REMEMBER that our Lord did not only inculcate prayer with great earnestness, but He was Himself a brilliant example of it. It always gives force to a teacher’s words when his hearers well know that he carries out his own instructions. When He exhorted His disciples to continue in prayer, and to “pray without ceasing,” He only bade them follow in His steps.
First, then, consider OUR LORD S DESIGN IN THIS PARABLE “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Our Lord meant by saying men ought always to pray, that they ought to be always in the spirit of prayer, always ready to pray. Like the old knights always wearing their weapons where they could readily reach them, and always ready to encounter wounds or death for the sake of the cause which they championed. When Nehemiah would ask a favour of the king, you will remember that he found an opportunity to do so through the king’s asking him, “Why art thou sad?” but before he made him an answer he says, “I prayed unto the King of heaven;” instinctively perceiving the occasion, he did not leap forward to embrace it, but he halted just a moment to ask that he might be enabled to embrace it wisely. So you and I should often feel, “I cannot do this till I have asked a blessing on it.”
You say, "Give us this day our daily bread,”; you go off to your work, and as you toil, if you do so in a devout spirit, you are actively praying the same prayer by your lawful labour. You praise God for the mercies received in your morning hymn; and when you go into the duties of life, and there exhibit those graces which reflect honour upon God’s name, you are continuing your praises in the best manner. If your calling is such that you cannot pray in it, you had better leave it. If it be a sinful calling, an unholy calling, of course, you cannot present that to God.
I cannot leave this part of the subject without observing that our Lord would have us learn that men should be more frequent in prayer. There are no times laid down in Scripture except by the example of holy men, for the Lord trusts much to the love of His people and to the spontaneous motions of the inner life. He does not say, “Pray at seven o’clock in the morning every day,” or “pray at night at eight, or nine, or ten, or eleven but says, “Pray without ceasing.” We read in the old traditions of James the apostle, that he prayed so much that his knees grew hard through his long kneeling. David declared that at “Evening, and morning, and at noon,” would he wait upon God.
Prayer should sanctify everything. The word of God and prayer should come in over and above the common things of daily life. Pray over a bargain, pray over going into the shop and coming out again. Remember in the days of Joshua how the Gibeonites deceived Israel because Israel enquired not of the Lord.
Our Lord gives us a parable in which there are TWO ACTORS, the characteristics of the two actors being such as to add strength to His precept.
In the first verse of the parable there is a judge. Now, herein is the great advantage to us in prayer. Brethren, if this poor woman prevailed with a judge whose office is stern, unbending, untender, how much more ought you and I to be instant in prayer and hopeful of success when we have to supplicate a Father! The judge must necessarily be impartial, stern, but the father is necessarily partial to his child, compassionate and tender to his own offspring.
In addition to being a judge, he was devoid of all good character. He “feared not God.” “Neither did he regard man.” Now, if the widow prevailed over such a wretch as this, if the iron of her importunity broke the iron and steel of this man’s obduracy, how much more may we expect to be successful with Him who is righteous, and just, and good, the Friend of the needy, the Father of the fatherless, and the Avenger of all such as are oppressed!
We must, however, pass on now to notice the other actor in the scene — the widow; and here everything tells again the same way, to induce the church of God to be importunate. She was apparently a perfect stranger to the judge. She appeared before him as an individual in whom he took no interest. He had possibly never seen her before; who she was and what she wanted was no concern to him. But when the church appears before God... she appears before the Father as one whom He has loved with an everlasting love. And shall He not avenge His own elect, His own chosen, His own people? Shall not their prayers prevail with Him, when a stranger’s importunity won a suit of an unwilling judge?
The widow appeared at the judgment-seat without a friend. According to the parable, she had no advocate, no powerful pleader to stand up in the court and say, “I am the patron of this humble woman.” If she prevailed, she must prevail by her own ardour and her own intensity of purpose. But when you and I come before our Father, we come not alone, for—
“He is at the Father’s side,
The Man of love, the Crucified.”
We have a Friend who ever liveth to make intercession for us. This poor woman came without a promise to encourage her, nay, with the reverse, with much to discourage; but when you and I come before God, we are commanded to pray by God Himself, and we are promised that if we ask it shall be given us, if we seek we shall find. O brethren, we must not pause nor cease a moment while we have God’s promise to back our plea.
The widow, in addition to having no promise whatever, was even without the right of constant access. But we may come to God at all times and all seasons. We may cry day and night unto Him, for He has bidden us pray without ceasing.
She, poor soul, every time she prayed, provoked the judge; lines of anger were on his face. I doubt not he foamed at the mouth to think he should be wearied by a person so insignificant; but with Jesus, every time we plead we please Him rather than provoke Him. The prayers of the saints are the music of God’s ears.
THE POWER WHICH, ACCORDING TO THIS PARABLE, TRIUMPHED. This power was not the woman’s eloquence, “I pray thee avenge me of mine adversary.” These words are very few. Her success, therefore, did not depend upon her power in rhetoric, and we learn from this that the prevalence of a soul or of a church with God does not rest upon the eloquence of its language.
Another thing is quite certain, namely, that the woman did not prevail through the merits of her case. The judge did not know nor care whether it was right or wrong; all he cared about was, this woman troubled him. In the suit of a sinner with God, it is not the merit of his case that can ever prevail with God. However unworthy you may be, continue in prayer. Black may be the hand, but if it can but lift the knocker, the gate will open. God will be more easily moved than this unjust judge.
Excerpted from the sermon titled “The Importunate Widow” (Luke 18:1-8) by CH Spurgeon dated 21 February 1869. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon from The Spurgeon Library | The Importunate Widow .