The parable of the corrupt judge tells of a widow persistently badgering a judge who has no interest in granting her request and giving her justice. But her persistence, as we see in Luke 18:1-8, finally pays off and she is granted justice even from this corrupt source. Luke precedes the parable by saying that Jesus told the parable so that “they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
Why should we always pray and not lose heart? Will our persistence force God to finally relent and give us what we want? I would like to suggest that the parable is actually teaching us about the character of God. We ought not to lose heart in our prayers because, unlike a corrupt judge, our pleas are actually going to an incorruptible and loving Father. It’s about God’s character in answering our prayers, not about what we do.
We see this same thought in the parable of the contemptible friend. In Luke 11, Jesus is teaching His disciples about prayer. He tells the parable of a man who goes to a neighbor at night seeking bread for an unexpected visitor. It is only after persistent pleading that the friend eventually gets up and gives him what he requests. Could the point be that God is not like the neighbor, who couldn't be bothered? Again, the point is the character of God as a contrast to the contemptible friend.
When we speak of people who pray with great faith, I think we need to clarify. Is it faith because we are confident that God is going to answer our prayer (in the way we want) because of our persistence? Or rather, are those that truly pray with great faith those that boldly and persistently approach God because they trust the character of God, regardless of how (and when) He answers?
It seems to me that Jesus is not teaching us to be squeaky wheels so we can get God to grant our requests. But rather, He is teaching us that we can pray with bold persistence because of the character of God, which He reveals through contrast in the parables.
What drives you to be persistent in prayer?
What causes you to give up?