Today’s gospel is an encouragement to always be in prayer, but the parable Jesus uses to urge people to pray is a complicated one. Jesus says the judge is unjust. The widow in the story is persistent in pestering the judge for the verdict she seeks. The judge is not convinced by evidence or reason, but simply by the tenacity of the widow. The lesson Luke passes on is that we ought to cry out to God day and night with our prayers.
The parable says nothing directly about the content of those prayers. A quick reading might lead to a place of thinking anything we pray for will be answered if we are just persistent enough. Perhaps we can wear God down like the widow wore the judge down. This suggests an approach in which prayer is used to try to bend God’s will to our own.
Rather than a force of will, Jesus encourages persistence because every aspect of our lives is worthy of being lifted in prayer to God. The Psalms show that we can and should lift our cries up to God as often as we experience them. God is able to handle any emotion or struggle we give voice to in prayer; speaking it all to God is part of grace-filled transformation.
Each Sunday we speak the words of the Lord’s Prayer, requesting with our collective voice, “Your will be done.” Instead of seeking to bend God’s will to ours, we ask for our will to be shaped by God’s. We pray for God’s forgiveness and boldly claim our own role in forgiveness. We pray for sustenance and deliverance, all while inviting God’s kingdom to come. God’s kingdom is coming without our prayer, Martin Luther reminds us in the Small Catechism, but we pray these things so that we may see the kingdom come alive in and among us. We pray to be shaped by the endless, loving persistence of God’s grace.
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