“You can always pray, you know”

In Luke 18:1-8 a helpless widow manages to get her case heard by a judge who couldn’t care a hoot about her or what had happened to her. In context it was Jesus’ answer to the troubles his disciples would encounter in this world too.   

And it all came down to trust, as we see in Jesus’ last statement in verse 8: “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” 

It’s a good question, especially in light of the Pharisees asking Jesus in Luke 17:20 when the kingdom would come, and Jesus answering in verse 21, “God’s kingdom is already among you.” So God’s kingdom had already begun, witness the amazing healings and other miracles Jesus was doing. Jesus was already putting their mess of a world to rights, in other words, so things were looking really good. But he also said in verse 22, “The time is coming when you will long to see the day when the Son of Man returns, but you won’t see it.” So that suggests a delay in Jesus’ returning with the kind of power they were really looking forward to, the result being in verse 26, that “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” People would be living like things had never changed, and weren’t about to change either. 

Years would go by, therefore, when it would seem like Jesus putting the world to rights was just a pipe dream. And doesn’t it seem like that today as well? The idea that God’s kingdom is already here – and has been for the last two thousand years – is up against continuing violence and crime, horrible injustice for the abused, and a host of unsolved problems. If someone was to ask us, therefore, where is the proof that Jesus is making a difference, it can really knock the wind right out of our sails as his disciples. What can we say when this horrible mess continues unabated, and innocent people are still suffering? 

It can become awfully disheartening for us, because here we are trying to preach the good news that Jesus is putting the world to rights, but it all sounds pathetically hollow in a nasty world full of corporations ditching peoples’ needs for their own personal profit. People are now seeing little relevance in Christianity, therefore, and in many parts of the world we are hated. 

But Jesus then tells a parable to his disciples in the very next chapter, Luke 18, asking the question, “will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones?” Well, that’s what we long for, isn’t it? That everything we preach and labour for will be vindicated one day. It’s like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:58, that we “Always give ourselves fully to the work Jesus has given us to do, because we know our labour in his name is not in vain.” 

To those in Luke 18:6, then, “who cry out to him day and night” for this to be true, Jesus asks in verse 7, “Will God keep putting them off?” Will God ignore how disheartening it is for us living in this world, where our credibility and reputation are being battered, and our message has so little impact? To which Jesus answers: “God will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Rest assured, God is utterly aware of what’s happening to us, and he does not delay in answering us.  

And to get that point across to his disciples Jesus tells the story of a helpless widow who’d been thoroughly ignored by a thug of a judge. It was only after she’d badgered him again and again to put her situation to rights that he gave in – and then only because she’d upset his comfortable routine – but she got the answer she wanted.  

The point being, she never gave up. She certainly had reason to give up, because women in that culture weren’t even allowed in court, let alone badger a judge personally. She’d been wronged but no one cared, and being a widow she had no husband to fight for her either. She was helpless and alone. 

Talk about reason for being discouraged and disheartened, with no hope whatsoever of a solution or vindication. But she chose not to give up. 

And that took courage, just as it does for us to look hopelessness in the eye and say, “No, you’re not going to get the better of me, or turn my brain to mush.” But that brings us right down to the raw reality of our situation. Courage is great, but is there really a reason for it? Can we answer someone who asks us for the reason we have such hope when it seems insane to them (and us too at times) that we stick to being Christians? “You jolly well do have an answer,” says Jesus, “because you guys can always pray, you know.” 

That’s right; no matter how hopeless or helpless we feel, or what situation has us completely paralyzed emotionally, we can pray about it. And we’d be stupid not to, because who wouldn’t turn to the power driving this universe, when he’s so much more powerful than anything happening in it? Which is why Jesus says in Luke 18:1, “always pray and never give up” – or – never give up because we can always pray.” And isn’t that what Jesus longs for? It’s finding people when he comes again who realized there was no reason at all to give up, because it dawned on them from this parable that if a helpless widow got an answer because she didn’t give up, how much more would Jesus answer those who trust him? It made me ask, therefore, “Do I hear him saying to me too then, ‘You can always pray, you know’?”

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