This parable is about persisting in prayer, yet its primary content reveals a longing for justice. The story calls us less to persistence as to a longing for justice, which is the heart of all prayer.
And the world could use a little justice right about now, don’t you think?
There is always a longing for justice among those whom society oppresses. The widow, the orphan, and the stranger demand more than charity. Justice seeks to level the playing field. Mary sings of this leveling in her magnificat—justice is a matter of God’s scattering the proud and filling the bellies of the hungry. (See Luke 1:46-56.) Perhaps the judge is reluctant because justice means a demotion for him. He too would need the assistance due the widow, the orphan, and the stranger.
Justice for the poor preoccupies Luke. His Sermon on the Plain includes not just blessings for the lowly but also curses for the rich. (See Luke 6:20-26.) Jesus takes the side of the oppressed—and according to Luke alone of the Gospel writers—against the oppressor. That is, most of us.
Our world longs for justice now. Protesters take to the streets to ask for it. Many of us relatively comfortable types wish the clamor would die down. But if we stop and listen, we’ll notice the clamor is not just a nuisance. It is the very voice of God. The gospel is good news for the poor or it is not good news at all.
Every prayer is actually a prayer for justice, even if those praying remain unaware. So pray carefully in Jesus’ name. You could find yourself, like this judge, dethroned; like this widow, ennobled; like all creation, made new.
God, bring your justice. And because we could not stand it otherwise, bring your mercy too. Amen.
At last Jeremiah is able to bring a message of restoration and hope. God promises a new covenant with the people, and they will internalize the law in their hearts so that they will keep it. The psalmist rejoices in such a reality. He meditates on God’s law all day and has been granted profound understanding. This allows him to walk faithfully in God’s paths. The reading from Second Timothy confirms the ongoing power of God’s law in scripture, which is given by God for our good. Timothy is charged always to be ready to preach it faithfully. Luke hits on a different theme: the importance of persistent prayer. In the parable a heartless judge finally yields to a persistent widow, so we should be similarly tenacious with our prayers to God.
Read Jeremiah 31:27-34. How have you broken your covenant with God? How has God responded?
Read Psalm 119:97-104. The Jewish laws of the Hebrew scriptures are part of our Christian heritage. How can you delight in the law?
Read 2 Timothy 3:14–4:5. How can you learn or teach from scriptures you do not normally read?
Read Luke 18:1-8. Through the familiar call to pray always, the author reminds us that we are called to pray for what God wants. What is at stake when you pray for justice and mercy?
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