Persistent prayer and community


In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus presents God as akin to a persistent widow who always wants to meet our deepest desires. While Jesus’s image is a persistent widow continually asking an unjust judge for a response, an image from my earliest days of parenthood came to mind. When my children were small, they would often pop up at the very first sign of light and jump into our bed, proclaiming, “The sun is up! It’s time to wake up!” In this scenario, my husband and I were a bit like the unjust judge of Jesus’ day: reluctant to respond, really wanting just a little more sleep at 5:30 am on a weekend, but ultimately responsive because our children were insistent (not to mention, adorable). Jesus uses the unjust judge to make a point: if even an unjust judge (or a sleepy parent) eventually responds due to persistence, isn’t God, who is just, loving and generous, going to want to respond to our needs as well? If even we who are imperfect try to love, and try to be responsive to each other’s needs, can’t we trust that God, who is a perfection of love itself, wants to respond to our needs as well?

I find the passage about Moses having his hands held up in prayer by others who assist him to be a complementary one. If God answers our prayers, and if we are asked to pray, this is not necessarily solo work, but the work of a community. We are called to sustain one another in times of difficulty, to “hold up” in prayer our brothers and sisters because we do not go through this life alone, but rather together. Moses’ prayer has great power, but it has more power when he has others who are praying with him. We can think of many instances where prayer sustains us: after the death of a family member, in a time of family illness, or personal struggle. Community also sustains us in good times, as the ‘work of our hands’ is increased when it is added to the work of others who are also concerned about issues such as the relief of poverty or the just treatment of immigrants or prisoners. Today, my parish and a neighbor parish participated together in a St Vincent de Paul Society walk for the poor. Although my walk and contribution on their own are relatively small, when combined with others, we have a larger contribution to make to the well being of our brothers and sisters in our neighborhood.

Jesus’s words are meant to encourage us. They ask us both to pray to God, confident that God wants to meet our desires and to bring us deep well being, and to assist our friends, family, and community in persistent prayer and persistent action, in order to bring about God’s kingdom here.