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How Long LORD, How Long?
Perseverance in Prayer - Psalm 6:3

by Colonel Janet Munn
Reprinted from JMunn.CSLD.Newsletter.August2011.

Long before the woman appears pregnant and brings forth her child there is life growing within her. Similarly, all those hours memorizing vocabulary words and conjugating verbs, only to feel completely bewildered in listening to this foreign language. But then, seemingly suddenly, the riddles are unraveled, the babble is sensible, the language is understood.

 

So in prayer – with great determination, pressing in, not giving up, always believing, earnest and deep heart cries – sometimes even after years of seeing nothing change, suddenly – breakthrough! In a moment the miracle comes, she is healed, delivered, rescued. He is brought to his senses. After all those years. After a long battle. Suddenly, finally, victory comes. Something was happening all along. What took so long? What if we’d given up sooner?

 

Jesus repeatedly described the Kingdom of Heaven as like a seed, or a farmer who plants the seed and waters it consistently, doesn’t know how it grows, but it surely does. Often imperceptible yet totally reliable growth is happening in the seed cared for by the farmer, and in the Kingdom of God when God’s people pray.

 

Key Scripture: Luke 18: 1-8

The ideas developed in this Scripture include the struggle by the powerless for justice (18: 2-3), demonstrated in Jesus’ selection of a widow, a vulnerable woman, as the “hero” (18:1, 3), and the necessity of relentless perseverance, fuelled by the imagination of what can be, until justice is meted out (18: 3-7).

 

The Struggle of the Powerless for Justice

"In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'” Luke 18: 2-3

 

Jesus tells a parable of a widow in need of justice, but the judge arbitrating her case is unjust. The widow is without resources of any kind and has no hope of ever extracting justice from such a judge. She is a symbol of all who are poor and defenseless in the face of injustice. Yet, despite her lowliness in society she recognizes a deeper claim to recognition. This story told by Jesus shatters stereotypes and highlights the power of the seeming powerless.

 

Some have called the Gospel of Luke “The Gospel of the Outcast”. The earliest Christian communities were people who had been without a future, but now they had hope again; they were the people on the margins in their society, but now they had community again.

 

Read Luke 18: 1-8

 

     What are the injustices you see in the world – close at hand or around the globe?  How can we pray for these?

      Who are the powerless, the vulnerable, in our day, like the widow was in Jesus’ day? How can you, how can we Christians, help them?

      When do you feel most powerless? What can you do about it? What can you do with the sense of powerlessness?

    Try praying out loud from the book of Psalms, for example, from Psalm 6 and 13 where David prayed, “How long, LORD?” 

 

The Image of God -- As Judge or Vulnerable Widow?

 

"Finally [the judge] said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually come and attack me!'” Luke 18: 4-5

 

The traditional interpretation of the unjust judge of Luke 18 is that the judge represents God, not in the sense of corrupting justice, but in the sense of supreme power and authority. This does affirm one aspect of the image of God.

 

We must remember that the theme of the vindication of the powerless is a constant one in the Scriptures, and the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth continued this identification of the chosen of God with the poor. In two of Luke’s earlier parables, the woman represents God (the Kingdom likened to a woman with yeast in Luke 13:20-21 and to a woman searching for a lost coin in Luke 15:8- 10).

 

Here in the Luke 18 parable the widow demonstrates a God-like quality – the relentless pursuit of justice. She embodies godly power in the midst of apparent powerlessness. This is our God, the God of compassion who brings good news to the poor, does not break the bruised reed or extinguish the smoking wick. This gives hope to those who wait in darkness, is revealed in Jesus Christ, and in the persistent widow of Luke 18. We as followers of Jesus are invited to the same: to draw on the power of weakness to overcome death dealing powers.

 

       Describe some characteristics of God from both the Old and New Testaments.

       What aspects of God’s character are especially important to you at this time in your life?

      Consider how the LORD is revealed in this parable in both the judge and the widow.

       What hope do you receive from thinking about these things? 

 

Relentless Perseverance Fuelled by Imagination

 

There was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me

justice against my adversary.' . . . And will not God bring about justice for his

chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Luke 18: 3, 7

 

The powerlessness of the widow in this parable is beyond doubt. Her case looks hopeless. The woman’s only asset is her persistence. In the Kingdom of God as told by Jesus in this parable, her persistence is enough. In teaching this parable Jesus not only demonstrates a concern for a widow, but even the implication that this woman’s conduct – persistent, relentless, importunate, annoying perhaps -- was a model to the disciples of divinely affirmed behavior. It is difficult to imagine a stronger endorsement of the widow’s persistence than that given by Jesus.

 

Through this teaching Jesus calls us to persist in challenging injustice because the way things are is not necessarily the way things are meant to be. This includes countless cultural practices that need to be challenged with the new thing that has happened and continues to happen through the entrance in the flesh, of Jesus Christ into the human story. Existing culture must be challenged and at times confronted with the redemptive word of Scripture

 

The parable of the persistent widow expresses the potential impact of refusing to give up on a vision, an imagination of justice restored.

 

     For what have you been persevering in prayer? What are the things for which you need God to “suddenly” break in?

       What are your dreams for how things can be rather than how they are?

       How can we encourage each other to persevere, and never give up? 

 

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  Luke 18:1

 

You don’t have to see God to know him.

Faith, which works by love, can see in the dark.

Lyell M. Rader

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

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