Luke 18:1-8 (CEV)
1Jesus told his disciples a story about how they should keep on praying and never give up:
2 In a town there was once a judge who didn’t fear God or care about people. 3 In that same town there was a widow who kept going to the judge and saying, “Make sure that I get fair treatment in court.”
4 For a while the judge refused to do anything. Finally, he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 I will help this widow because she keeps on bothering me. If I don’t help her, she will wear me out.”
6 The Lord said:
Think about what that crooked judge said. 7 Won’t God protect his chosen ones who pray to him day and night? Won’t he be concerned for them? 8 He will surely hurry and help them. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find on this earth anyone with faith?
Anyone With Faith?
Over fifteen years ago we spent six months in deep, daily intense prayer for the life of our unborn and newborn child. We had been told that he had a condition that was ‘incompatible with life’, but we were new parents, so how could we do anything but ask God for a miracle to let our son live? We asked and we asked and we asked. We asked people we knew to be prayer warriors to ask, we asked elders to come and anoint us with oil, we went to healing prayer services. We prayed as hard and as often as we possibly could, but in the end our son still died.
But that’s hardly anything compared to a people who have spent generations praying to God for release from captivity as slaves; release from captivity as refugees; release from the captivity of having an overlord who charges them upwards of 80 – 90% in taxes; release from the captivity of pre-modern-medicine sickness and disease and death.
The Israelites have prayed and prayed and prayed for generations for the Messiah to turn up – for the Messiah to rescue them from the place where they have felt intransigently stuck.
But the problem for the Israelites – and the problem for me, and maybe even for you – is that when we have done all that praying, but didn’t get the answer we wanted it can feel like God didn’t show up.
And I think this is exactly the kind of ‘prayer burn-out’ Jesus is addressing in this story.
He’s looking around at a people who have technically speaking been praying for his very arrival for generations longer than they’ve been alive, and yet he’s arrived and they’ve lost sight of the ability to see him for who he truly is. Lost sight of the ability to recognize him as the answer to their long-standing prayers.
I think the answer is in his reference to God’s character. “Won’t God protect his chosen ones who pray to him day and night? Won’t he be concerned for them? He will surely hurry and help them.”
I think that the Israelites had lost sight of God’s character.
Over time, they had slowly allowed their disappointment, their hurts, their cynicism, their anger to cause them to shift – sometimes ever-so-slowly – in their view of who God is and how much God loves each and every one of us.
Until we find Jesus seemingly equating their view of God with an unjust judge.
And Jesus is there, walking right among them, and is still left looking around for “anyone with faith”.
The brokenness of this world isn’t going to stop, just so that we can figure out our relationship with God.
The disappointments and hurts, cynicism and anger is going to keep buffeting us for as long as we’re here on earth.
But I think we have a choice as to whether we hold on to a view of God as an ‘unjust judge’, or whether we choose the path of faith and learn to lean into a God who will protect and be concerned for us; a God who will hurry to help us.
It isn’t the promise of perfection.
It’s the invitation to faith.
- Have you ever allowed your disappointment, hurt, cynicism or anger to stand in the way of talking to God?
- What would change if you began to view God as one who would protect, be concerned for, or hurry to help us and those around us and in our world at large?
- What would change if you began to realize that a God who cared that much for us, would even care about our disappointments, hurts, cynicism and anger?
- Might it be possible to take even these to God?
- How long has it been since you prayed?
- How do Jesus’ words offer a path towards leaning in to prayer today?