"In a certain town, there lived a hard-hearted judge, who neither feared God nor cared for his neighbor. In the same town there lived a widow, who pursued him for justice concerning a person who had harmed her. Time passed, and the judge persisted in ignoring her pleas, refusing to hear her case, until finally, one day, he said to himself: "Though I do not fear God, nor concern myself with charity, I will see to it that this widow gets justice; for she wears me out with her constant appeals."
Will not God, then, offer justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he too ignore your earnest cry for help? I tell you this: he will see that they who seek him receive justice, and quickly! And yet, the real question raised in this story is this: When the Messiah returns, will he find many on the earth with such persevering faith?"
"Here then is a word of the Lord about prayer: it is a comfort that he
- recognizes difficulty in the matter
- sees that we need encouragement to go on praying,
- that it looks as if we were not heard,
- that it is no wonder we should be ready to faint and leave off.
Actual delay on the part of God, we know from what follows, he does not allow (as an interpretation); a better understanding is that he recognizes how the thing must look to those whom he would have go on praying.
Here as elsewhere he teaches us that we must not go by the look of things, but by the reality behind the look.
A truth, the thing that presents itself to us and is born of God's own willed nature, (in Jesus' mind) is enough to defend against a whole army of appearances, for this is what He would have us know from the core of our being:
- It looks as if he does not hear you: never mind, he does;
- It must be that he does, go on as the woman did, you too will be heard.
- She is heard at last, and in virtue of her much going;
- God hears at once, and will avenge speedily.
- The unrighteous judge cared nothing for the woman; those who cry to God are his own chosen— plain in the fact that they cry to him.
- He has made and appointed them to cry, they do cry. Will he not hear them?
- They exist that they may pray;
- he has chosen them that they may choose him;
- he has called them that they may call him
- He desires that that there may be much communion, such interchange as belongs to their being and the being of their Father.
The gulf of indifference lay between the poor woman and the unjust judge;
God and those who seek his help,
are closer than two hands clasped hard in love,
he will avenge them speedily.
It is a bold assertion in the face of what seems great delay—an appearance acknowledged in the very groundwork of the parable.
Having made it, why does he seem to check himself with a sigh, adding,
'Howbeit when the Son of Man cometh,
shall he find faith on the earth?'After all he had said, and had yet to say, after all he had done, and was going on to do, when he came again, after time given for the holy leaven to work, would he find men trusting the Father?
Would he find them, even then, beyond the tyranny of appearances, believing in spite of them?
Would they be children enough towards God to know he was hearing them and working for them, though they could not hear him or see him work?
Would they lose their way because the ways of God are so wide?
That what they saw, so small a part of what he was doing, that it could give them but little clue to his end?
That because the goal God had in view for them was so high and afar, that they could detect no movement of approach closer to it?
The sigh, the exclamation, never meant that God might be doing something more than he was doing, but that the Father would have a dreary time to wait ere his children would know and trust in him.
The utterance recognizes the part of man, his slowly yielded part in faith, and his blame in troubling God by not trusting in him.
If men would but make haste, and stir themselves up to take hold on God! They were so slow of heart to believe! They could but would not help it and do better!"
Let us do better.
Adapted from George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons II, Man's Difficulty Concerning Prayer (editing and emphasis added for effect)