“So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?”
Prayer isn’t easy, at least not for most people I know. Partly, we find it difficult to have a conversation with somebody who isn’t visible to us and who doesn’t usually respond in an audible voice. Yet, perhaps one of the most difficult things about prayer is the challenge of what we call unanswered prayer. When we cry out to God but he seems not to be listening, or when his answer appears to be “No,” we find it hard to keep on praying.
To encourage us to hang in there when we’re discouraged about prayer, Jesus tells the parable of the unjust judge. This judge found himself besieged by a woman who insisted that she grant him justice. When he ignored her, she kept on bugging him. Finally, he gave her what she wanted to keep her from wearing him out.
Jesus is not suggesting that God is unjust. Rather, his point is that even an unjust judge would respond positively to persistent prayer thus we can have confidence that God will respond when we pray and keep on praying. This does not mean that God will give us everything we want, however. God does what is right, even if we cannot understand it. Yet, in the mystery of God’s relationship with us, our prayers truly matter to him. Jesus says in effect, “When prayer is hard, when it seems as if God isn’t listening, when you’re tempted to give up, hang in there!”
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When God seems to be ignoring your prayers, what do you do? What helps you to keep on praying when you feel discouraged?
PRAYER: Gracious God, prayer is an amazing privilege. Though mostly I take it for granted, sometimes I’m amazed that the King of kings and Lord of lords is willing to listen to my desires and not just my praise. And there are times, Lord, when I am astounded by your answers to prayer.
But then there are other times, times when you seem to be offline, times when my prayers bounce back from the ceiling, times when my sensible requests appear to be rejected by you for no good reason. In times like these I can feel frustrated, perplexed, and angry. Most of all, I feel discouraged. I lose my desire to pray. I wonder if it really matters.
The parable of the unjust judge doesn’t answer my theological questions, that’s for sure. But it does encourage me to keep on praying even when my heart is weary. Thank you for this encouragement. Amen.