In Jesus’ parable of the widow and the unjust judge, the judge was not at first willing to grant the widow’s request, but he reasoned within himself, “Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because the widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest she wear me out by her continual coming.” Jesus’ commentary on this parable is astonishing: “Hear what the unrighteous judge saith. And shall not God avenge His elect, which cry to him day and night and He is longsuffering over them? I say unto you that He will avenge them speedily. Howbeit when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18: 1-8)
Here Jesus presents an analogy of a widow’s persistent plea before an unfavorable judge who in the end grants it just to be rid of her. The analogy: how much more should we plead our petition with our Righteous Judge. It is easy to think that the lesson here is on asking, and continuing to ask, and being willing to patiently wait as we ask, but Jesus’ final question plagues us: When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? How often this question has been posed outside the context of this parable when, in fact, it is the very point.
Why must we ask God for anything more than once? If He is God, does He not hear us the first time? Does He not remember yesterday’s prayer? The answer is this: importunity is not about how many times we ask; it is about faith. Importunity is not necessary for God; it is necessary for us. Yes, some of our requests require God to work through a multitude of circumstances and people. In this we know that God is working all things together for our good, and we must wait. There are times, however, when we simply do not have enough faith to get what we desire, and so we must pray until we literally pray ourselves into faith. One moment of real, actual faith can change our lives in a moment.
I remember a dark time in my life when I was into my third year of praying over a situation when God stopped me. I knew at that moment He had granted my request, and above that, He planned to do exceedingly, abundantly more than I had asked in the matter. I had prayed myself into faith, but after how long? I had lacked the faith I needed from the beginning, and God, gracious God, wanted me to have that one thing without which it is impossible to please Him: faith. Faith is the real lesson of opportunistic prayer. Additionally as we look back on God’s great answers that came as a result of our importunity, we find faith for our present crisis. Those high water moments are the ones we remember–the ones that strengthen our faith for the problem we are facing today.
We are not troubling our Righteous Judge with our passionate, persistent, importunate prayers. We are not worthy that He should both hear and answer us, but He does. He will rouse Himself and give us everything we need. Our faith in asking is His glory.