Praying Without Ceasing

Luke 18: 1-8

And so [following this teaching] this is the parable he told them, in order that they be constant in prayer and not collapse [under the weight of such troubles] saying:
“There was this magistrate in a certain city, who did not fear God and toward man he was shameless [in his judgements], neither fearing God, nor respecting people. And there was this widow in that city who came to him saying,
“‘Bring me redress from my opponent! Decide in my favour against the person opposing me.’
“And for some time he did nothing but after a while [with the case still before him] he said to himself:
“’Even though I neither fear God nor respect people [as I should], I will decide in favour of this woman because otherwise she will simply wear me out from all the trouble she is causing me.’
“Hear then what the [unjust] magistrate without standing [before God] says: and shall not God grant redress to his own specially chosen [adopted family members] who cry to him day and night, and deal patiently with them? I tell you, he will grant redress immediately with no delay.
“But still [even with such a guarantee] when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?”

Luke does not change the topic. He goes on to recount the parable Jesus gave his disciples so that, faced with this situation, they would heed his command to them, always praying, not losing hope.

Now Jesus could not have taken this story from the Sychar Post or refer to what was broadcast on the Evening News broadcast. But it seems possible that it was a well-known story doing the rounds. It is not a “Kingdom of God is like …” parable. Much rather it is of the genre of parable that gets its wisdom across in a way that asks the listener to consider it with this question in mind: “here is what unrighteous men can do; how then should you consider Heavenly Father concern for your requests?”

A woman had repeatedly brought her case before an unscrupulous magistrate, well-known for his dodgy judgements. She had finally been granted redress even though everyone knew that she should be granted redress. She had to keep on banging away because it was a case that was too inconvenient to the unenthusiastic magistrate.

Well, said Jesus, to his disciples: note how justice can sometimes come, even handed down by dodgt magistrates! What does that tell you about your attitude as you pray to the Almighty? Keep on banging away on his door. This case should encourage you to do just that!

However, here is Jesus’ warning, provoking his disciples to undertake a serious rethink about their prayers.

Do you think, given what you know about the genuine earnestness of your own prayers, let alone anyone else’s, that the Son of Man, when he finally comes, is going to find faith comparable to that of the woman seeking redress, banging away on the magistrate’s door?

In other words: Just how are you praying? Are you praying with true faith? Or are you, like the magistrate, just going through the motions?

18th January 2017

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