Lenten Journey Day 28 – Perseverance
Of the Lenten Sundays, three of them are named after parables which spotlight questionable character. During the last two Sundays we met the Prodigal Son and the Dishonest Steward. Completing the trilogy of Parables-Sundays is the dedication for this 28th day of Lent to the Unrighteous Judge. All three parables come to us from our Lord and are found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 16, 17 & 18, respectively.
The Unrighteous Judge is a man who, as Jesus explains, did not fear anyone – not even God, nor was he ashamed of any person. In the town where he served as judge a widow kept coming to him and pleading with him, begging that he hear her case. For some time he refused, but finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God, nor do I care about men, but because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice so she won’t eventually wear me out!” Jesus concludes his parable with an interesting statement. He says, “Listen to what the unjust judge says and will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night. Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.”
Indeed, this is an odd story. At first reading you might think that Jesus compares God to this unrighteous, unjust judge. The parable creates this image of a God who can be worn out, or worn down. It is as if, should we keep persevering, if we continue to pray over and over again, God will eventually wear down and He will say yes to our needs and to our desires. So keep praying, keep being persistent. Persevere like the old lady! And in the end God will wear down and will give you what you want.
On closer inspection of the parable, that is, when we read it in its entirety, we see that the evangelist, St. Luke, writes a few words of explanation as a preface to the parable. He says, “Jesus told His disciples this parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” So yes, this is a story of perseverance, but it is not to wear God down, it is to keep in mind that must continually be in communion with God. St. Luke’s preface to the parable suggests that during his time, as is the case today, there is a misconception about the nature of prayer.
When Jesus teaches us the “Lord’s Prayer” he warns, “Do not heap up extra words. Your heavenly Father already knows what you need. Therefore when you pray, pray like this. Our Father, which art in heaven … ” Let’s think about that for a moment. If our Heavenly Father knows what we need, why then should we pray?
God knows our needs, so obviously, we have a very real misunderstanding about the nature of prayer.
Prayer is not merely a conversation with God. We pray because we need a conversation with ourselves. God already knows the desires of our heart. He knows our needs and wants, most probably, better than we know them. God knows where we are going. The real question is, do we? It may sound strange, but unless you have a true focus on your life, it is questionable whether or not you know what your needs are.
How often do we give time to hear ourselves, to hear the inner self speak? Part of this Lenten journey has been to open the ears of our heart, to be able to listen attentively. The Psalmist says, “Be still! And know that I am God.” Lent is giving us the opportunity to sit still and listen, hear, absorb and thereby grow spiritually. Lent is not merely to cut down on food, but it is to come down to the bare essentials: What is necessary to survive? Or in Jesus’ words (to the tempter), “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the Lord.”
When teaching us to pray, Jesus directs us to go into a small room and pray without any distractions so that you understand what your needs are. Because when we pray for the good things, God already wants us to have the good things, but how are they going to arrive to us? We need to find the strength. We need to find the patience, the devotion. We need to find the correct values. We need to wake up, put our dreams aside and put on the new garment of hope to walk forward. This all comes from the person – you and me – taking action. When we accept that we are God’s children and that He is our Father, then we know that He will take care of us in all circumstances. Just as He takes care of the birds in the air, as He takes care of the lilies of the field who are here today and gone tomorrow, so too, He will take care of us. Jesus tells us, “How much more are you worth than those lilies of the field, than those birds of the air? Your Heavenly Father takes care of them. How much more He will take care of you.”
Do you have that faith? It is an unquestioning faith and is difficult to achieve, hence the need to discipline ourselves. What remains for us is to continue to pray. Persistence! Persevere! Consistency! Like the woman in the story, never doubt that in the end, you will get what you need, because in that persistence, it is not God the Judge listening, it is you listening to yourself. In your persistence you’ll find that these prayers turn into mantras. They turn into guidelines by which you start living, by which you start accepting responsibility in your life. And much as your life has changed during this Lenten season, your prayer life will begin to mature, and your prayers become real mantras toward action, to realize the dreams that are set deep in your heart and not the desires based on the whims of today.
We conclude today’s Lenten journey with the prayer that our Lord, Jesus Christ, taught us,
“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”