A few years ago my wife and I gave our 8-year-old daughter a Bible for her birthday. It’s not exactly a children’s Bible (giant pictures with two sentences of writing) but it isn’t a King James Bible with 300 pages of index either. It is kind of in between; part pictures to keep her intrigued other part substantial reading to teach her truth. While I know she reads it at night before she sleeps I don’t know exactly what book she is reading or how far through the Bible she has gotten. However, I have sneaky suspicion that she has at least read through the book of Luke…. Here’s why.
Not long ago I came across the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. The story is about a widow who kept coming to a judge in the town with a plea for justice: “Grant me justice for my adversary.” (Luke 18:3)
However, as the story portrays this wasn’t just any ordinary widow with a request, this widow was (as the title of the parable says) persistent. To the point that the judge proclaims:
“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!” (v. 4-5)
Persistent, tenacious, relentless… nagging. When I read this parable the other day I thought of my daughter. Has she recently read this story? Because it seems to me that she has employed this technique of nagging on me lately? Anyone with small children can probably relate. Kids can be relentless in their asking, demanding and questioning, to the point where sometimes you feel like this judge; ‘bothered and worn out.’ I was tempted to go see where her bookmark was because she has certainly gleaned some strategies from this widow.
All kidding aside as I thought more about the parable I began to ask myself, what is God trying to teach me here? What about this widow or this situation is pertinent for me to know or to apply in my life and ministry? Is there something here for Reconciled World? And to no surprise I believe God revealed a few truths that I hope bless you as they have blessed me.
Praying without ceasing
Luke 18:1 says: “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
Simply stated: I believe that God wants us to pray with the same persistence as this nagging widow. Just as she came relentlessly, fearlessly and unceasingly asking for justice I believe God desires for his people to come praying with the same passion, pleading for his righteousness to be revealed.
Every time I travel to Asia to meet with co-workers I am struck by the grip injustice has around the globe. Right now, as we read, there is no doubt a precious girl child that has been born into a culture that is disappointed she is not a boy. She will grow up facing discrimination, marginalization and in many cases certain abuse and death.
Students who have found faith in Jesus Christ at the Wholistic Development Center now face the reality of persecution and shame as they try to live for Jesus in a Buddhist culture. Families facing the effects of unjust loans are turning to the Great Exchange ministry for help, relief and fair money management.
Reconciled World is working on the front lines of systemic injustices across the world, confronting them with truth and love but these issues are deep, complex and tightly gripped by evil. They often have roots that run deep through generations of lies and deceit. I believe that no battle against systemic injustices will be won with 30-second lackadaisical prayers. I believe God’s people must take the posture of the widow; humble themselves, fervently seeking his face and relentlessly pursuing his heart in prayer for breakthrough to come.
Incense before God
But it often seems like we are praying in an impossible battle to win. Does God hear and answer our persistent prayers?
I love the word picture of prayer in Revelations 5:8. “Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
And then again in Revelations 8:4: “The smoke of incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God.”
While it seems sometimes that our prayers go unrecognized the truth is our pleas for justice and righteousness do not drift into the heavenly atmosphere never to be heard again. No, each and every prayer rises up to heaven like sweet incense. They are captured and preserved in golden bowls before the face of God. Our thoughts and words leave our hearts and lips spotted and unholy, and become precious perfume before God. What a beautiful thought!
A responsive God
Perhaps even more powerful is the reality that God not only hears those prayers and rejoices in them but he responds.
“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.” (Luke 18:7-8)
Unlike the judge in this parable, God is not a grudging judge that cares none the less for man. Instead he desires to grant justice, giving us even more the reason to pray with perseverance!
For every girl child whose life is surrendered in anger and deceit – justice will endure. For every persecuted believer boldly living out their faith – justice will rise. For every family seeking fair sustainability and provision – justice will win.
God promises victory to our persistent and relentless prayers. While the speed at which it happens may not be our speed, and the way in which justice is applied may not be our ways, God’s ways will win and our prayers will be heard and answered.
As a ministry, Reconciled World depends on prayer. Without it our passion will dissolve and our effectiveness will be shallow. We believe God will vindicate the prayers of the saints and we trust him to do so. Join us in following the lead of the persistent widow by praying steadfastly for justice across the world!
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