Persistence in Prayer

After their deliverance from oppression in Egypt, the tribes of Israel make the journey to Mt. Sinai, where they will enter into a covenant with God. Along the way they experience God’s loving care for them. Learning to rely on God will be absolutely essential if they are to make any spiritual progress and remain loyal to that covenant. Already God has provided them with water and food in the desert. Now God protects them on the battlefield.

1) Assurance. A king named Amalek launches a war against the Israelites. Like the king of Egypt, this king attempts to halt the progress of God’s chosen people. But as long as the people of Israel stay focused on God, nothing can stand in their way. In these early stages of their journey, however, Moses and people still need assurances to give them courage. Moses used the staff to work earlier miracles. Now he employs it again. This time he holds it high so the Israelites can clearly see it while on the field of battle.

2) Victory. As long as they can see the staff, the people prevail on the battlefield. But their reliance on the staff begins to take its toll. Moses grows tired; Aaron and Hur must come to his aid. With the staff thus elevated, the people under Joshua’s leadership are completely victorious. Later in their journey when their faith has grown stronger, the Israelites will no longer need such physical assurances to win victories. By that time, they will prevail on the field of battle by instead making a vow to the Lord (Numbers 21:1–3).

Luke explains the meaning of today’s Gospel: the necessity to pray always without becoming weary. It is somewhat similar to his story about the insistent friend needing bread for visitors in the middle of the night (11:5–8). Luke
connects today’s story of the widow and the unjust judge with the theme of prayer. Unlike Matthew’s Gospel, Luke cannot presuppose his mixed community has a long-tested experience with prayer. When nothing immediately happens, the people get discouraged. Luke is here attempting to encourage them to persevere in their efforts. Ultimately, those efforts will payoff.

1)The unjust judge and the widow. The two main characters of this story are described in terms that make them almost opposites. The first character is a judge who is totally corrupt and thus does not fear God or respect any human being. The second character is a widow who for a long time and without any success has been trying to get a fair judgment from this unjust judge. The power differential between this judge and the widow is immense. The judge has all the power, and the poor widow seems to have none. The outcome should be obvious. The widow will never get the justice she seeks from this totally corrupt judge.

2) The power of perseverance. What the widow has that the judge cannot take from her is her perseverance. She refuses to give up even though this corrupt and unjust judge refuses to grant her justice. Eventually, the judge
decides to give in and grant the widow the justice she seeks. Notice, however, the judge’s reasoning: It has nothing to do with justice. The judge is simply tired of being hassled by this widow who will not give up. He grants the
widow’s request out of total self-interest. He fears what she might eventually do to him.

3) God is faithful and will not disappoint us. The key is to continue prayerful perseverance. If an unjust judge will grant a poor widow justice because of her perseverance, then certainly an all-just and faithful God will not abandon God’s people in time of trial and discouragement. God does not calculate time as humans do. What appears to be a slow response from a human perspective might be quick in God’s eyes. Humans must remain steadfast in faith and persevering in prayer. God will handle the rest.
As we prepare to receive our Lord in the Eucharist, let us ask for the grace to see our prayers of request correctly— and pray for a random person we’ve seen today.