The Need for Prayer and for Humility
EARLIER, when he was in Judea, Jesus told an illustration regarding the importance of being persistent in prayer. Now, on his final trip to Jerusalem, he again emphasizes the need not to give up in praying. Jesus is probably still in Samaria or Galilee when he tells his disciples this further illustration:
“In a certain city there was a certain judge that had no fear of God and had no respect for man. But there was a widow in that city and she kept going to him, saying, ‘See that I get justice from my adversary at law.’ Well, for a while he was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Although I do not fear God or respect a man, at any rate, because of this widow’s continually making me trouble, I will see that she gets justice, so that she will not keep coming and pummeling me to a finish.’”
Jesus then makes the application of his story, saying: “Hear what the judge, although unrighteous, said! Certainly, then, shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night, even though he is long-suffering toward them?”
Jesus does not mean to imply that Jehovah God is in any way like that unrighteous judge. Rather, if even an unrighteous judge will respond to persistent entreaties, there should be no question that God, who is altogether righteous and good, will answer if his people do not give up in praying. So Jesus continues: “I tell you, [God] will cause justice to be done to them speedily.”
Justice is frequently denied the lowly and the poor, whereas the powerful and the rich are often favored. God, however, not only will see to it that the wicked are justly punished but will also ensure that his servants are treated justly by giving them everlasting life. But how many people firmly believe that God will cause justice to be done speedily?
Referring especially to faith related to the power of prayer, Jesus asks: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” Although the question is left unanswered, the implication may be that such faith would not be common when Christ arrives in Kingdom power.
Among those listening to Jesus are some who feel quite self-assured in their faith. They trust in themselves that they are righteous, and they look down on others. Certain ones of Jesus’ disciples may even be included in the group. So he directs the following illustration to such ones:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and began to pray these things to himself, ‘O God, I thank you I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give the tenth of all things I acquire.’”
The Pharisees are noted for their public displays of righteousness to impress others. The usual days for their self-imposed fasts are Mondays and Thursdays, and they scrupulously pay the tenth of even the small herbs of the field. A few months earlier, their contempt for the common people had been manifest during the Festival of Tabernacles when they said: “This crowd that does not know the Law [that is, the Pharisaical interpretation given to it] are accursed people.”
Continuing his illustration, Jesus tells of such an “accursed” person: “But the tax collector standing at a distance was not willing even to raise his eyes heavenward, but kept beating his breast, saying, ‘O God, be gracious to me a sinner.’” Because the tax collector has humbly acknowledged his shortcomings, Jesus says: “I tell you, This man went down to his home proved more righteous than that man; because everyone that exalts himself will be humiliated, but he that humbles himself will be exalted.”
Thus Jesus again emphasizes the need to be humble. Being reared in a society in which the self-righteous Pharisees are so influential and position and rank are always stressed, it is not surprising that even Jesus’ disciples are affected. Yet, what fine lessons in humility Jesus teaches! Luke 18:1-14; John 7:49.
▪ Why does the unrighteous judge grant the widow’s request, and what lesson is taught by Jesus’ illustration?
▪ What faith will Jesus look for when he arrives?
▪ To whom does Jesus direct his illustration about the Pharisee and the tax collector?
▪ What attitude of the Pharisees is to be avoided?