Our Gospel for today is one of those in which Jesus was speaking to a crowd of people. If we look for a context, it says a little earlier that he was speaking to some of his disciples, (that is disciples with a small “d”, meaning that it was a group of those who could be considered followers of Jesus who had gathered to learn from him.) (Lk. 17:22ff) It appears to be the same crowd in today’s Gospel. We heard Jesus tell these disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
As I said last week, Jesus always chose topics for his parables with which his listeners would be familiar. The setting of today’s Gospel is likely to be somewhere in the countryside of Galilee. The subject Jesus picked for this parable was the kind of judge who had a very high opinion of himself and of his importance. I think that in many cities such judges can still be found. I think you know the kind of person I mean. The narrative describes that judge as someone who neither feared God nor had respect for people. It goes on to say that there was a certain widow who persistently approached the judge asking him to grant her an opinion against her opponent. Many times she was refused a hearing. Finally that judge decided to hear her case so that she would stop bothering him.
Jesus used this parable as an illustration encouraging persistence in prayer. Why Jesus used this roundabout way of making that point I don’t really know. I think he wanted to show the contrast between the self-serving manner of the judge finally giving in to the widow because he considered her a nuisance, and God’s faithfulness towards us in answering our prayers with justice and with truth, for we are all precious in God’s sight.
As I read it, in that parable Jesus intended to show those disciples that God is not like that judge. If we have faith, God will answer our prayers, even if the answer might be, “not yet,” or “that is not what you really need. Think about it and pray again.”
Over the past year or two I have become aware of a phrase that I think is an excellent statement of the way in which God receives our prayers. Sometimes we hear those words used as an introduction before the general confession, sometimes as the refrain in the prayers of the people, or used in some other way. That phrase is “Blessed be the God of our salvation, who bears our burdens and forgives our sins.” Do you recognize it? It comes from the booklet “Enriching Our Worship,” and draws from several places in Holy Scripture. Variations appear many places in the Scriptures, but I think this phrase says it well: “Blessed be the God of our salvation, who bears our burdens and forgives our sins.”
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