be any praying people when he comes again? God’s chosen ones are supposed to cry out to him for justice day and night out of their faith. According to Jesus such people will be very rare at his coming.

We know that before his first coming was a time of spiritual darkness, for around 300 years. No prophet appeared and so no word of God was heard. Yet, as we noted, there were a few waiting and praying people. Sadly, at his second coming, there will not be many people who have faith and pray. But we ask God for his mercy that we may be found among those who have faith on the earth and pray at the time of his coming again.

Who can cry out to God day and night? Those whose hearts are committed to God can pray like that. In the last days people’s hearts can be dragged and distracted by many visible and enjoyable things of the world in human-centredness. We need to fight against his trend and strive to seek God and have time with God and commit our hearts to him.

Again, who can cry out to God day and night? Certainly, those who have desperate and clear prayer topics can do so. In Luke 2, Simeon could not die until he could see the Lord’s Christ in the baby Jesus (2:26). He had such a longing and prayer. When he finally saw the Christ taking the baby Jesus in his arms, he could say, “Sovereign Lord…you now dismiss your servant in peace” (Lk 2:29). In today’s passage it is interesting to see the words, “justice” written four times and “adversary.” The widow’s plea was, “Grant me justice against my adversary” and the judge said, “…I will see that she gets justice…” The Lord Jesus said, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?...He will see that they get justice.” Certainly our adversary is Satan, the devil (1 Pe 5:8). Then what is justice? Justice is what is right. And the opposite of justice is injustice. Injustice is rampant in human society. But the great injustice is Satan’s ruling mankind who are created in the image of God. They are God’s, but Satan rules them as if they are his own. This is indeed the greatest injustice. Then what is justice? It is God’s rule, his kingdom. We remember in the Lord’s prayer, “Your kingdom come” (Lk 11:2b). This is a right prayer topic. When our children are trampled under the power of Satan, it is unjust. We cannot be silent in that injustice but are to cry out to God for justice, his salvation and his rule and his kingdom to come. When Satan attempts to destroy God’s people and his church, we cannot be silent. We should have spiritual anger against our adversary and cry out to God for justice. When God’s flock of sheep are vulnerable to the evil one, we are to cry out to God for justice, his protection. Many freshmen are coming to U of T. We see that Satan wants to claim them as his own. Then they will suffer terribly under the grip of Satan through all their university years. This is injustice. So we need to cry out for justice for them. As a part of it, we want to participate in club day so that we can invite some to Bible study for God’s kingdom to come to them. It is fighting against our adversary.

In Revelation, John saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (6:9). Surely, God heard such prayer. In our times there are such people of great faith. As we cry out to God for justice, we can join them. When we began the new decade in 2011, we held a clear prayer topic that God might raise up 12 shepherd families in U of T campus pioneering by 2020. This prayer topic was none other than to get justice, that is, for God’s kingdom to come in U of T. We thank God that he is going to establish the first shepherd family at his time, which can be followed by other shepherd families. Also, when we moved into this new place, we prayed that God might fill this nice, spacious, and expensive center with his flock of sheep through 50 Sunday worship attendants and 70 1:1, based on the Lord’s prayer, “Your kingdom come.” This prayer topic is also to get justice against our adversary Satan. I believe that God has been hearing our prayers. Personally, I keep praying that I may study the whole Bible as my own and grow as a servant of God’s word and messenger and serve the ministry of God’s word in this land. My point is that each one of us need a clear prayer topic in light of God’s justice so that we can cry out to God for the justice day and night. Paulina is going to study the law at University of Weston Ontario in London from this fall and become a lawyer. The study is to know justice and get justice for people. She feels difficulty in studying human law which is human-centred and corrupt. But God may help Paulina to be able to cry out to God for justice, that is, God’s kingdom to come into the hearts of people one by one, so that all her study be meaningful and useful to God for his greater purpose.

May God help us to be found as praying people in this faithless and prayerless time at the Lord Jesus’ coming again. Lord, help us to always pray and not give up, crying out to you day and night for justice against our adversary, “your kingdom come.”

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