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Two parables about prayer

Observations by a teacher:

  1. If I really believe in a concept and want my students to get it, I'll repeat it a lot, sometimes in different words.
  2. I do not lean on concepts that my students already understand. I tend to teach to the gaps in their understanding.
  3. Luke was more than a simple stenographer: He grouped things together for a purpose, so we need to deal with parables in their context. They are not just little one-shot stories.
  4. Jews were people who really did pray a lot—or at least they were used to being around praying people. The concept of prayer was certainly not new to them.

First parable: The persistent widow and the unjust judge
(Luke 18:1-8)

  • Luke lets the cat out of the bag with this one. There's no real question why the parable was told, so we should ask what shortcoming the parable is addressing.
  • The widow had a legitimate claim. The judge never questioned whether her lawsuit was valid.
  • Especially in the culture of the time, the widow had no power or status. She couldn't force the judge, and presumably didn't have the money to bribe him.
  • Her persistence was what won.

This is an example of the "how much more?" argument which is common in Scripture. If a terrible person (the judge isn't even honest) can be moved this way, how much more will your Heavenly Father give you what you ask if you persist?

Second parable: The pharisee and the tax collector
(Luke 18:9-14)

We dealt with this before, so a main question: Why is this here? We just had a parable about a lowly person with no status persuading an unjust judge; now we get a parable in which a notable sinner who is very aware of his sins is justified rather than the member of the religious elite; the next item following is the comment by Jesus that the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who receive the kingdom like a little child.

The common theme here is that low-status persons who have no ability to force their way in are somehow the Father's favorites.

Finally, the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:1-13)

We often lift this out and ignore its context.

  • Again, the disciples are asking Jesus to teach them to pray. Didn't they already know the liturgical Jewish prayers? They must have seen something in Jesus's praying (and John's) that didn't fit their expectations.
  • The basic instruction is followed by a short parable on the theme of persistence. Even though the request was unreasonable and inconvenient, the neighbor would fulfill it because of the persistence of the person doing the asking.
  • And again, the "How much more?" argument. If an annoyed neighbor will give you what you need just because you won't stop knocking on the door, how much more will your Heavenly Father give you what you ask for? And if you evil people will give your children good gifts, how much more will your Heavenly Father?

—Curt Allen