The Importunate Widow
Luke 18:1-8
And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;…

I. First, then, consider our LORD'S DESIGN IN THIS PARABLE — "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint."

1. 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 in warfare, not always on their steeds dashing forward with their lances in rest to unhorse an adversary, but 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. Those grim warriors often slept in their armour; so even when we sleep, we are still to be in the spirit of prayer, so that if perchance we wake in the night we may still be with God.

2. Our Lord may also have meant, that the whole life of the Christian should be a life of devotion to God. Men ought always to pray. It means that when they are using the lapstone, or the chisel, when the hands are on the plough-handles, or on the spade, when they are measuring out the goods, when they are dealing in stocks, whatever they are doing, they are to turn all these things into a part of the sacred pursuit of God's glory. Their common garments are to be vestments, their meals are to be sacraments, their ordinary actions are to be sacrifices, and they themselves a royal priesthood, a peculiar people zealous for good works.

3. A third meaning which I think our Lord intended to convey to us was this: men ought always to pray, that is, they should persevere in prayer.

4. 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. Prayerfulness will scarcely be kept up long unless you set apart times and seasons for prayer.

5. Our Lord means, to sum up the whole, that believers should exercise a universality of supplication — we ought to pray at all times.

II. In enforcing this precept, 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! 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 comes as Christ's own bride, 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?


1. This power was not the woman's eloquence, "I pray thee avenge me of mine adversary." These words are very few. Just eight words. Verbiage is generally nothing better in prayer than a miserable fig-leaf with which to cover the nakedness of an unawakened soul.

2. Another thing is quite certain, namely, that the woman did not prevail through the merits of her case. He does not say, "She has a good case, and I ought to listen to it." No, he was too bad a man to be moved by such a motive — but "she worries me," that is all, "I will attend to it." So in our suit — in the suit of a sinner with God, it is not the merit of his case that can ever prevail with God. If thou art to win, another's merit must stand instead of thine, and on thy part it must not be merit but misery; it must not be thy righteousness but thy importunity that is to prevail with God. However unworthy you may be, continue in prayer.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

WEB: He also spoke a parable to them that they must always pray, and not give up,

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