Do you ever feel like giving up?
It’s all very well for other people to make encouraging noises like ‘keep going’, ‘don’t give up’, but when circumstances are tough and you are feeling weak then it can feel it’s not worth bothering. Prayer can be especially hard at such times. What’s the point of keeping on praying if prayer seems to fall on deaf ears?
“pray always and not to lose heart”.
It’s a story of an uncaring, unjust judge and a widowed woman who kept on coming to him to plead for justice. It’s often called the ‘Parable of the Unjust Judge’. This post is part of my ‘women of the gospels’ series and I will call it the ‘Parable of the persistent widow’. You can read the story in Luke 18: 1 – 8.
Not much hope of justice for a powerless person
How do you get justice if you have no voice, now power, no money? A widow had little hope of justice without a male relative to advocate. Legal cases were decided through a contest of arguments between opposing parties before the judge decided to vindicate 1 side or the other. If someone had wronged you, you had to personally bring a case against the accused, unless you were a woman. If you were a woman, your husband, father or brother would do it for you. A woman’s testimony was not considered trustworthy. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the widow was seeking a hearing from a judge who was unlikely to give just judgement. Many such officials were vulnerable to bribery or political pressure. And this judge, didn’t care about justice or care about people and had no reverence for God. Faithless, he was committed to the comfortable life.
The widow was desperate to see right done, persistently turning up day after day at the city gate court. She followed the judge around, determined to give him no peace until she received justice. By contrast, the judge eventually gave in for the sake of a quiet life. Jesus was not saying God is like an unjust judge, but that if even an unjust judge could in the end do what is right, then how much more will God vindicate the cause of the oppressed. Jesus asks which of 2 attitudes he would find among his followers. Perseverance or giving in to what is convenient and makes for an easy life? “When the Son of Man comes” asks Jesus, “will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
How can we keep going with prayer and not lose heart?
The context of the parable of the persistent widow is the key. Jesus is in the middle of talking about the coming of God’s kingdom. We can be confident in persisting in praying in the way Jesus taught. The Lord’s Prayer has all we ever need to pray. It is a prayer that will be answered. In thinking about so many unjust situations and suffering in the world I often don’t know what to pray, but the plea, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done’ is always relevant and will one day be fully answered. Keeping on praying that prayer is not so God will give in to our constant pleading, but so we can share more fully in what God is doing – bringing justice to the oppressed, healing the broken hearted, setting people free.
Prayer transforms the one who prays.
Never give up. Keep on going.
For further reflection
- what discourages you from persisting in prayer for justice?
- what most encourages you to keep going? Does your use of social media help or not?
- how can we use social media to further the cause of justice and create more compassion?