Keep on Praying
Never Give Up
By David Feddes
Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1
Judge Harold Harding glanced at his watch. He had been in the courtroom for hours, and he was eager to leave and play golf. Judge Harding was a fanatical golfer. It was a beautiful day, and it would be a shame not to play. He looked at his schedule: just one case left. If he finished it quickly, he’d be plenty early to play eighteen holes with his pals. Then he’d enjoy steak and some wine and spend the night with the woman he’d been seeing lately.
As it turned out, the last case took even less time than Judge Harding figured. A woman in a faded dress stood up and started talking. She had a squeaky voice and a heavy accent. She said her name was Gloria Gomez. The judge interrupted her: “Why are you talking? Where’s your attorney?”
The woman looked at the floor. “I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “I have no job, and my husband was killed in an accident. I do not have money to pay a lawyer.”
The judge glanced over to the other side of the courtroom. Opposite Mrs. Gomez sat three lawyers in expensive suits. Judge Harding knew them all. They were high-powered lawyers for a giant corporation. The head of the corporation was someone who had golfed with the judge many times. Judge Harding chuckled to himself. One poor woman without a lawyer against all the prestige and power of a great corporation. This wouldn’t take long.
The woman said, “Sir, this company hired me to work in their main building, vacuuming floors and cleaning windows. I was cleaning the boss’s office one day when he said something dirty and started to grab at me. I screamed and ran out of the room. The next day I got fired. They didn’t even pay me for my last two weeks of work—just told me to leave and not come back. I want the money I earned, and I also want my job back. If anybody should get fired, it’s the man who treated me that way.”
At that point, one of the company’s well-groomed lawyers stood up to say something, but before he could say a word, Judge Harding spoke: “Lady, from the sound of it, you’re just trying to grab some money and ruin the good name of a prominent citizen. Don’t bother this court unless you have a real case.” He banged his gavel. “Court is adjourned.” With that the judge left and set out to enjoy himself on the golf course.
He was at the first tee, just getting ready to hit the ball, when a voice squeaked, “I want justice.” There stood Gloria Gomez, her hands on her hips, glaring at the judge. He glared back at her for a moment, then pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and called security to escort her away.
The next day, Judge Harding was relaxing and sipping wine in his favorite restaurant when he again heard that same, irritating voice. Mrs. Gomez was right behind him. “It’s not right what happened,” she said, “I want justice. It’s your duty before God to do the right thing.”
“Hey, woman,” the judge growled. “Is this a church? I don’t believe in God or care what he thinks. Now leave me alone!”
The following night the judge was walking down the sidewalk outside his girlfriend’s apartment. Suddenly the widow Gomez was standing in front of him. “Judge, when are you going to give me a fair hearing? I want justice. If you don’t help me, then I don’t think you’re fit to be a judge.”
“I don’t care what you think,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody thinks. I’m the judge, and if you don’t like my decision, too bad! You can’t do anything about it.”
But this poor, young widow wouldn’t give up. She kept after Judge Harding. No matter where he went, no matter what he did, there was Gloria Gomez, demanding justice. Judge Harding thought about seeking a restraining order to keep her away from him, but that might raise questions. He himself might end up getting in trouble for handling Mrs. Gomez’s case so badly. Finally he said to himself, “I’ve got to do something. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I guess I’ll just have to give this whining widow what she wants. Otherwise, she’s going to ruin my life.”
So Judge Harding finally gave Gloria Gomez her day in court. He even went out of his way to make sure everything was handled fairly. The widow got her job back, plus the money she was owed. The man who assaulted her and fired her got into a lot of trouble. The rotten judge who cared about neither God nor man, who loved golf more than justice, ended up doing the right thing in spite of himself.
A Shocking Comparison
That’s my version of a story Jesus once told about an unjust judge and a widow who kept bothering him until she got justice. Jesus’ story is interesting, and it gets downright shocking when we find out how Jesus uses it. He doesn’t use it as an example of what can go wrong with the court system, or as an inspiring story of how sometimes even an underdog can get justice. No, Jesus uses the story to compare praying to God with seeking justice from an unjust judge! Think of it! Do you know any preacher who would use a bad judge to teach something about God? And yet Jesus does it.
How could Jesus make such a comparison? Well, Jesus has a knack for knowing exactly how we think, and he knows how to put his finger right on it. Sometimes our thoughts about God are so dark, and our fears about him run so deep, that we hardly dare to say what we’re thinking. But Jesus says it for us.
