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Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Need For Persistence

Related only in Luke’s Gospel, these two parables teach the value of sustained prayer and trust in God’s loving care. They also illustrate one of Jesus’ classic sayings,”Ask, and it will be given to you; search and you will find (Luke 11:9)”
The Unscrupulous Judge

In the story of the Unscrupulous Judge, Jesus described how a widow came to a judge for justice against her enemy. For a long time, he refused to grant her request, but eventually, worn down by her pestering, he gave in to her demands. Jesus ended the story by saying,”Now, will not God see justice done to his elect if they keep calling to him day and night.”
In ancient Israel, the duty of a judge was to pronounce justice in the name of God. But the judge in the story is said to have had no fear of God nor respect for other people. One of the chief responsibilities of judges was to guarantee justice for orphans and widows, who, without husbands to protect them, were easy prey to exploitation. The justice of this woman’s complaint was not in dispute. All she needed was a hearing. It was up to the judge to set the date for it. But only by her perseverance could the widow force him to give her justice.
The parable states plainly that if even an unjust judge will act when persistently asked, surely a loving God will take notice of the cries of His children. The logical extension of this, that God will act when human judges may not, must have comforted Christians in times of persecution.
The Importunate Friend

Jesus made the same point in the parable of the importunate friend, also known as the Friend at Midnight. He told of a man who, on receiving an unexpected, late visitor, went to a nearby friend in the middle of the night to ask for bread to feed his guest. Although the neighbour at first refused his request, Jesus said that the man’s persistence would eventually prevail.
The story gives small insights into village life in Jesus’ time. There were no stores, and in every home the woman of the house would rise early to bake the day’s supply of bread for her family. It was probably generally known which families typically had some bread left over in the evening. The neighbour was annoyed at being disturbed and showed his irritation by omitting the customary greeting,”friend” from his reply. He explained why he could not help: he had already bolted the door, and it would have been tiresome to open it.
In a one-room peasant’s house, the whole family slept together. Everyone would have been disturbed if the man had gotten up and started searching for bread in the semidarkness. Yet even if the neighbour would not respond to the request for friendship’s sake, Jesus said, he would be forced out of bed by his friend’s persistent calling. So if even a reluctant neighbour gave in to the relentless demands made upon him, how much more readily would a loving heavenly Father answer the prayers of the faithful?

People who pray to God with a shopping list of requests they want Him to supply often give up their practice of prayer if they feel God is not addressing their concerns soon enough. Both these parables, however teach the importance of persistence and faith in prayer. The widow and the friend who needed bread kept asking because they had confidence in the outcome. People must not be deterred by an apparent lack of response.
Jesus stated that God will certainly answer our prayers. If an answer is not evident, it may be that God has heard the prayer, but we have not listened to His answer. If we accept that God knows our needs better than we do, we must allow Him to respond to our prayers as He sees fit. Sometimes it is only years after we have prayed for something that we realize that God did indeed hear or listen to our petitions.

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