Scripture and life have taught us that God listens to perseverant people, to those who wholeheartedly and persistently pray, to those whose actions are aligned with and in support of their prayers. Jesus sets this parable before us as a model of how we are to pursue the life of prayer. St Augustine says that The Lord taught us not to pray with much speaking, as if we were more likely to be heard by the more words we used. He said, ‘The Father knows what you need before you ask him.’ It may seem strange, then, that though he cautions us against much speaking, and the Father knows what we need before we ask for it, Jesus still urges us to pray: “to pray always and not lose heart.”
Augustine was quite clear that the unjust judge in the story was not an image of God. “By no means does that unjust judge furnish an allegorical representation of God.” Jesus is not comparing them, but contrasting them. If an unjust judge can respond to persistent requests, how much more will the good God? “The Lord wishes us to infer how much care God bestows on those who beseech him, for God is both just and good.”
It is for our own sakes that we have to be persistent, and not because God is reluctant to give us what we need. It is ourselves we have to convince. Much of the time we hardly know what we want, let alone what we need. By concentrating our prayer we are making ourselves ready to receive what God is going to give – or to be without what God is going to withhold. We are co-operating with God's work in us.
Furthermore, Jesus tells us that God will be quick in His replies. Nonetheless, most of us are deficient in our prayer life. Few of us follow a solid and demanding prayer schedule. Perhaps we pray now and then. Or we pray when we feel a particular need for extra help, but especially when we are in trouble, in fear, in danger, or when we are worried and anxious. Sometimes we even use prayers to give God marching orders — along the lines of "my will be done" rather than "your will be done", the original version taught by Jesus. When God does not seem to comply with our wishes; that becomes the moment to test our purity of intention.
Unlike the persistent widow, we have all had responses other than what we expected from God. How we accept them reveals a lot about how much we want God's will and how much we are attached to our own will. We might think that the injunction to "pray always" is exaggerated, along the lines of "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." But Jesus is the Truth, and he is not given to cheap words and slogans.
When Jesus says something, he means it: Be perfect, pray always. These
are more than suggestions. Ask the Lord for the grace to be constant in our prayer.