How do you pray? What do you pray for? In what way? If I’m honest, my prayers are mostly a presentation to God of the list of things I want God to do for me. I treat God as a sort of cosmic butler: do this; don’t let that happen. It doesn’t work very well. God is remarkably stubborn about having God’s way. It’s a childish way to pray. It treats God like a talisman, a crystal ball, a tarot card. It’s using God to try to alter the course of coming events. I’m a pastor and teach the Bible for a living, yet I still pray this way. Many people go on rejecting for the rest of their lives this childish version of the faith.
Is there a better way?
Jesus’ parable suggests one here. He hopes his disciples would learn our “need to pray always and not to lose heart.” Always. Not just “bail me out” prayers and “thank you” prayers when things go well, but always. And what for? The widow exists on the edges of society; she represents those for whom God has commanded Israel to care—along with the orphan and the stranger. (See Exodus 22:21-22.) She seeks justice against her opponent. And Jesus tells us the moral of the story—will not God grant justice when we cry day and night? Will God delay in helping?
A prayer for justice. Offered always. Without tiring. Until the Son of Man comes. Jesus calls us to pray not for God to do what we want, but to pray for us—and for those praying with us—to do what God wants.
Lord, thy will be done. Make us into people who pray for justice without ceasing and who long for it more than we long for food and drink. Amen.
At last Jeremiah is able to bring a message of restoration and hope. God promises a new covenant with the people, and they will internalize the law in their hearts so that they will keep it. The psalmist rejoices in such a reality. He meditates on God’s law all day and has been granted profound understanding. This allows him to walk faithfully in God’s paths. The reading from Second Timothy confirms the ongoing power of God’s law in scripture, which is given by God for our good. Timothy is charged always to be ready to preach it faithfully. Luke hits on a different theme: the importance of persistent prayer. In the parable a heartless judge finally yields to a persistent widow, so we should be similarly tenacious with our prayers to God.
Read Jeremiah 31:27-34. How have you broken your covenant with God? How has God responded?
Read Psalm 119:97-104. The Jewish laws of the Hebrew scriptures are part of our Christian heritage. How can you delight in the law?
Read 2 Timothy 3:14–4:5. How can you learn or teach from scriptures you do not normally read?
Read Luke 18:1-8. Through the familiar call to pray always, the author reminds us that we are called to pray for what God wants. What is at stake when you pray for justice and mercy?
Respond by posting a prayer.