Meditation of the week

Engine of prayer

Luke 18,1-8.

Immediately after the story of healing of the ten lepers, Jesus is asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come (17,20). He presents a challenging scenario of trials connected with the coming of the Son of Man but encourages and challenges his listeners with two parables on the importance of prayer for all, as they await its coming.

This first parable is about the need for his disciples to pray continually and never lose heart, found only in Luke’s gospel. The point of the parable is that if this ruthless judge, who has regard neither for God nor people, gives way to the persistent pleadings of a poor widow, we may be certain that a just God will see that justice is done for his chosen ones (elect) who pray steadfastly when he seems to delay to help them. He will see justice done speedily for them. Jesus ends the parable by asking the rhetorical question whether the Son of Man will find any faith on earth, when he comes.  Faith is the engine of steadfast prayer. (18,8).

Judges were supposed to be impartial dispensers of justice for all, and champions of the rights of the underdogs of society; widows, orphans, the poor, foreigners (Ex 22,22; Deut 10,18)  It is clear from many passages in the Old Testament and especially the psalms that this did not always happen.  Three Judges always sat in a Jewish court, one who was independent, and one each, chosen by the plaintiff and defendant.

Jesus would probably have been referring to a Roman magistrate. Characterising him as neither fearing God and nor respecting people, and as an “unjust judge,” would have resonated with people’s experience of Roman judges.

Bribery and corruption were avenues open to the rich to influence court decisions in their favour, but the poor had God and their own persistence to fall back on if their rights were denied them. The persistent pleas of the poor widow, pierced through the arrogance and contempt, behind which the unjust judge hid, making him realize that in the end he could be the loser in this battle of wills.

Prayer is an important theme of Luke’s gospel. He has eight references to prayer which we do not find in Mt or Mk. Chief among them are; at Jesus’ baptism (3,21), the selection of the twelve apostles (6,21), Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus (9,18), The Transfiguration (9,28), before teaching the Lord’s Prayer (11,1), at the Crucifixion (23,34).

The parable teaches us that just as the unjust judge gives in to the persistence of the poor widow so will our loving heavenly Father respond to our persistent prayers for our needs.

Have you had your persistent prayers for a favour answered?

Today’s gospel emphasises the power of intercessory prayer with God. Lord Tennyson affirms that “more things are wrought by prayer that this world dreams of.” Would you agree?

When Jesus comes again, “will he find any faith on earth?”  Will he find anyone praying? – a thoroughly relevant question for our time! Why do many people find it difficult to pray these days?   What would help them to start praying?   “Scared Space” and “Pray as you Go” are highly recommended internet prayer sites.  Give them a visit.

Fr Geoff O’Grady