In today’s Gospel reading, our Lord tells us a parable about the importance of continual, persistent prayer. We saw this same lesson in action in the few Sunday Gospels, when both the blind man and the woman of Canaan persistently cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me,” despite all manner of reproofs. Now, we hear the same lesson directly from the mouth of our Lord.
How are we to understand this parable? Are we to think of God as an unjust judge who hearkens unto us only because we trouble him? Certainly not – rather, our Lord is using an earthly example to teach us a lesson about God. We cannot understand God’s perspective, so we are presented with a human perspective. And truly, if even the unjust judge avenged the widow eventually, “shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” We may not understand God’s actions in our lives, and we may not be able to see the answers to our prayers because our eyes are clouded by sin – but we know by faith that God does hear our prayers, and that prayer itself unites us closer to him. For this reason, we must cling to prayer, praying persistently in season and out. St. James tells us, “Draw near unto God, and He will draw near unto you,” and instructs that we pray to God always – giving thanks and glory to him in good times, and beseeching his help in bad times. And we know that he will hear us.
Tomorrow’s Gospel reading, about the publican and the pharisee, will tell us more about prayer – it will show us how to pray. Remarkably, the first words in the Lenten Triodion – the book of hymns and prayers for Great Lent – are “brethren, let us not pray….” They go on, of course: “Brethren, let us not pray as the pharisee.” (We will sing these words at tonight’s Vigil Service.) In other words, let us not pray in a prideful manner, giving thanks for our supposed virtues, but let us rather emulate the humility of the publican, the blind man, and the Canaanite woman, crying out, “Lord, have mercy!”
2 There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?