Jesus loved to tell a story, sometimes a simple short story with a clear meaning. At other times a deeper message is hidden within descriptions of familiar sights and events. Jesus didn’t actually teach much about prayer – He prayed, alone, and in the company of His disciples. But in the gospel of Luke there are, not one but, two parables about persevering in prayer. The context and the application of the stories are different so what is so important about persistence in prayer?
The Persistent Friend Parable
This story, found in Luke chapter 11, is set in the context of friendship, in familiar and caring relationships. In Jesus’ culture hospitality was very important. This was particularly so for travellers, who were vulnerable when far from home and family.
But in the story it is not a stranger who arrives late at night, but a friend who is on a journey. The householder is unprepared, possibly this visit was unexpected. He has nothing to offer his guest, not even the simplest of meals with a loaf of bread. What does he do? He turns immediately to his neighbor, who is also a good friend.
The householder is confident that his neighbor will help him out. His friend ‘next door’ will not allow him to be embarrassed by having nothing to offer a tired and weary guest. He calls on his neighbor even though it is midnight because his need is greater than his concern about disturbing his friend.
The neighbor, however, is already in bed. His door is locked, and his family are asleep. He does not want to be disturbed, and even though he has bread, initially he refuses to respond. He tells his friend to go away…
Jesus makes the point that if the friend persists, the neighbor, who has heard the request, will eventually get up and give him as much as he needs! Not just because of their friendship but because of the audacity of the one asking!
What lesson do we learn from the parable of the friend at midnight?
The first lesson we learn from this short parable about friendship is that our lives flow through relationships. For we were created to be intentionally present with God, and for one another. But relationships make inconvenient demands that don’t always fit in with our plans. And how we respond reflects the depth of the relationship…
But Jesus is teaching about far more than just good friendships. He is speaking about confidence, boldness even, and persistence in prayer. The foundation of prayer is relational, developing our knowledge and understanding of our Heavenly Father. And that God responds to our faith in asking, in persisting, and that He answers our prayers.
The persistence in prayer here is intensely personal and goes beyond God supplying our daily needs. The man’s reputation as a host, as well as a friend, was at stake. God cares for the honor and right standing of His people, and He will provide all that we need so that we are able to bless others!
“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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks the door will be opened.”Luke 11:9-10
Persistent Widow Parable
Jesus tells a second story about persistence in prayer to His disciples. This followed a conversation, prompted by the Pharisees asking when the kingdom of God would come. Jesus replied that the kingdom of God is not coming in a clear and visible way because the kingdom of God is already here! It is among us.
Jesus was opening the way to a story, this time impersonal, set-in officialdom. This is the environment of process, of procedures, intended to uphold righteousness and justice for everyone. In Jesus’ story, there is a judge who is failing to uphold his office – he doesn’t care about justice. This judge has no fear of God or the desire to help the vulnerable. He doesn’t show any concern or care about what people think.
Jesus tells of a widow, living in the same town as this judge, who came to the judge with a plea. She is one of the most vulnerable groups of people in Jesus’ culture. This widow was looking for justice, for help against an adversary, and had no one else to turn to. She sought help from the person, and at the place, where she would have expected to receive help.
But, for some time the judge refused to consider her case. Eventually, because she would not give up but kept on bothering him, the judge took up her cause. He responded primarily to get her off his back, but he saw to it that she received justice. With persistence, the widow won her case.
“And 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. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”Luke 18:6-8
The parable of the persistent widow reflection
This parable comes in the context of a discussion about the kingdom of God. For those who are looking for God’s kingdom to rule and reign on earth there is a reminder to always pray and not to give up.
There are difficult times when we can start to feel overwhelmed by the suffering that we see in the world and long for Jesus’ return. But Jesus is teaching here that we are not to lose heart – we are to trust in the righteousness and justice of God.
When God seems to be silent and when our prayers appear to be unanswered, we keep on persevering in faith. We strengthen ourselves through the promises of God’s word and through prayer. This is the time to remember the goodness of God and that His timing is always perfect!
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”2 Peter 3:9
What Does Jesus Teach Us About Prayer?
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray and in Luke chapter eleven, there is a shortened version of the ‘Lord’s prayer.’ Jesus taught His disciples this model prayer, in Matthew’s gospel it is made up of six petitions, here in Luke it is five simple requests.
Persistence in prayer
Luke then goes on to record a short parable about friendship as part of Jesus’ teaching on prayer. Jesus is urging us to be bold and persistent in prayer, and not to give up. If at first we don’t get a response, we are to keep on, asking, seeking, and knocking. God hears and answers our prayers and in His perfect timing, He will provide all that we need!
The second story of Jesus’ teaching about persistence in prayer deals with discouragement. Prayer is not an interlude, a moment to escape, but a daily necessity for our faith. To live a life of faith, immersed in prayer, is to be consistent and not give up through the reality of our struggles.
We are living in the privilege of God’s kingdom now and looking forward to the fulfilment of His future kingdom. Our perseverance and persistence in prayer is not a stubborn refusal to change but a practice of positioning ourselves before God. Sometimes our starting point in prayer shifts and changes, as we attune ourselves to God’s will, as our desires become His desire for us.
Perseverance and persistence in prayer is not a stubborn refusal to change, but a practice of positioning ourselves before God to allow His change to work in and through us.Tweet
There will always be lifelong prayers because prayer is lifelong – true faith not only starts well but finishes well. In His teaching on prayer, Jesus is warning that perseverance is required. Don’t lose heart, and don’t give up, God is able to provide for all of our needs today and He is faithfully working for our future!
Related Post: Praying for our Children – 7 Pointers for Persistence.