WE NEED TO PERSEVERE IN PRAYER
(Biblical reflection on the 29th Ordinary Sunday [Year C] – 16 October 2016)
Gospel Reading: Luke 18:1-8
First Reading: Exodus 17:8-13; Psalms: Psalm 121:1-8; Second Reading: 2Timothy 3:14-4:2
And He told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’ For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8 RSV)
In today’s Gospel we hear another parable of Jesus which calls His disciples to pray and work with a positive attitude. Even if you are a poor “nobody”, says the Lord, like the widow, do not stop fighting for your just rights. If it means opposing the powerful and wealthy establishment, go to it.
The point of the parable is not to picture God as a heartless judge but to exhort us to persevere in prayer. If persistence prevails with a judge who cares only for his own convenience and comfort, how much more will it prevail with a gracious God who loves His children?
Nonetheless, some questions still remain unanswered. Why should we have to plead and wait at all when we pray? Why are some prayers never answered, regardless of how long we pray?
There are three suggestions as possible solutions to these problems.
First, God may delay to answer prayers in our way in order to purify our motives. Is what we ask for in prayer really what we need, or is it something we merely want? What we want may be nice – a raise in pay or an “A” on an exam – but it might only make us more selfish and unloving. What we might really need to make us a better and wiser person might be poverty or failure.
Second, God may delay in order to intensify our desire. Where there is little desire on the part of the entertainer, athlete, student or worker, they seldom reach their potential. But where there is intense desire, a person is more likely to scale the heights of excellence.
Third, God may delay to make us appreciate His gifts more. Home is dearer when the journey is long. Success is more precious when the struggle is arduous. God’s gifts are sometimes valued more when we have to wait for them.
Prayer is not working on God to manipulate Him into granting a request as if He were some kind of Aladdin’s lamp. Rather, it is a surrender to God in faith to experience his presence even without His presents. So we have to persist in prayer, not to persuade God to give us some gift, but to prepare and open our hearts to receive Him who is the Giver of all gifts. We need to persevere in prayer, not because God is hard to reach, but because we are. So maybe we need to make one more novena, light one more candle or recite one more rosary because we’re not ready yet to relinquish our will to His or to receive Him into our hearts.
Jesus assures us that determined prayer is powerful and can produce unexpected results. This parable is especially consoling to little people in today’s world who are so often unheard and ignored. Although political clout may seem necessary to get things done, here we are reminded of a clout even more powerful – persevering prayer. It can make the weak and poor triumph over the rich and powerful.
With Moses in today’s reading from Exodus, we lift our hands to God and refuse to rest until the battle is over and the victory has been won.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I lay before You the sufferings and needs of people I know – and my own needs, too. Come, Lord Jesus, and act to bring about justice and health and life! Show your power to save! And above all, give me Your heart, and Your wisdom. Help me to trust in You completely. Amen.
Jakarta, 13 October 2016
A Christian Pilgrim