Luke 18: 1-8

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’


This is a remarkable parable – so vivid in how it is presented – first we meet the judge, who is identified as an awful man, and then a widow, someone with no one to fight for her, and probably at risk of losing her land or her home to a greedy neighbour. The woman is persistent, even annoying – she does not give up, and eventually the judge is so frustrated and annoyed that he accepts her appeal (which we presume was right), and finds in her favour.

How long did she pester and how much energy did it take out of her? We do not know, but it was an ordeal, and not just for a morning while she waited as no 9 in the phone queue as all our operators are busy!

Is Jesus suggesting that God is like this judge and has to be pushed and nagged into answering our prayers? Or is he using a daring contrast? If an amoral judge will bend before a persistent widow, of course we can be sure that God will answer prayers and quickly. And Jesus certainly reminds us that God will answer our prayers, but I suspect that we all too often feel he does not.

One parable is not the entire teaching on prayer: As I read this parable it speaks of how prayer often feels – and so it did for the poet RS Thomas

Prayers like gravel

Flung at the sky’s

window, hoping to attract

the loved one’s

attention. But without

visible plaits to let

down for the believer

to climb up,

to what purpose open

that far casement?

I would

have refrained long since

but that peering once

through my locked fingers

I thought that I detected

the movement of a curtain.

If we have glimpsed the movement of the curtain, then keep flinging the gravel the the sky’s window, in desperation, anger, hope, whatever. And as we fling our prayers, may we not only sense the movement of the curtain, but glimpse the face, except that Jesus is with us here on earth, not hiding behind a curtain. Metaphors and even parables only get us so far.

Revd Peter Reiss