Go ahead, admit it: sometimes the Lord seems like an unjust judge. He doesn’t seem fair. He doesn’t seem to care. We pray for him to help us, but he doesn’t do what we ask. Jesus knows how discouraging that can be. He knows there are times when we feel like just giving up on God and not praying to him anymore. So Jesus bends down to our level. He says that if even a rotten judge sets things right when someone bothers him enough, then surely God will come through in the end. So always keep praying, and never give up. Ask the Judge. Ask him again. Ask him again. And again. And again. Never, never, never give up. As you ask, keep believing that God will indeed make things right. Keep believing. Keep praying. God is mysterious; his ways are not our ways; his timing doesn’t fit our timing. But you may be sure that God answers prayer and that in the end he will set all things right. Listen to what the Bible says in Luke 18.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 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!’”
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?”
It’s as if Jesus is telling us: I know you’re tempted to have misgivings about God when prayers go unanswered, when bad things happen to people who trust God, when good things happen to people who despise God, when the promised day of justice and joy seems as far away as ever. I know it’s hard, and I take your misgivings seriously—so seriously that I’ll even tell a story in which the God character is an unjust judge.
Even a rotten judge comes through, says Jesus, if you nag him enough. If ordinary nagging can get results, how much more the supernatural power of prayer! If even an unjust judge ends up doing the right thing for a stranger he cares nothing about, how much more will a just and loving God do the right thing for people who are chosen and precious to him! What a tremendous encouragement to keep praying and never give up!
Which People? Which Prayers?
Notice that Jesus doesn’t promise that every prayer of every person will get results. He says that a particular kind of prayer from a particular kind of people will get results. The kind of people God promises to answer are his chosen ones, and the kind of prayers God promises to answer our prayers for justice.
Jesus doesn’t promise that God will answer everybody’s prayers; Jesus promises that God will answer the prayers of his chosen ones. Who are God’s chosen ones? Those God saves and adopts into his family through faith in Jesus Christ. If you remain in rebellion against God, you can’t count on God answering your prayers. You must repent, put your faith in Jesus, commit your life to following him, and become part of God’s chosen community, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then you can be sure that God will answer your prayers.
Which prayers will the Lord answer? Not all of them. Jesus doesn’t say that God will answer every prayer if only we keep after him. Jesus promises that God will answer every prayer for justice. We can’t be certain that God will give us every luxury we want, but we can be sure that God will do justice and make things right in answer to our prayers. So never give up on justice. Never give up on things turning out right in the end. Never give up on God. Believe Jesus when he says, “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.”
Once Jesus has made this clear, however, he still isn’t finished. He has one more thing to say. When Jesus compares prayer to nagging an unjust judge and promises that prayers for justice will be answered, he deals with our questions about God. But he ends by asking God’s question about us: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” There’s no question at all that God will bring justice. The only question is whether we will have faith. When Christ comes again to establish God’s ultimate justice, will we be ready? Will Christ find faith on the earth when he comes to reign?
With that question, Jesus confronts us with something he was talking about shortly before he told the story of the unjust judge. He was talking about the day when he would come in splendor to judge the world. Jesus warned that before that day came, his followers would face many tough times. In their troubles they would long for his coming—and yet not see it happen. There would be a strong temptation to fall into one of two errors: either gullibility or unbelief. Some people, in their eagerness for the Messiah’s coming, might be gullible enough to believe any rumor about a phony messiah. Others, in their disappointment over the delay of his coming, might become unbelieving enough to think that there is no messiah, no savior at all. Gullibility or unbelief—both are dangerous, and the only alternative to these errors is prayerful faith in Jesus.
Gullibility is a serious danger if you’re eager for someone to come and set everything right on earth. If you’re not focused on Jesus, you’ll believe almost anything. You may believe a preacher who claims to be another embodiment of Jesus, or a rabbi whose followers say he’s the messiah, or a guru who is supposedly the latest reincarnation of the Christ spirit, or a politician who claims the ability to create a people’s paradise here on earth. Don’t be fooled. Jesus says in Luke 17, “Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running after them” (Luke 17:23).
Jesus says that when the true Messiah comes to administer justice, you won’t have to wonder whether he’s for real. There will be no doubt. The returning Messiah will be as dazzling and obvious as “lightning which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other” (Luke 17:24). Meanwhile, until Jesus returns, keep believing, keep praying for that great day, and never give up. Don’t let wishful thinking make you fall for every cult, smooth talker, or strange event. Don’t be gullible.
