29th Sunday OT Year C
Exodus 17:8-13, Psalm 121,
2 Timothy 3:14-4:2, Luke 18: 1-8
I always find it odd that Jesus uses the people who are not the greatest example to make his point. In encouraging his disciples to pray always, Jesus tells them a parable about a woman who repeatedly asks a corrupt and dishonest judge to settle a dispute she is having with another. (Image: If I saw two items, goldfish crackers or skittles I would go crazy. I would immediately begin to beg. Most often, my begging got me nowhere.) Much like my mother, the judge ignores her several times, but after the woman’s unending pursuit and perseverance he finally throws up his hands and says, “fine, because [you] keep bothering me, I shall deliver a just decision for [you]!” Then Jesus says to his disciples, if the dishonest judge acts this way, how much more will your Heavenly Father respond to your needs.
In this parable luke shows us that “the widow and her perseverance in prayer is a model for Christians.” This woman gives us hope and a way to persevere in our own prayer lives. The first thing she does is ask. And … she doesn’t stop until she gets an answer. Jesus is telling us to do the same. We must name what we need and bring it before the Lord. In a few moments we will transition from the liturgy of the word to the liturgy of the Eucharist, and these awesome servers here will help me set up the altar. This is not just a time of transition. One of the reasons that someone in the congregation brings up the wine and the chalice at the offertory is that the wine and the bread offered by us represents the needs of the community. So, as we watch an prepare for the liturgy of the Eucharist, this is the time to place our own prayer requests on the altar. It is a time to ask God for his help, his grace, and his love.
What do we need from God today? Maybe some of us here today need to experience God’s love more in our lives, so we ask God to reveal himself more to us this week. Or maybe some of us have been fighting with a family member or a friend and so we ask the Lord to help us to find reconciliation. What ever it is that we need from God, we know this to be true, God wants us to ask. We should never forget these words, Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).
Now some of us here might be doubting this, that God answers our prayers. Some of you might want to say “Deacon Stephen, I pray but God doesn’t answer!” If this is you, I challenge you to spend 30-45 minutes in prayer reflecting on the good and bad moments of your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how God was loving you in those moments. Often it is not until after these moments that we are able to see how God was there for us and answering our prayers. Remembering these moments gives us the hope to persevere in prayer when we are uncertain if God is hearing us.
Perseverance in prayer is more than just asking. Perseverance in prayer is also seeking the help of others. In our first reading, the success of the Israelites in their war against Amalek depended on Moses keeping his arms raised. After some time, his arms began to sink because it was too difficult. So two others came to help him. Sometimes, we need others to pray for us and to pray with us. Remember our Lord had help from Simon to carry his cross. We help each other carry our crosses as we pray for each other. This enables us to have a spirit of perseverance in our prayer lives.
Someone who perseveres in prayer always shows up in prayer. Sometimes prayer is just spending time with God – Being with him. Allowing God to love you as you love God. The ultimate goal of prayer is to grow in our intimate friendship with the Lord. Sometimes that means we ask for his guidance and help in our lives, but other times it is just spending quality time with him, and letting ourselves be loved by God in this moment.
As we prepare to receive the holy Eucharist, may we be inspired by the woman in the Gospel who never stopped asking. May the Eucharist we receive today help strengthen our relationship and prayer life with God.