First Reading: Ex 17:8-13; Psalm: 121. R. v. 2; Second Reading: 2Tim 3:14-4:2; Gospel: Lk 18:1-8
THE ANATOMY OF PERSISTENT PRAYER
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Whenever Jesus told a parable, it was precisely a style of making his message vivid by way of images and stories. The essence of Jesus’ parables in the scriptures is that it offers us a platform wherefrom we get a glimpse of who God is to us; how he relates with us and how we should relate with one another drawing from God’s exemplary love. The parable of the widow and the unjust judge however appears atypical and totally misrepresents who God is, and how God acts if we digest the parable word for word. The best way therefore to understand this parable is that it suggests that God will act in the best possible way in responding to our requests and concerns.
There are several qualities unlike God evident in this parable. The first is that God is not an unjust judge who shows no empathy nor regarded for man. If there was any truth so evident about God; one of it is that God understands exactly how we feel in every situation. Jesus was like us in everything except sin (Heb 4:16). Secondly, we do not disturb or weary God with our requests as demonstrated by this judge who felt fatigued by the widow’s request. “Our God does not faint or grow weary.” (Is 40:28). Thirdly, God is not pressured or induced into doing our wish either by our persistence or promises. “Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he wills.” (Ps 115:3). And finally, God is not unthinking in granting our requests. So there is no guarantee of receiving exactly what we asked for. For God knows the best for us. ‘His plan for us is of good and not of evil, to give us hope and a future.’ (Jer 29:11).
There is no mention in this parable of the exact case this widow was trying to deal with. But what was clear was that she was facing oppression and injustice from someone more powerful than her. From the parable, we can see that her adversary never came to the king to lay any complaint. It was this widow who kept coming. The unjust judge knew of this case. But being an unjust man, he probably was on the side of this widow’s adversary.
Oppression and injustice is evil. God opposes it. Especially when done to a vulnerable and defenceless widow. This was why Jesus said that God will vindicate his elect speedily in matters like this; much more than did the unjust judge. So although God cannot be pressured to do exactly our wish; he however will not hesitate in acting on matters bordering on our good. This is precisely the point of this parable.
In the first reading, we read of the war between Amalek and Israel. This war took place en route to the Promised Land where the Israelites were intercepted by Amalek and his people. Neither war nor killing is a good thing. But the crux of this encounter was that Amalek and his people became a hindrance to the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel. This was what justified Israel’s decision to battle against Amalek and his people. And the reason as to why God was on the side of the Israelites. The intercession of Moses was key to Israel’s victory. But Israel wouldn’t have prevailed if the war wasn’t a just one, and even if Moses had persisted in prayer.
Persistent prayer does not weary God. It does not mean that God snubs our prayers neither does it mean that such prayer would change God. The silence of God could be a way of drawing us nearer to him and making us realise how helpless we are without him. So there are some dispositions that should accompany every prayer intention we make. The first is that we must admit that we do not know how to ask. Our asking is imperfect which is why we should rely on the decisions of the perfect God.
The second is that we do not see beyond what we ask. Our wishes may appear beautiful; but beyond this attractiveness, there could be some latent consequences to our request that could be lethal or detrimental to our wellbeing. We are not omniscient; God is. And this is why we should trust God.
And finally, God is not unthinkingly tractable and obedient to our requests. He is the God with will and intellect; and knows what is good for us.
We should build our faith around these truths and trust that God would not hesitate to grant any wish that will do us good. Prayer demands absolute trust and dependence on God after asking. A kind of trust that is disposed and submissive to the outcome of God’s reply to our requests. So when we pray, we should not relent in persisting. And when we persist, we should not do so as though we could coerce God into doing our wish. We should rather trust that God would not refuse us any request that will do us good. Such that if we do not receive what we asked for; then we know that God has granted what he feels is good for us.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, teach us to pray, wait, and trust in you. Amen.