[Jesus] spoke a parable to them to illustrate that men ought always to pray and not to faint, saying,
“There was in a city a judge who did not fear God, nor did he regard man. And there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I don’t fear God, nor do I regard man, yet because this widow troubles me, I will give her justice, so that she doesn’t wear me out by her continual coming.'”
The Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge is saying. And shall not God execute justice for his own elect, which cry day and night to him, although he bears long with them? I tell you that he will give them justice speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?” — Luke 18:1-8
Jesus told this story because He wanted His followers to know that delays to answered prayer are a normal part of our intercessory experience. He knew that our natural inclination is to become discouraged and to give up when we do not get prayer results quickly. A couple of translations put it this way: “Men ought to pray always and not be cowards!”
Persevering prayer is not for the faint of heart. If Jesus said not to be cowardly, that’s a hint that He was talking about coming up against pretty daunting opposition. Sometimes we deal with circumstances that stare us in the face and seem to scream at us, “Fear! You have to be afraid! It’s all coming down!”
Jesus knew it wouldn’t be easy to obtain answers. That’s why, at the end of this passage, He asked if when He returns He will find faith on the earth. He’s implying that He desires to find faith in us when we intercede — faith that sees the answer instead of the problem and presses through for victory in an I-will-not-be-denied fashion, just as the widow did.
God’s “elect” means His chosen ones. Yes, chosen ones refers to all those who are believers, but have you ever thought that perhaps the reason you have a particular prayer burden is because God has chosen you specially to carry it? He chooses certain people for specific tasks because He knows He can count on them to have the right stuff and follow through to completion. God’s “elect” also could have been translated His “favorites.” God doesn’t pick just anyone to carry prayer burdens. There is something about being an intercessor that brings us close to God’s heart. Those of us who spend our time interceding alongside Jesus, being near to Him and understanding His heart, are favorites, in a sense.
There are some other interesting phrases in this passage. It is a little confusing to have Jesus say that God “bears long with them” and then turn around and say He answers “speedily.” Some translations say He is “long-suffering [patient and forbearing] towards them,” while others indicate that it just plain means He takes a long time to answer. When you are in the middle of an anguish to obtain, any amount of wait for fulfillment seems long. What God considers a speedy answer may not always feel that way to us! But He gets the job done in time, and that’s what’s important.
Jesus mentions that it is the person who “cries day and night to Him” who receives the coveted answer. Desperation catches the attention of God. Like it or not, it’s a Kingdom fact that sometimes we do not break through until we arrive at a level of fever-pitch desperation. When a continual “day and night” intercession takes hold in us, we’re going to get the desired result. I suspect the reason is because such desperation is fueled by the Holy Spirit Himself. He is the power behind our determination, and He intends to see us through to completion.
I’d like to continue examining this perseverance/breakthrough correlation next time.
Excerpted from Lee Ann’s book, The Intercessor Manual