Sunday, October 17, 2010

Faithful Prayer

What is Jesus talking about and who is he talking about? Who is this judge supposed to be? And this nagging, whining, widow woman, who is she?

Just when we think we understand what Jesus is saying he tells us this parable about a judge who doesn’t care one whit for God or people, a real curmudgeon. But yet he has his limits and because of this widow’s persistent nagging, day in and day out, he relents and grants her the justice she has been badgering him for.

So, do you suppose that means that we are to badger God with our prayers in the same way? There are times we might just do that but that’s probably not what Jesus intended us to learn from this parable.

Well, we do know that the parable is about prayer because that’s what Luke says in the beginning verse, “Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit.”

And that’s the point we don’t want to lose sight of here. This parable is about prayer. So what is it about prayer that we humans have trouble with? Is it that we don’t know how to pray? Is it that we don’t have the time to pray? Or, is it that we don’t really believe that God will hear and answer our prayers? Maybe it’s all of these.

This story is about a judge who is the most obnoxious person in the world. You wonder how he ever got appointed to the bench. He makes no bones that he doesn’t believe in God and he really doesn’t like people.

And this widow had the unlucky misfortune to draw this particular judge, the one who hates God and people. This poor widow woman has nothing. She has no money with which to influence the judge. She doesn’t have a husband or any other male family member to speak for her in court. All she has is her tenacity and determination to get the justice she believes she deserves.

We shouldn’t say that she doesn’t have anything. She does have a determined spirit and, apparently, no fear that this judge may kick her out and bar her from his court forever. Nope, she comes everyday to the court and demands that he award her what she has coming to her. And it might even be that she follows him home or sends him letters or posts things about him on Facebook about how bad a judge he is. Who knows?

Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. If he didn’t give in she was going to leave him black and blue. Can’t you just see her standing at his bench in the court room hammering her fist on the bench demanding justice? The judge may have feared for his well being if he didn’t give in to her demands.

So, friends, what’s Jesus saying to us? What do you think he’s saying? How do you interpret the Word to us today?

It sounds to me that if we are persistently faithful in our praying God will hear our prayers and answer them. But some might say, and they may be absolutely right, that they pray every day, all day, and still God doesn’t answer their prayers. How do we answer that?

As I read this passage a couple words stood out for me, persistence, consistent, and faith. This brings us back to the story I told the children. About this boy who wanted a musical instrument so he could learn to play in the band. Mom and Dad didn’t give in right away; in fact they didn’t even give in the second time he asked. It wasn’t until he had found out the cost of a used instrument and brought that information to their attention that they decided maybe he was ready.

It’s kind of like a story I read that Rev. Tom Long used in a sermon about two boys, a raft, and an island in the middle of the river. One of the boys was floating down the river on a raft and his friend saw him and asked, “What are you doing?” He said that he was trying to get to the island in the middle of the river. Well his friend dove in and swam to the raft so he could help him.

The current in the middle of the river was strong and it wasn’t doing the raft any favors as the boys struggled to get to the island. They did make it to the island but just as they did the raft completely fell apart and there they were stranded in the middle of the river with no way to get off the island.

It just so happens that a paddle boat is coming down the river and the second boy starts to jump up and down, hollering and waving at the boat. His friend tells him they can’t hear you and even if they could they’re not going to come over here and pick us up.

Well, the boat begins to turn toward the island and they can tell it’s coming to rescue them. The other boy wanted to know how he knew the boat would come and get them. He said, “My father is the captain. I knew he’d come and get me.”

I think that’s what Jesus is trying to teach us in the parable. God is our Father and he loves us so much he won’t leave us stranded.

As children we talked to our parents all the time, every day. Sometimes they probably wished for some peace and quiet because we never stopped talking. But didn’t they usually listen to us. And didn’t they usually give us what we needed.

God loves us way more than our parents and doesn’t want any of us to suffer. God is all about having an intimate relationship with us. And the way that happens is by praying to him all the time, consistently, persistently, all the time. When we do that we soon realize that we know God and he knows us.

The point that we don’t want to lose sight of is we are to pray continuously and don’t give up hope.

Thanks be to God for his loving grace. Amen.

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