Why Pray Persistently?
When Jesus told this parable to His disciples what was the situation or occasion? In order to find that out we need to go back to Luke 17. In Luke 17:11, our Lord Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem in order to suffer and to ultimately give His life for His people.
Crowds were following Him. Along the way He would heal the sick and answer people's question. In Luke 17:20 the Pharisees asked Jesus about the time of the coming of the kingdom of God. Of course, when they ask this question they were thinking of the coming of the Messiah, the overthrowing of their enemies and the restoration of the Davidic kingdom that will bring worldwide peace and justice. That was their interest in asking Jesus.
Jesus' answer, however, must have baffled the Pharisees who did not acknowledge Him as the Messiah, or the Christ of God. For in effect what He was telling them is that if their idea of the coming of the kingdom is the dramatic overthrow of the Roman authority, they will miss it, because the kingdom of God is already in their midst. Jesus Christ, the kingdom's king, is among them. And whenever He wins people's allegiance to Himself, His kingdom is established.
After dealing with the Pharisees, He turns to His disciples and taught them about the coming and the revelation of the Son of Man, that is, the coming judgment of God by the Son. The instruction to persevere in prayer fits in with this context, as Luke 18:8 also shows. The Lord Jesus told the disciples that the days would come when they will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but they will not see it (17:22).
Jesus, of course, is telling them about the time between His ascension and His Second Coming, when men would go on eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, oblivious of the condition of their soul and of the coming judgment, much as it had in the days of Noah and of Lot. And in one of those days, the Son of Man will suddenly come like lightning that flashes from sky to sky.
So Jesus warns His disciples not to be like Lot's wife (17:32). He is saying that in the hour of crisis you don't live like the world. You don't love the world. You don't turn back longing for the things of the world or you'll be unfit for the kingdom. In effect Jesus was telling us that eternal life hangs on whether you and I are ready when He comes again to judge the living and the dead.
This is the occasion or the setting when Jesus instructed His disciples with this parable. There will come a time after Jesus' ascension when the days will be long and the disciples will suffer persecution, opposition and injustice for the sake of the gospel while the rest of the world will be engaged in business as usual. In the midst of their suffering the disciples would long for Jesus' coming and it's not going to happen. What then are they suppose to do? How can they endure to the end?
This is the same question that we ought to ask ourselves. We know that Christ has promised to return and to take us to be with Him. But life is difficult, we know that. How can we endure to the end? How can we make sure that we don't become like Lot's wife, too much in love with this world to be totally committed to Christ? How can we resist the relentless temptations of Sodom and be desensitized to God's kingdom by the ordinary pressures of daily life?
Our days are evil. But the world tries to convince us that everything is fine or it will be alright. However, judgment in the days of Noah and Lot did not come simply because of gross wickedness and immorality. It also came because in the nice and ordinary activities of life, such as eating and drinking, God was denied. His law and His will were ignored. People took for granted every air they breathe and every meal they eat. They fail to thank God. They fail to recognize that every good gift comes from God.
So beware! The good things in life can make us just as insensitive to the reality of God as the gross things in life can. That’s why as disciples of our Lord Jesus we are left in a tremendous battle which most people don't even know is going on: the battle to maintain radical and self-denying faith in Christ.
This self-denying faith is not only needed in the threat of persecution and sinful temptations but also in the threat of ordinary home life and business life and school life which can numb all our sensitivity to God's eternal kingdom.
So the question is: How can we endure to the end? How can we remain faithful to our calling as disciples in this wicked and godless world? Jesus tells this parable to give us the answer. And His answer is quite simple, though not very easy to live out. He tells us in verse 1 that we ought to persevere in prayer, to always pray and not to give up in praying.
Have you noticed that prayer is not described simply as a duty as it is an absolute necessity? Verse 1 clearly says, "Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they SHOULD always pray and not give up" (my emphasis). Our Lord Jesus is not exaggerating here. Prayer, particularly persistent prayer to God, is indeed the antidote to our tendency to become complacent and impatient in the daily struggles of life.
We would truly desire to pray at all times when we understand that prayer is a humble expression of our absolute dependence to God. We would be encouraged to devote ourselves in prayer when we see it as the continual desire of the soul for God. Or as an old writer would say, we would be earnest in prayer if we view the whole life of the faithful as "one great connected prayer."