I feel like I have written a lot about prayer lately, even though it only been a handful of times over a few months, but it is a theme that the Scriptures keep returning to in our Sunday readings. The various returns to the theme of prayer are not accidental or coincidental but are meant to remind us that prayer is a vital aspect to any true disciple’s daily living.
This Sunday, St. Luke recounts for us Jesus’s telling the parable of the dishonest judge. He tells us that while this judge fears neither God nor anyone else, there is a widow who is an exception. We do not know anything really about this woman. We might think of her as tough and tenacious but that is purely conjecture. We know that she is persistent in her appeals to this judge. We also know that she is not being unreasonable because Jesus tells us that all she is asking for is justice.
And what is justice? The traditional philosophical definition for justice is rendering to each what each one deserves. Once again, in light of that definition, we can argue that this widow is being completely reasonable. Jesus tells us in this parable that the judge, while not moved by justice, is moved by fear of physical harm from the widow. It is because of that fear that he will ultimately render a just decision for the widow and the widow’s persistence will pay off.
This parable is an analogy for prayer. In light of that I pose the following questions for all of us: Do I pray? Do I pray frequently? Why do I pray? Do I truly believe in the power of prayer? I ask these questions in light of Jesus’s comments following the parable. God wants our prayers. He wants us to approach him and faith and trust in his love for us. The last statement is key regarding this parable; again, God wants us to trust in his love for us.
The dishonest judge is motivated by fear to answer the woman’s pleas. God is not motivated by fear or our perception of merit or because he owes us anything. God hears our pleas and he answers us because of one great fact and that fact is that he loves us with a love that is total and unconditional. God truly does hear and answer every prayer; sometimes he does so in the way that we want him to and sometimes not, but even in those times our prayer is answered with the gift of his grace that will help us to accept his will over our own.
Now, for the last question: do we believe this? So often we allow fear, disappointment, anger, a false sense of self-righteousness, and many other things to hamper our trust in God’s great love for us, and that he will always act for our ultimate good. As I read this passage from Luke, I find a certain sadness in Jesus’s last question: but when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Jesus fully comprehends the greatness of the Father’s love for us. Are we willing to let go and trust in that love?
Let us be persistent in our prayer, never fearing to approach the Lord with humble and faithful hearts, knowing that our God is a God who loves us and who is always attentive to our pleas. Prayer may not give us what we want but it will give us grace and the more grace that we are open to receiving the better people, the better disciples we will be.
Father Christopher House is the Rector of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, namely Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.