Have you heard all the cool little formulas for developing a disciplined prayer life?
Let’s see… there’s A.C.T.S (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) and P.R.A.Y. (praise, repent, ask, yield), P.U.S.H (pray until something happens), and my personal favorite — John Wimber’s “eight word prayer” — that goes like this: “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God!!!” (which can be used any time the formulas above don’t “work”).
Yeah, about prayer “working.’ I personally think that’s the fallacy with all our thinking about prayer, and it’s the key reason why I think we’re missing the entire point of Jesus’ parable about the “persistent widow” who cried out to the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8. What kind of person did she cry out to (instead of praying) again? Stick with me for a minute…
In the audio teaching below I offer a second look at this parable and challenge the typical approach to using the parable as a pattern for prayer. I don’t think there is any praying in the parable at all, and I think that’s Jesus’ point. Okay, here are three options for interpreting the parable.
1. God is like the judge. The judge makes people wait just like God, so in your prayers, be like the widow. Pray like her. Jesus is using her as an example of persistent prayer.
2. God is not like the judge. Sure, he makes people wait, but he’s not evil, so in your prayers be like the widow. Pray like her. Jesus is using her as an example of persistent prayer.
3. God is not like the judge at all, and Jesus isn’t correlating the judge to God, but to something else, so don’t be like the widow. She didn’t pray at all. She did something else instead of praying. Jesus is using her as an example of giving up on prayer and looking for another way to make her life work instead of praying.
Since Jesus told the parable in order to exhort his disciples to pray and not give up, I am opting for choice number three (the least common choice for interpreting and applying the parable), but — and it should be no surprise — I think it’s the best way to understand Jesus’ exhortation to keep praying (instead of doing what she does).
Okay – I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not my double-take on the parable is reasonable, and see if it doesn’t add more strength to the exhortation to pray than the “bang on heaven until God gives you what you want” interpretation that most preachers default to here.
Finally, be sure to jump into the dialogue below and engage me about it. In the meantime, keep on praying and don’t lose heart (and therefore, don’t do what the widow does instead of praying). Enjoy!
Click the orange button with the white triangle to play the recording