“Jesus told them a parable about how they should pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18:1
A parable about not giving up on prayer is great unless you don’t know why you are praying in the first place. If that is the case, a parable about not giving up on prayer is pious nonsense. At a very simple level, prayer is always an appeal to a power outside yourself for assistance. Some people pray to statues that represent gods, some people seek inner strength from meditation and spiritual gurus. Christians pray to a God that we believe loves us and cares about us. Generally speaking, most Westerners pray for the sake of personal well-being. All prayer is like that. We are all naturally inclined toward self-interest and self-preservation. But the calling of Israel was higher than this. God certainly was and is concerned with the well-being of individuals as well as nations, but the specific calling of Israel was to be a blessing to all the nations, to be the agent through whom God would rescue His creation project and set it right again. So the prayer life of an Israelite was a responsibility to intercede on behalf the creation, appealing to God to finish His rescuing project and heal the world. One of Israel’s problems at the time of Jesus was that they had mostly forgotten their calling and had morphed their election into being merely a most-favored-nation status. But by doing this, Israel effectually was abandoning her election as Luke has recently pointed out in his story about ten lepers who were healed (Luke 17:11-19). The only person of the ten that were healed who returned to give God glory, (giving God the glory due to His name is the essence of being renewed humanity, Israel’s vocation), was a Samaritan who was seen by many within Israel as being outside the covenant of God and Israel. The renewed humanity was skipping right over those who thought that they were the “true Israel” and was coming instead to an apostate Samaritan because the concept of election was not about giving Israel special advantages but about God’s rescuing purposes for the world He created and so loves. So long as they were looking for a sign to affirm their superiority and agenda, they would never see the signs of the Kingdom.
Nevertheless, there were Israelites who truly desired God’s purposes for themselves and their nation. And this is why Jesus says that they shouldn’t give up praying and anticipating God’s justice i.e. God's fulfillment of His promise to bless all nations through Israel. THAT is what they were praying for and working for. God was going to set the world right and Israel was called to pray for it to happen, to prepare for it to happen, and to go to work to make it happen. Jesus says, don’t lose heart. A big part of the reason that He is saying this is because He knows that the answer to their prayers was much closer than they had imagined. Jesus Himself was carrying the purposes of God forward and soon this would be manifested in a cross on His back. “Let me tell you, he will vindicate them very quickly. But—when the son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8 We are extremely prone to taking God’s calling on our lives and turning it into our ambition that we imagine God is going to help us accomplish. High-jacking God’s agenda, we then try to force Him to use His strength to make our dreams come true. We lack the faith to trust God to bring about His purpose in our lives by His means. And Jesus is the means. Jesus, serving, trusting God, being obedient to death, even death on a cross is the method God is using to advance His Kingdom. Do we have enough faith to believe that this is the way we should go too? Do we have enough faith to take up our own cross and follow Him? Do we have enough faith to live like this really is the way God has established His Kingdom? And can we begin to tenaciously pray that God establishes His Kingdom fully and finally on earth as it is in heaven? And are we willing to go to work to make His reign as much of a reality in the present as possible? In Luke 18, Jesus knows that resurrection after the defeat of the enemy on the cross is right around the corner. And because Jesus has already been raised from the dead in the present, the gift of the Holy Spirit is already given so that you and I can begin to live in and bring into the present, God's future for the world, by being the renewed, serving, loving, worshiping, humanity. So don’t give up! Pray for the Kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. And worship Him to celebrate the victory over darkness and evil that has already been won on the cross!