Then Jesus[a] told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my accuser.’ 4 For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ ”[b] 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18: 1-8)
When I was studying at Queen’s for my M.Div., one of my profs had us do a Spiritual Gifts Inventory. I have copies of the inventory at home and I’d be happy to walk any of you through it if you’d like a view of your own Spiritual Gifts. I can’t remember the nitty gritty details of the whole inventory, but what I do remember is that my highest areas of giftedness were in administration and leadership, and my lowest area was:
Yup, your minister apparently just doesn’t ‘do’ prayer. Trust me, it does cause me a little chagrin, especially since I lead you all in prayer several times I week. But you’ll notice that the last sentence I wrote used the word ‘lead’ and that actually is an area of giftedness for me, so I guess (I hope?) that it all balances out.
But I think we all have a little bit of a funny relationship with prayer.
I mean, really, what happens when we pray?
I know I have had many many persistent begging prayers with God that have gone unanswered. Some of these prayers really are silly and trivial; like 15 year old me begging God for a miracle grade on a math test I hadn’t studied for, or to have my Dad be asleep when I get home late for curfew. But also, there have been deep, heartfelt prayers to God, in the middle of the shadows of the night that have remained unanswered; requests that someone I loved very much would not die; prayers for protection from disease for friends and prayers for relief of disability and pain for myself. I can’t say that I haven’t been earnest in praying; I have. But sometimes it feels like its falling on deaf ears.
This week in the Lectionary, us clergy are served up the parable that I have quoted at the top of the page. I like this parable. I like the image of this persistent woman showing up on the unjust judge’s court room week after week trying to get a ruling in her favour. I love that the judge basically just threw in the towel because he was worried he’d be shamed by the woman. I also completely understand that the point of the parable is that God isn’t an unjust judge.
But I wonder if much of the time I operate as if God IS the unjust judge. I wonder if I actually secretly don’t believe that God is fair, just and steadfast. And I wonder, if that’s why Jesus ended the parable with the phrase:
“And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Because, in my world, faith in God requires me to trust that God is just. To trust that there’s hope for me in the long wrong. And to trust that God actually does hear me when I pray.
So, at the end of the day, when I’m feeling like all of my petitions in the middle of the night aren’t actually being heard, maybe its because the issue isn’t God’s ears but my faith. Maybe the issues is that I need to change my outlook. An outlook that places trust in God first. A trust that Justice and Love are more important than anything. A trust that reminds me that I don’t need to lose heart; that God is here, and God listens to me.
Blessings today and remember you are Loved.