Redefined Prayer

Prayer can take many forms. Jesus even taught us to pray in a similar format when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer. By Justin and Courtney Rose

Prayer can take many forms. Our traditional understanding of prayer might be speaking directly to God, presenting our requests. Jesus even taught us to pray in a similar format when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer.

Scripture shows us that prayer should manifest itself in many ways. Prayer should encompass our whole lives. All of our actions, thoughts and intentions can be given to God as prayer. So in Luke 18:1, when Jesus shares a parable and tells His disciples to “pray always and not lose heart” (NRSV), we should ask ourselves what Jesus meant by “prayer.”

This story has two characters: 1) an unjust judge who neither fears God nor respects people and 2) a widow who comes to the judge over and over again seeking justice. Both of these characters, if not examined closely, can be misinterpreted. We all come to the text with biases. Perhaps your bias is to conclude automatically that the judge is God, because he’s a male character in a role of authority. Perhaps you assume that the widow is somehow a little bit in the wrong, because your view of a widow is an old and nagging woman. Neither of these two assumptions are true.

We see at closer examination that the widow is more like God than the judge will ever be. 

Many widows in Jesus’ day would have been young and vibrant women in the prime of life. As a young teenager she would have been married, while the life expectancy of a male in this time was only mid-to-late 30s. If her husband died, she would be left to the mercy of the other males in her family to speak and provide for her. If no family support was available, she would have been left to depend on the mercy of the larger community, according to the Mosaic Law.

“The prayer that Jesus is talking about isn’t simply asking God over and over for our needs or wants.”

We don’t know the real cause that led this widow to appear before the judge, but we do know that she pursues her justice with great fervor. She doesn’t break the law; instead she knows what God’s law guarantees her, and she fights for it.

The judge is eventually worn down by annoyance or is forced to act out of fear that her persistence will give him a black eye (Luke 18:5). He finally gives her justice. Jesus describes God’s desire to give justice quickly and freely in comparison to the judge who only acts out of fear or annoyance. 

The prayer that Jesus is talking about here isn’t simply asking God over and over for our needs or wants, or storing up prayer for an unforeseen time in the future. Jesus equates prayer with a faith that is lived out. The form of prayer Jesus asks for here is a patient and persistent pursuit of justice lived out according to the teachings of God. 

The true character of God is exemplified in the woman who pursues justice. 

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