And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;…
While Christian was in the Palace Beautiful, they showed him all the remarkable objects in the armory, from the ox-goad of Shamgar to the sword of the Spirit. And amongst the arms he saw, and with some of which he was arrayed as be left the place, was a single weapon with a strange, new name — "All-prayer." When I was a child, I used to wonder much what this could have been — its shape, its use. I imagine I know something more about it in these later years. At any rate, I think Bunyan found his name for it in one of the New Testament Epistles: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18). It so happens, also, that we have two parables of our Lord given us in the eighteenth chapter of Luke to one end, "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint." One of these parables teaches the lesson of importunity, the other teaches the lesson of sincerity. And it does not need that we draw from this collocation the subtle suggestion that want of importunity and want of sincerity are what weaken the weapon of all-prayer, and render faint the heart of the Christian who wields it. We know that we do not pray always, and that we do not always pray.
I. Let us take up this matter of IMPORTUNITY in the outset. At first sight it gives perplexity to some students of the Bible. We must notice that Christ does not identify His Father, the "Hearer of Prayer," with this judge in the parable in any sense whatsoever. The very point of the illustration turns upon his superiority. God is just, and this man was unjust. This petitioner was a lonely widow and a stranger; God was dealing with His own elect. The woman came uninvited; Christians are pressed with invitations to ask, and knock, and seek. The unjust judge never agreed to listen to the widow; God has promised, over and over again, that it shall be granted to those that ask. The judge may have had relations with this woman's adversary which would complicate, and, in some way, commit him to an unnecessary quarrel in her behalf, if his office should be exercised in defence; God is in open and declared conflict, on His own account, with our adversary, and rejoices to defeat his machinations, and avenge His own chosen speedily. Hence, the whole teaching of the story is directed towards our encouragement thus: If we would persist with a wicked judge that regarded nobody, God nor man, then surely we would press our prayers with God. What is the duty then? Simply, go on praying.
II. Let us move on to consider, in the second place, this matter of SINCERITY in prayer, suggested by the other parable. To men of the world it must be a subject of real wonder and surprise, to use no more disrespectful terms, why so many petitions offered by the people of God prove fruitless. To all this, Christians ought to be able to reply that prayer follows laws and respects intelligent conditions, just as every other part of God's plan of redemption does. We are accustomed to say to each other that God always hears prayer. No, He does not. The wisest man that was ever inspired says distinctly, "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination." And in the New Testament the apostle explains the whole anomaly of failure thus: "Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss." For one thing, self-conceit destroys all sincerity in prayer. For another thing, spits against others destroys all sincerity in prayer. Listen to the Pharisee's preposterous comparison of himself in the matter of money and merit with the publican almost out of sight there in the corner. Inconsistencies in life also destroy sincerity in prayer. Purity from evil is a prime condition of success.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;