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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, October 20, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 18:1–8

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (NRSV)

Luke must have known this parable Jesus told was difficult to understand, because the Gospel writer starts off by telling us what the message is at the very beginning of the passage: we need to pray and not lose heart. I’ll admit that even though Luke provides the interpretation, I find this passage frustrating. It brings up a lot of questions for me, like, Why do we need to keep praying for the same thing over and over? Is God testing us? Is God trying to teach us something? Especially in this example of praying for justice—which could be a matter of life or death for the widow—it seems cruel for Jesus to tell us to just keep asking.

And I can’t help but think of people who have prayed for years for reconciliation with a family member, people who have prayed for decades for deliverance from a chronic illness, families who have prayed for generations for peace in the Middle East. How much praying is enough?

Luke would probably tell me that’s the wrong question to ask. It’s not about when it’s enough. And maybe it’s not even about the answer. Maybe it’s about the process. Maybe our continued prayers for the same thing over and over is an expression of our faith, a form of worship, a way to acknowledge our relationship with God, and a way to show that we believe in God’s almighty power. When it comes down to it, it’s about faith. And the beautiful, although sometimes frustrating, thing about faith is that by definition it is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Lord, strengthen my faith so that I can use prayer as a time to build relationship with you. Help me to appreciate the process rather than just focusing on the answer. Amen.

Written by Nicole Spirgen, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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