By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 18:1-8
18 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
There are so many stories of relentless persistence paying off. It took Thomas Edison 1,000 tries before his first lightbulb was successful. Michael Jordan initially didn’t make his high school varsity team. Vincent van Gough sold only one painting in his lifetime. Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers. Now most of us are not an Edison, a Jordan, a van Gough, or a Seuss in terms of particular talents. However, there is one story of persistence that applies to us all, and that is the parable of the lowly widow and the magistrate who eventually grants her request for justice. The magistrate does so not through any sense of moral obligation to her, but because he grows sick of her pestering him day after day. If, through unrelenting petitioning, a person of no account can get a lofty magistrate to grant justice against an opponent, how much more can we expect a just and good God to do so if we cry out to him day and night?
In commenting on this passage, St. Augustine is quick to insist that the length of prayer is not important. It’s the frequency. St. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. We return to the Lord again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again (and again). We do not need to have special talents like Edison, Seuss, or Jordan, or the eloquence of someone like St Augustine or St. Paul, to be heard by God. Jesus’ parable assures us that God will hear those who are simply earnest and constant. Take heart and persist in your prayers this day, and the next, and the next, and the next…
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of San Diego, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Susan Brown Snook
Diocese of Durham (England), the Rt. Rev. Paul Butler
Diocese of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William H. Love