Prayer Lessons from Jesus

Then Jesus told them a parable to show them they should always pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected people. There was also a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but later on he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor have regard for people, yet because this widow keeps on bothering me, I will give her justice, or in the end she will wear me out by her unending pleas.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says! Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long to help them? I tell you, he will give them justice speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

—Luke 18:1–8 (NET)

In the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne writes a letter a week to state lawmakers requesting funding and new books for the Shawshank Prison library. Serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, Andy longs for the escape that comes through music and literature—the joy of a beautiful song or a good story. And he knows that his fellow inmates could use a bit of an escape as well.

Finally, after years of sending letters, week after week, Andy receives a response: several boxes of books and records, and a check for $200. The accompanying letter makes it clear that the generous answer is due to the never-ending stream of correspondence from Andy, and now that his request has been granted, lawmakers expect the letters to stop. But Andy just smiles. “From now on, I’ll write two letters a week.”

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a widow who, like Andy Dufresne, makes unyielding requests of the government, though in her case, the requests were for justice rather than books and records. But she, too, gets what she asked for because of her persistence. Jesus sums up the story like this: “And don’t you think that God will see justice done for his chosen ones, who shout out to him day and night? Do you suppose he is deliberately delaying?” (Luke 18:7 NTE).

When we come to God in prayer, we don’t have to wonder if we are annoying Him or worry He’ll only respond in order to get us to be quiet. Jesus’ point is just the opposite: if a wicked judge will give good things to those who are persistent, how much more will our heavenly Father who loves us?

Pray with the assurance that God wants nothing but the best for you. Pray in the freedom of knowing you have been invited to make your requests as often as they rise up in your heart.

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

—Martin Luther—

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