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What Is the Parable of the Persistent Widow?

What Is the Parable of the Persistent Widow?

How important is prayer to the Christian life? Essential? Unessential? One way to answer is to ask another question. How important is communication to any of our human relationships?

Parents, relatives, friends, coworkers, and every ongoing relationship in our lives requires some form of communication. We exchange greetings, affirmation, gratitude, admonishment, secrets, conflict, and more. Ostensibly, there is no meaningful or lasting relationship devoid of communication. The same is true about our relationship with God. While anyone can say they believe in God, being a Christian involves having a relationship, and in that relationship, we communicate. Prayer is the mode of communication.

Consider significant biblical figures like David, Abraham, Job, and Elijah. These men and others who believed in God had an ongoing relationship with Him. They nurtured that relationship through prayer. If we look at our own lives, when we feel closest to God, communication with Him is regular, not scarce.

Scripture says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

Has there ever been a faithful Christian who did not communicate with God? Is there faith without prayer? Thus, we can conclude that prayer is essential to the Christian life. Without talking to God, how can we claim a belief in Him? And if we believe in Him how could we not pray?

Jesus, during His ministry, spoke a great deal about prayer. One of these instances comes in the form of a parable delivered to the disciples. In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, Jesus spoke about a persistent widow, who through persistence reaped the benefits of her efforts. Jesus shared this parable to teach His disciples a spiritual lesson. Like them, we too can deepen our spiritual lives and grow our relationship with God by reading through the passage.

Let’s first read what the disciples heard, then figure out how to apply those lessons to our own lives.

What Is the Parable of the Persistent Widow?

There are two relevant characters in the Parable of the Persistent Widow, the widow and a corrupt judge. Both of these people lived in a town together. The woman’s spiritual faith is unspecified, and the man’s faith is nonexistent. Scripture is clear that the judge was one “who neither feared God nor cared what people thought” (Luke 18:2). With this apathetic mindset, he dismissed the woman’s problem over and over again. And still, she came to him with the same plea each time. Her request was justice against her “adversary,” someone we never meet in the parable (Luke 18:3).

The time between her requests is not specified in the passage, but however much time passed, she kept coming back to the man with the same exact issue. Eventually, her pleas wore down his apathy and he granted her plea (Luke 18:5).

The short parable ends abruptly and Jesus resurrects the disciples' attention to God. He draws a correlation between the judge and God with a rhetorical question. “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?” (Luke 18:7). Jesus adds that God will undoubtedly deliver justice and do so quickly. Whereas the judge dragged his feet, God won’t. And whereas the judge didn’t want to deliver justice, God does.

Despite being one of the shorter parables spoken by Jesus, there are still worthwhile lessons to examine from the passage and they all speak to our faith.

4 Lessons from the Parable of the Persistent Widow

1. The Nature of Faith
Some people believe in what they can see. Others, namely Christians, choose to believe also in what they cannot see. That’s the nature of faith. Science explains the physical world. Faith explains the spiritual. In the parable, Jesus does not ever explicitly say the widow had faith. However, she reveals a certain type of faith, believing in what she can’t see by continuing to communicate with the judge. His character is presented as apathetic, which may have been very apparent to the woman too. She was not deterred by his mood, nor by his continued refusal to help her. She kept making her plea and eventually reaped the benefits of that. She believed in what she could not see, justice, and that perspective benefited her in the end.

Now let’s consider our own lives. Scripture makes clear that we reap when we don’t faint, that is, give up (Galatians 6:9). The woman’s concern is not even clear, but the specificity isn’t necessary. Her ambiguous struggle is symbolic of our own varied problems. Unlike the judge, God cares about us and hears our cries. Our problems differ but God loves each of us. He knows what situations are significant to our hearts and acts accordingly.

2. Pray Always
If the judge represents a corrupt and human version of God, then the woman definitely represents a more upbeat depiction of our flawed humanity. Jesus doesn’t say the woman berated the judge for dismissing her. Instead, she kept making her plea hoping for change in her life. She communicated in a way that the judge could receive and ultimately changed his heart.

We too are called to pray consistently when we want change to occur in our own lives. Only, in our case, God is the judge. We may pray for a change in our relationships, jobs, health, and the list goes on, but our response to the situation should be the same. God desires to hear from us and to hear from us always.

3. Delay Is Not Denial

Sometimes when we pray for a specific outcome, we become discouraged when what we want doesn’t happen. If we find ourselves waiting after saying a prayer, there’s the potential to grow discouraged. Sometimes the wait early on is easy, but when the wait drags on for weeks, months, or years, doubt can easily set in. And with doubt, we lose faith and trust in God.

However, delay does not always mean denial. Waiting is not necessarily God saying, “No.”

While we pray for certain outcomes, we should also pray for a godly perspective. Sometimes what we want isn’t in touch with God’s will, and sometimes what we want isn’t what we need. The more our perspective aligns with God’s perspective, the less we have to worry about being denied at all. Waiting will simply mean delay.

4. Who Is the Adversary?

A quick read of this parable could lead any reasonable person to conclude that the widow had an issue with another person. Only through closer examination can we ascertain a deeper understanding. The adversary could be another person, but the adversary could be a representation of internal struggles too. Some of us are praying for a change in our own behavior, bad habits, addictions, and new perspectives. Our enemies are not always external. Yet, just as we can trust God to help us handle threats outside of ourselves, He’s willing to help us solve our internal struggles too.

The relationships we cherish the most are the ones we invest in. They’re the people we choose to communicate with on some sort of continual basis. If we desire closeness with God, we have to take the same approach. And if He is to be our first love, we have to invest in Him even more than the people in our lives.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow reminds us that God wants to hear from us, the good, the bad, the ugly. He wants to hear from us every day. We simply have to make the decision to reach out to Him and speak. He’s ready to listen.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Oleksandr Yakoniuk

headshot of author Aaron BrownAaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”