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The parable of the persistent widow

Gospel Reading: Lk 18:1-8
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’ ” The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

In his book Prayer Notes for a Friend, Edward Hays writes: “Consider investing your prayers with more nerve and cheek, with what the Jews call chutzpah, pure brazenness. Be gutsy and throw your lukewarm, dishwater tepid prayers down the drain, replacing them with furnace feverish petitions.” In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples about the necessity of praying always without becoming weary. He describes a widow who is persistent in her pursuit of what is just. Deprived of rights after her husband’s death, she insists on the protection afforded by the Law of Moses for widows and orphans (cf Ex 22:21-22; Dt 27:19). She pesters the judge who, though uncaring about anything, feels threatened by her persistence and eventually delivers a just decision. Jesus suggests that the disciples pray with this widow’s chutzpah, with the persistence or stubbornness springing from faith and confidence in God who listens to their prayers. In the First Reading, the Israelites battle a tribe of enemies. Moses, who persistently reminds the Israelites of what God has done for them, raises his staff in prayer to God. Aaron and Hur help to keep Moses’ arms upraised till victory against Amalek is complete. The widow and Moses stand for answered prayers. What about our own supplications? Does God really listen to us? When we are asked this question, it is easy to say yes. Yet we experience praying for a loved one to get better but the person dies, asking to pass an important exam but we do not make it, or seeking a job but do not find any. God does not seem to answer our prayers in these cases. This is our dilemma. We know that God loves us and hears our prayers. But we also know of many times when God seems absent or says no. Praying with chutzpah means that we continually place ourselves in God’s hands. We are so confident in God that we allow God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, to answer our prayers in the way that will be best.

Sometimes that answer is yes; at other times it is no or not now. At still other times God may want us to keep our eyes and ears open for something other than what we are begging for. Praying with chutzpah requires that we never give up. A preacher once said, “You don’t know what prayer is until you stand at the door and knock until your knuckles bleed.” This is the kind of prayer that gives us hope.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.