In avoiding gullibility, however, make sure you don’t go to the opposite extreme and fall into unbelief. In rejecting all the phony messiahs, don’t reject the true Messiah. If you’ve heard a lot of religious leaders and political figures make false claims, you might be tempted to be totally skeptical of any religion and any hope for a better future. You might think that Jesus isn’t coming back at all, and you might think that prayer doesn’t change anything. You might give up on God completely. Then again, you might not reject Christ so directly, and you still claim to believe something. But though you claim to be a Christian, if in practice you give up praying, give up seeking justice, and stop looking for the Lord to intervene, you are living in unbelief.
Jesus warned that this would happen to many. They would focus on eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, buying and selling, planting and building—no faith, no prayer, no expectation of Jesus to return, just the stuff of everyday life. Such a life of unbelief leaves people completely unprepared to meet Jesus.
It was after saying these things that Jesus told the story of the unjust judge and the persistent widow. He did this to show us that instead of being gullible, instead of living in unbelief, we should “always pray and not give up.” Ask the divine judge to establish justice and make all things right, and don’t stop asking until he does it. And make no mistake: he will do it. The Lord’s justice is sure, and his coming will be swift and sudden.
You may have many questions about God, but the Lord has this question for you: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Will he find faith in you? When Jesus returns to earth in power and glory, accompanied by his angels, will he find you praying and trusting and watching for him? Jesus says, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).
Thy Kingdom Come
Over and over, Jesus shows that if you have a living faith, you will look eagerly for his second coming and you will keep praying and never give up. Maybe you’ve never seen the connection between constant prayer and eagerness for Jesus’ second coming. But think about it. In the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught as our model for praying, what are the first things Jesus tells us to ask for? “Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When will those requests receive a full answer? Only when Jesus comes again. Only then will God’s name be completely vindicated and hallowed. Only then will God’s kingdom come in its fullness. Only then will God’s holy will be done as perfectly on earth as it is in heaven. The first half of the Lord’s Prayer, then, is not only a call for God to make these things more of a reality right now, but it’s a plea for God to hasten the day when Jesus brings it all to completion.
The second half of the Lord’s Prayer is also related to Jesus’ second coming. How can we make it to the final day and be ready for it? Only through God’s daily care, his forgiving power, and his deliverance from Satan’s traps. That’s why Jesus teaches us to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:11-13). Provision for the day, loving forgiveness, and deliverance from evil are what we need in order to keep going and make it safely to our destination and be strong in faith till Jesus comes.
There may be times when you say the Lord’s Prayer without even thinking about it. You may just rattle off the words. But in reality the Lord’s Prayer is an urgent request for our heavenly Father and Judge to bring history to its final destination and for him to strengthen our faith until that day comes. A heartfelt desire for the Lord’s coming and a healthy prayer life—these go together. Never give up on Jesus’ coming again, and never give up praying.
In prayer we ask the judge to bring the final day of reckoning and re-creation, and in prayer we ask for signs and tastes of that justice and joy even now. Until Jesus comes, some of our day-to-day prayers will be answered, and others will go unanswered. Either way, don’t give up. Don’t stop praying.
If God answers a particular prayer, you might be tempted to stop praying because now you got what you wanted. But don’t stop praying just because one request was answered. Pray for even bigger things. Pray especially for the biggest thing of all, the return of Christ and the reign of God’s justice. No matter how many of your prayers are answered, don’t be fully satisfied. Be grateful, yes, but don’t be satisfied, and don’t stop praying until Jesus returns and God’s kingdom comes in its fullness. Answered prayer is not a reason to stop praying; it’s an encouragement to pray more than ever.
But what about those times when God doesn’t answer one of your requests? Well, don’t stop praying just because you didn’t get what you wanted. Instead, redouble your prayers. Don’t think unanswered prayer means that God is unfair, or that he doesn’t care, or that he’s unable to help you. As Jesus said, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” He will indeed. Some prayers he answers almost before you ask. Others he answers only after persistent prayer over a long period of time. Still others he might not answer at all, perhaps because it’s wrong for you or because he has something better in mind. And then there are those prayers that he intends to answer in a better way than you would dream possible but not right away—he is saving his ultimate answer for the last day. God is saving the best for last, when he gives his great and final answer to all the cries for justice and joy that have risen in the name of Christ throughout the centuries.
Until that day comes, keep on praying. Never give up. That’s the point of Jesus’ story of the unjust judge. It’s not that God is an unjust judge who needs to be pestered before he will help. But as a just Judge and a loving Father, God desires the prayers of his people. If we don’t pray, it means we’ve given up: either we don’t trust God enough to ask him, or else we don’t want something enough to pray for it. Prayer is the way we express our confidence in God and our longing for what only he can give. The Lord hears and answers prayer even now, and when he comes again and finds you praying, he will say with joy, “I have come, and I have indeed found faith on the earth.”
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.