A friend sent me a book on prayer last week. I received it last Friday, the same day I'd written the prayer blog on Luke 18. I opened the book that night to look through the table of contents and to read a few pages before I went to bed. Guess where it started? Yes, with Luke 18. So I read the story of the persistent widow once again as it was the first thing printed in the book. That's as far as I got, for the actual words of the widow, her petition to the judge, caught my attention: "Get me justice for me from my adversary."
I realized that I had often skipped over her actual request while focusing on her persistence. But this time the Holy Spirit highlighted the request. This woman was harassed and weighed down by the injustice being done to her by some other person. She needed someone with authority to step in and correct the situation, to give her justice, to avenge her and get this enemy off her back. She needed the judge to end her oppression.
I read the story once more this morning, again paying particular attention to the widow's request. One of the simplest forms of Bible study that I have done, which yields amazing insights, is what I call a "tally mark study." All you do is write down any key words and then put a tally mark beside them as you come across the same word, form of the word, or synonym of the word when it's repeated throughout the passage. In this way, the theme of the passage emerges simply by the primary repeated words. I have had some of my greatest revelations of truth come through this simple method of Bible study.
Guess what the most repeated word of the story in Luke 18 is? Avenge. Four times. Some translations use the word justice for the first occurrence in verse 3; some use vengeance in one or more of the places. So I looked it up in Strong's Concordance. Sure enough it's the same word throughout: Avenge. It means to give justice, to vindicate one's right/make a right ruling, to protect or defend one person from another, to punish a person, to avenge for something.
We too have an adversary. I think we lose sight of that. Because our needs and burdens seem and feel so tangible, so centered on things here on earth, whether it's other people we are having difficulties with or things we need or circumstances that are weighing us down, we forget the truth of Ephesians 6:11-12: "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
Jesus is not just teaching here about persevering in prayer; He's giving us insight into the reality of the spiritual realm. We have an adversary who is MUCH stronger than we are and who is very oppressive—just like this poor widow had. God is a just judge. We can and must appeal to Him for justice, for relief from our adversary. We must cry out to Him day and night, as the widow kept coming, that we might be free of the spiritual oppressions we face. Whether our need is a financial burden, a relational burden, or a circumstantial burden, these are all oppressions that we face. We're not left to try to wrestle them out on our own, and they are not merely earthly. There are spiritual forces and powers behind them—that is the real enemy.
Oh, if we could only begin to see this! If we—if I—would learn to default immediately to this perspective whenever something is troubling me! If we could only take our focus off the immediate, tangible problem, to see the spiritual army arrayed against us and behind it all! We need Jesus Christ, the Captain of the Armies of the Lord and the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10), who has already defeated the devil and all his hordes, to come and do battle for us!
Picture this: You are entering into the courtroom of heaven (Hebrews 4:16). You walk down the aisle to the front where God, the perfectly righteous One, is the judge presiding on the bench. Jesus Christ is our defending attorney (I John 2:1). The prosecuting attorney is Satan, the accuser of the saints (Revelation 12:10). The court is in session. Satan has us bound under some oppression and is defending his right to do so, pointing his finger, making accusation after accusation to prove his right to keep us bound. We hear the accusations and we think, "He is right. I have done those things; I deserve this bondage, this oppression."
But Jesus Christ stands at our right hand and presents his defense. He advocates for us before the Judge, who is also now our Father, thanks to our defending Attorney. We are His; none of those accusations can hold up in court because, He argues on our behalf, His defendant's debt has already been paid. For someone to have to pay for the same crime twice is not just. And He shows His hands. The Judge bangs down His gavel: "Case dismissed. Free the defendant from the oppression of this tyrant."
This is how we need to pray. We are advocating against the enemy behind all of life's oppressions and pleading with our just God to be avenged. This is what Jesus is teaching us in this parable. This is what He wants to open our eyes to.
What are you burdened with? Take it to the courtroom of heaven and present it there with Christ at your side. Ask to be avenged of your adversary, whatever form his oppression may take. Don't back down, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many accusations are thrown at you from the enemy. Keep asking. When our cause is right, our needs legitimate, our desires in line with the truth, justice will be given.