The intent of the Lord’s parable of the ‘Unjust Judge’ in Luke 18 is clear: “men ought always to pray and not to faint” (v1). This command was given in a context that considers what our world will be like at Jesus’ return, notably that it will be similar to Noah’s and Lot’s ages (Luke 17). Just as God brought His judgments in times past, so it will happen again, for the Lord warned: “even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke17:30). In that day there will be a separation of those who are held accountable to God, who will be gathered from different places to give an account, leaving behind their personal possessions and daily existence. The command to pray is given then in the context of our times! Clearly, there is a great need for us in the last days to take note of how Christ illustrates this instruction.

The Unjust Judge

The judge in the parable “feared not God neither regarded man”. He was only accountable to himself. A widow came to the judge wanting him to “avenge [her] of [her] adversary” (v3). Of all the people who could come before a judge, it is interesting that our Lord chose a widow because their dependent state meant they were forced to turn to Yahweh and trust in Him to provide. We are told that the judge did not respond initially to her request (v4). However, he changed his mind. We ask the question: why? Because of her continuous pestering he selfishly decided that he would respond lest he be worn out with her constant pleas (v5). She always kept on about her plight and did not give up or become weary or disheartened by the judge’s delay. This was the key as Jesus indicated with the words, “Hear what the unjust judge saith” (v6).

Then he applied the parable to God and His chosen ones, the elect of God: “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though He bear long with them? I tell you he will avenge them speedily” (v7,8). Think of the implications of that! God will bring about justice for those who have, over the centuries, fallen asleep waiting for the Lord’s intervention. Literally, their next conscious moment will be at the Lord’s return when that justice will be applied speedily to avenge the wrongs that have taken place in their personal lives. A great many lives have demonstrated a reliance upon Him and a faithful endurance of heart, despite the Lord’s apparent delay! But he will avenge his saints, and that speedily!

They Never Hold their Peace

Many prayers of the faithful down through the ages have been given, pleading for God’s righteousness to be established. For example, the prophet Isaiah speaks fervently of the desire to see righteousness established in the earth: “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest” (62:1). The ESV has, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet until her righteousness goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a burning torch”.

The constant prayer for deliverance is further illustrated by the prophet: “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day or night, ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence. And give him no rest (AV marg “silence”), till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (v6,7). From all true lovers of Zion there have always been constant prayers ascending, desiring the establishment of His Kingdom when Jerusalem will be the capital of world. They “keep not silence”. They “shall never hold their peace day or night”. This is the kind of constancy in prayer and fervent longing spoken of in the Lord’s parable.

We Ought Always to Pray

The word “ought” indicates a necessity, something that is required if one is to achieve an end. Clearly it is not an optional extra, something that we do if and when we feel like it! It is essential if we want to be accounted faithful in that great day of judgment. The word “always” speaks of a steadfastness in our prayers, not being sporadic, but constant. We show our desire for that glorious future age by praying for it now! We are never to give up, just as the widow didn’t, even though the prospects are daunting and the outcome looks the same from day to day, because one day it will dramatically change!

So how often do we pray to our heavenly Father in a day? By praying for the Kingdom and God’s righteousness now, we are thinking about it and keeping our vision alive. So do our prayers start and end with our desire for the Kingdom of God, as demonstrated by the Lord in his ‘model’ prayer? Have our prayers for the Kingdom become a little jaded or has its importance in our eyes lessened? However, it goes further than simple communication with God. The word pray means to pray to God and to supplicate as in worship. Prayer expands out to include our worship, that is giving status, time and energy to God until our Lord’s return or we fall on sleep. How consistent are we then in our worship of the Lord? We are known by our prayers. What would our spouse say? What would our family say? What would our ecclesia say?

The Lord adds another important phrase. He said that we are not to faint. The word has the meaning of becoming discouraged, or to lose heart, to despair, to tire through weariness of spirit. Some have lost heart and look no more for the promise of his coming. Some have lost family. Some worship no more. It may be that even those close to us have returned to the world and its pleasures. But this is a warning to all of us, brethren and sisters. Are some of us discouraged and losing heart that the Lord has not yet returned? Do we tire because we have been praying for that day for a very long time? – even a lifetime!

