This week's text is Luke 18:1-8.
The text begins, "Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not lose heart." The parable has two characters in it: a widow and a judge. The widow pesters the judge into giving her relief from an adversary. And the judge eventually grants the widows request, but only because of her persistence. He is uninterested in righteousness, toward God or toward humans.
In the end the parable is speaking not only about persistence but about faithfulness, asking, "When the Son of Man comes will he find faithfulness on earth?" For Sunday, I am wondering about the faithfulness of both the judge and the widow. We can see clearly the faithfulness of the widow in her persistence. But the judge shows persistence too in that listening over and over takes persistence. Although we typically call that patience.
Listening requires patience and kindness, self-control and even love. All of these qualities are qualities we would find in faithfulness. So, both characters show faithfulness in their own way.
Both the persistence of asking for relief from an adversary and listening to the request for relief is exhausting. Patience, long-suffering is hard business.
I've written a memoir about my husband's diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis and my journey in navigating and accepting the changes in our life together. In this memoir, I write quite a bit about prayer. I write about the way my prayers have changed over time. I write about how my understanding of the purpose of prayer has changed over time. i write about not knowing what to pray or when to pray... or who I was praying to. Here's an excerpt from the chapter in my memoir called "Really Very Small."
... So my consideration of prayer was less about finding the words to say but about who I was talking to. I've always quoted Mark Twain as saying, "God made man in his own image and man, being fair minded, returned the favor." It turns out Mark Twain didn't say that. Blaise Pascal did. Blaise Pascal was the mathematician/physicist turned theologian/writer. After he invented the calculator, he wrote a defense for God in a series of letters that were burned by the Catholic church in the mid 1600's. I believe the first thing I was taught about Pascal though was his "wager." He said this:
I remember when I wrote those words, I wasn't thrilled with Pascal's admonishment but at the same time it seemed that persistent struggling combined with persistent conversation with God had changed how I was comfortable with presenting requests to God. Persistent prayer is hard. Persistence had changed the nature of my prayer and it had changed me, the one praying.
Here's another excerpt, this one from the chapter in called, "My Prayer Is a Sigh."
I found this psalm, “All our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh."
I have to wonder about the changes in both the widow and the judge. In the end, how had their words and their listening, respectively, changed? And in what ways had their persistence taken on the characteristics of a sigh?
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