The Persistent Widow

Jesus tells us the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18:1-8. The title alone gives us a clue to what Jesus wants to teach us- persistence. Unlike other parables that need an explanation of its spiritual lesson, Jesus makes this one apparent right away in verse one!

parable of the persistent widow- statue of woman with sword in one hand, scales of justice in the other against blue skies with wispy white clouds

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” v1.

Jesus shared this Parable as His earthly ministry was ending. He had just given the disciples lengthy instructions regarding His eventual return. He then reminds them of an important virtue every Christian needs to cultivate- persistence.

Persistence in the Bible 

We only need to look at our magnificent God to see that persistence is a virtue to be honored. Here are just a few of the ways God is persistent in our lives:

•He has “loved us with an everlasting love”- Jeremiah 31:3. He persistently loves us even though we disappoint Him each day! God considers each one of us valuable and worthy and loves us because His very essence and nature is love.

•He persistently sent the prophets to share His words of forgiveness and mercy with His people, even though they persisted in idol worship.

•We can run as far away from God as possible or refuse His offer of eternal life and He persists in pursuing us anyway.

•His “mercies are new every morning”- Lamentations 3:22-23. He persists in showering us daily with grace and mercy.

Now on to the Parable:

The Parable of the Persistent Widow 

(This Parable is also called the Parable of the Unjust Judge)-

“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ For some time, he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’” vv2-5.

Well! Let’s discuss this judge first!

The Unrighteous Judge 

Characteristics of a fair and righteous judge would include the ability to communicate courteously, a willingness to listen to all sides, patience, understanding, humility, and an above average knowledge of the rule of law.

This unrighteous judge fails in every aspect of his position.

This judge did not care about God, the needs of others, or their opinions of him. The only reason he ended up granting her request was because of her persistence in her fight for justice. He found her annoying and decided that rendering justice would keep her from returning to his presence.

The Persistent Widow 

A widow was one of the most vulnerable people groups in the Bible. We see this played out in the story of Ruth and Naomi. They had no rights and therefore, others frequently took advantage of them.
This widow didn’t have a husband or male relative to go to court for her (the usual procedure), so it forced her to represent herself. We don’t know the details of the justice she sought, only that she was completely alone and in trouble.

She couldn’t ask the judge for justice in the name of God because the judge didn’t fear God. She couldn’t plead her social position as a widow because he didn’t care about anyone but himself.

The judge was certainly hesitant to give her justice. We don’t know how many times she appeared before him, but it must have been quite a few as he refused her “for some time.

Bribery was a common practice in the courts; perhaps her adversary was using this practice against her. Regardless, her situation must have seemed dire. Her only recourse was to be persistent in showing up and asking for justice until the judge settled her case fairly.

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Lessons from the Parable of the Persistent Woman 

•Jesus points out an important truth in verse 6 as the parable continues:

“Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen one, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you; he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” vv6-8.

If an unjust judge can give justice after persistence, how much more will our loving God respond to our persistent cries?

•Our God is the polar opposite of this judge who ruled against and fought the widow every time she came to him. This judge was unfair, did not care one bit for the widow’s plight, and only answered her plea in order to get rid of her.

Our God, however, is a righteous judge who loves to hear and answer our prayers. His Holy Spirit, our advocate, even helps us when we pray (Romans 8:26-27) and pleads our case! He is always fair, caring, and loving towards us. 

Pray Continually and Never Lose Heart

•This parable of the widow and the unjust judge shows us how she used persistence in overcoming the resistance of the judge to help her.

Do we ever pray with the mindset that we have to keep praying because God is resistant to help us? Not listening? Punishing us for something?

Jesus is telling us we ought to pray continually and not lose heart because God is never resistant in answering our prayers, therefore, we should not give up. God loves to bless and encourage us in all situations. He knows each one of us intimately and personally and wants only the best for us.

His delay in answering some prayers is in His perfect timing and sometimes to bring about a transformation in our lives that we need.

The persistent widow got many “no’s” to her persistent plea. When we receive a “no” to our prayer, it may mean “wait”, or “not right now.” If God denies our request or the answer is not what we are expecting, we can faithfully trust that “His will be done”–and keep praying! Our prayers may change at this point- asking for wisdom, guidance, direction, next steps, clarification, comfort, etc., but don’t stop praying about your concern.

Persistent Prayer 

Would you consider yourself a persistent person? Persistence is continuing on through fatigue, frustration, fear, or doubts. Setbacks and uncertainty don’t keep you from reaching your goal. For the Christian, persistence is a virtue that we need to cultivate in all areas of our faith walk. This parable shows us what persistence in prayer looks like.

Can you imagine the outcome if the widow had given up after her first request? Are prayers supposed to be a “one and done”? (I’ve been guilty of this in the past….) This parable tells us to persist in prayer. The widow knew who could give her justice and didn’t let any obstacles get in her way. We are to pray likewise.

Bible Verses about Persistence 

There are so many examples of persistence in the Bible: in people’s lives (Hannah,  Joseph, Paul, etc.) and many  inspiring verses that give us encouragement to be persistent: 

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.

I love this invitation! Don’t let Satan discourage you into thinking our Lord is unapproachable, we are not welcome, or we cannot express ourselves eloquently. Come boldly- with no hesitation and with confidence and persistence. He knows your heart’s cry.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6.

We can stop anxious thoughts by turning them into prayers! No request is too small- God is concerned about all our concerns. “By prayer and petition” means to come to Him to communicate and ask for what you need.

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 ESV.

The endurance we need to run in our Christian life extends to our prayer life. We can’t flop on the couch and accept all struggles in defeat. We need to use determination and a devoted faith to pray our way through them.

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.” 1 Chronicles 16:11

Too often we become busy or caught up in our struggles and neglect prayer. This verse encourages us to come to Him in prayer as often as you would come to your best friend here on earth (or spend time on your phone..!) 

The King of the Universe desires constant companionship with us. His desire is that we would thoroughly know Him and come close to Him.

Which one of these verses could help you be persistent in prayer?

Pray Persistently 

The very last verse of this parable is a question Jesus asks after He gives us assurance that our God brings justice to those who cry out to Him in prayer:

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” v7b.

Just before this parable, Jesus had given a lengthy discourse on His return. This last verse certainly ties into that. He wants us to pray persistently without losing faith and hope- and will look for this kind of faith when He returns.

Do we persist and cry out to Him for our needs? Or do we ask with little faith in the outcome, not sure He is listening, or doubt He will respond?

God is waiting to hear from us through persistent prayer. Never lose heart when hard times come. God is our loving Father, who takes precious care of us and will protect and defend us. Persist in prayer!



Need Extra Encouragement to Be Persistent in Prayer?

Prayers for Your Family

The Meaning of the Serenity Prayer

Lord, Teach Us to Pray!

How To Pray the Bible

All Scripture is taken from the NIV version unless specified otherwise.

Photo Credits: Deposit Photos and Canva

2 thoughts on “The Persistent Widow”

  1. As always, so right on and encouraging words. I love this verse and will write it on one of my recipe cards for my Scripture board:
    Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16. Such powerful words. Great reminder. Thank you, Ann. Praying for you and your family.

    1. I love this verse as well. What a beautiful and comforting invitation! Thank you so much for your prayers- I cherish knowing that our Father is receiving each one with His love.

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