It is a real issue, especially when we consider what the Lord adds to the parable. He said, “Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (v8). The Diaglott renders this as the faith. These are the called out ones who cry day and night across the world for the return of His Son to set up his Kingdom! When the Lord comes shall he find us praying, earnestly longing for his Kingdom? For that to happen we must be Kingdom-orientated now! Consider: how often do we think and therefore talk about the Kingdom of God? Reflect on the conversations that you have had in your home, in your ecclesia or in your place of work recently. How often was the coming of our Lord the subject of our conversations? Or has the opposite been the case?

Watch and Pray

When we turn to Luke 21 we have the only other occasion in the gospel of the words “always” and “pray” used together but this time in the opposite order. Again it is in the context of the return of Jesus Christ. The Lord warned his followers, “But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place” (v36). Through prayer, the Lord is encouraging us to escape from many things. What things? The preceding verses define those things. The Lord warned, “Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation (giddiness/headache), drunkenness (intoxication) and the cares of this life (v34 ESV). To use that terminology, are our hearts weighed down with possible headaches about our financial situation, health, or lack of employment? Are we letting our hearts become intoxicated by the values and attitudes that this world promotes, through digital technology in its various forms of media? Are we becoming more anxious about the future for our children and grandchildren? What is it that you naturally worry about my dear brother, my dear sister?

Whatever it is, then, prayer is the answer to overcome those fears and anxieties! It puts them into perspective before God and allows us to trust in His strength, knowing that He is able to achieve far more than we think He is capable of. We are told by the Apostle Paul that letting your requests be made known unto God has the following result: “and the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Phil 4:7). What a lovely thought that is! That God-given peace (lack of fear/anxiety) will protect or guard our hearts and minds, overcoming our several fears and anxieties. We only have to pause and consider how true that is from our own experience, let alone those we have recorded in scripture. May we find that precious peace of God.

The concept of watching and praying is also applied to our brethren and sisters. It is part of the whole armour of God – the seventh part of the spiritual armour. Paulwrites,“Praying always with all prayer… watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints”(Eph6:18). The word supplication means petition/request/to beg. We pray on behalf of our brothers and sisters that they might overcome the anxieties of this life and be strong in serving the Lord. We can therefore identify individual brethren and sisters in our prayers. Do we ask God to help individual brethren and sisters in their struggles? Do we thank God for their help and encouragement?

We could literally go alphabetically through the ecclesial address roll, praying for each member in turn. This has interesting consequences! The first is that we need to know each brother and sister. Through conversations with them we gain a greater empathy with their personal circumstances. It can also be the means of healing any tensions that may exist. A prayer diary may be useful; but, let us do something practically, that we may pray always and faint not.

Let us not be weary in well doing (2 Thess 3:13; note also the marginal reference to Luke 18). Brethren and sisters, let us continue faithfully in well doing. This means to do well, to live virtuously or uprightly. Do we apply the standards of our God to what is upright and true? Or do we ignore or sidestep some of His principles?

We live in a world that actively promotes the rejection of that which God calls good! How much then do we contribute in well doing; or are we fainting due to pressures of work, family or old age? Our attendance at the ecclesial meetings has an impact not only on ourselves but also on our brothers and sisters – both by our example and by the tone of our conversations. Or do we feel that nobody seems to appreciate our well doing in the ecclesia so we feel despondent, forgetting that our service to others is motivated by our service to God? The antidote for despondency is a faithful, prayerful continuance in well doing.

As we come to break bread and drink wine we remember one who lived out his instruction,“men ought always to pray and not to faint”. He always prayed to his Father and never lost heart to do his Father’s will. He is the supreme example that we follow and is our example to inspire us when we become weary, “lest we be wearied and faint in our minds” (Heb 12:3). Let us remember him who endured such hostility, such terrible things of sinners, so that you and I might have hope of life. This should prompt us to resolve to serve him faithfully, since our suffering and difficulties are nothing in comparison with what Jesus experienced for us (v2). He who is the starter and finisher of faith kept that vision ever before him. He endured the cross, he despised the shame and is now exalted at the right hand of the Father, there to intercede for us and to hold up failing hands.

In each of our lives, by constant, faithful well doing, let us show our obedience to the command of the Lord Jesus Christ, that men ought always to pray and not to faint!