Rocco Francis Marchegiano…still undefeated.
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth (Luke 18:1-8)?”
I’ve learned three “very” things about prayer. Prayer can be very confusing, very difficult, and very humbling (after all, we’re admitting we need His help). Jesus cleared it up with a story about our corruption and God’s goodness.
Prayer can be confusing because we know the answer is not always yes, but we also know God loves us and wants to help. Wouldn’t a yes be helpful? No, just because we ask doesn’t make it the right thing or the right timing. Every parent knows this. “Wrong” or delayed answers require trust that Father knows best, which is very difficult.
As a teen, my buddies had mini-bikes, sturdy motorized scooters that went about 40 miles an hour, illegally zipping through our Detroit streets. I begged my folks for one, but like the Red Ryder BB Gun refrain from the movie A Christmas Story, “You’ll break your leg” is all they said (and my pal Jeff Bacynski did just that when a car hit him!).
The answer is “No!”
God is not a cosmic vending machine. He’s a loving, sovereign Father. Bugging Him shows our sincerity and genuine need (unlike that infatuated kid in the checkout line who wants candy, then gum, then some other shiny bauble). Wants come and go, but a need is different. Enter Jesus’ pugilistic parable on persistence.
In one corner is a crooked heavyweight judge, taking bribes, perhaps bribes against the widow’s case. The challenger is a grieving widow––maybe a fresh widow, homeless and needing “legal protection” with no husband on the deed with scared, crying children. She’s desperate with no choice but to fight. So she goes the distance, 15 brutal rounds until he tosses in the towel (in Greek “wear me out” means “to give a black eye”). Prayer sounds like painful, hard, Rocky work.
The answer is hidden in the context, the Second Coming. The Church is like this widow, without her Bridegroom, and seeking justice in a world that “does not fear God nor respect man.” Since Eden, our flesh doesn’t want to seek God, so we run. Like any loving Father, He wants us to come back, and your needs bring you home.
Look at another story Jesus told in Luke 15:11-32,
And He said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”
Ralph with a “Yes!”
That’s A (real) Christmas Story. Coming home to a loving Father, and it all starts with a single prayer. So by all means, bother Him so He finds your “faith on the earth.”