Today’s Parable of the Persistent Widow piggybacks off of Jesus guiding the Pharisees, and indirectly his disciples, away from being so concerned with the time or the hour of the end times, and instead being patient and trusting in God’s timing and plan. What was more important was to recognize the kingdom of God in their midst and freeing oneself from the attachments to the finite and material pleasures of this world. Along with this patience, Jesus affirms the attribute of persistence that was shown by the widow going to the unjust judge.
Persistence in prayer is not changing God. We are not wearing him down like the woman did with the judge. God does not need us, we need him. Our persistence changes us, helps us to develop our relationship by interacting with him more consistently. Things happening in our lives help us to see that we are fragile and vulnerable and in need of help. Our persistence in prayer, especially when we are in need, helps us to become more patient and to become more aware that, sometimes, what we believe is a crisis is not that much of one when some time passes. In fact, the practice of stopping everything and praying for five minutes when a crisis arises, often helps us to resist slipping into a fight or flight mode, helps us to resist reacting, and some breathing, while praying helps us to act more wisely than impulsively. We may also come to see that what we thought was a crisis, was more of a problem to be solved than something catastrophic. Our instant reactions to perceived crisis, can often escalate an issue rather than de-escalate one.
In the greater scope of things, God does answer all prayers of petition or intercession by saying yes, no, or not yet! Most seem to fall in the not yet category, which opens our hearts and minds to his will and conforming our will to his. Our time of unanswered prayers helps us to move our mindset away from seeking instant gratification, to one where we trust in God’s timing. Sometimes we become grateful for what appears to be unanswered prayers because what we thought was for our highest hope and good, with time, hindsight, some distance, we find the original request was more an apparent than an actual good. As the line in the Garth Brooks song goes, “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.”
Persistence in prayer is also a discipline that deepens the roots of our relationship with God. Many of our neighbors have water systems for their lawns. The roots of their grass pretty much grow horizontally, seeking the ready access to water, while our roots grow deeper seeking the water that is not as readily available. When the drought season comes our grass is heartier and withstands until the rains return. Ready access through our modern technology, higher internet speeds, one click access, overnight shipping can offer plusses, but we have to be careful that this mindset does not also form our mental, psychological, and spiritual growth. We will not instantly be physically fit, wise, or enlightened. Development of our personhood takes time, experience, discipline, prayer, and trust in God’s plan for our lives.
Patience, persistence in prayer, freeing ourselves from attachment, developing an authentic relationship with God and one another are all worth the time and effort. May we take some time to breathe deeply, slow down our pace, discipline ourselves to resist even small acts of instant gratification today. Let us look back with hindsight upon those experiences in which what we initially sought from God in prayer actually changed over time to something better than our initial request, and be grateful for trusting in his guiding hand instead of our impulsiveness. May we also see those experiences in which we felt we should change course or give up but instead were persistent in prayer which brought about fruitful results! Let us be faithful and consistent in prayer, assured that our loving God and Father is with us, he has our back, he will guide us through any trial or tribulation we are going through, and that he is our unlimited source for all that is Good, Beautiful, and True in our life!
Photo: Cardinal Newman Chapel
Link for today’s Mass readings: