Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8 NASB)
With hurricanes and earthquakes, and now a gunman in Las Vegas, it’s easy to lose heart. Lament and grieving are totally legitimate, as the psalms show us. The widow in the parable above may well have spent many tearful hours lamenting before she plucked up courage to march down to the judge. But she ultimately leaves her lamenting, and gets busy asking, saying, “Give me what I need.” She gets turned down and comes back over and over again, stubbornly, until he gives her what she needs—with no confidence that the character of the judge was on her side!
But God is on our side. And God so loves the world—the world groaning with devastating weather and gun violence.
In Bible Study a few weeks ago, one of us was grappling with the unfolding news of Hurricane Irma and trying to pray. She said, “Why am I praying? God knows all this in detail.”
Our leader, Patty, said, “I often just pray, ‘Lord have mercy,’ and that covers everything.”
“But isn’t the Lord already full of mercy, beyond all that we can imagine? Why ask for that? It’s meaningless.”
After the study, Patty followed up with an email, quoting a book she’s reading called Enjoying the Presence of God, by Jan Johnson.
Praying for whatever is in front of us includes praying while reading the newspaper or watching the news. Wars around the world aren’t just news, they’re calls to pray for God’s will to be done, for justice to prevail. When reading political cartoonists and outstanding editorial writers, we can pray they’ll become instruments of truth and peace—whether or not they’re aware of it. Practicing God’s presence this way, then, is not an escape from the world but an engagement of the world. We process the tragedy and viciousness through our awareness that God is active in every situation.
God is merciful and just and good, but He brings those things to bear on the world through requests. Like the widow’s. Like Jan Johnson’s. Like Patty’s. Like all our prayers. Why? Because that’s how He chooses to initiate much, though not all, loving action in the world.
Keep at prayer, Jesus says. A cow leans on a fence and in time, the fence falls over, yielding to the inexorable pressure of a cud-chewing mammal. Persist. Don’t lose heart. The fence will fall, the kingdom of evil will suffer defeat, God’s rule will be acknowledged everywhere.
Considering that Jesus exhorts us to learn from even an unjust judge, teaches us to pray, gives us every blessing in the heavenly places and provides His Spirit to pray with us, it seems that we have a good response to the headline news, not to mention the prayer list and the daily battles of those we love.
“Will I find faith on earth?” says Jesus. If He comes by here today, or tomorrow, joining our fellowship, abiding with us, will He find hearts that refuse to lose hope and stubbornly persist in prayer? Let’s encourage each other to be like the stubborn widow.
Jani can be reached by email here.