Summary: A parable is used as an example of persistence in prayer. Plus, the Supreme Court is taking on the issue of public prayer. Here are some questions that need to be asked.
Prayer Changes Things
October 20, 2013
The small town was in the middle of their United Way Fund drive when a volunteer worker saw that the name of a most successful businessman was missing from the contribution list. The man was making at least $600-thousand a year, so the volunteer thought, “Why not call him up?” So, he calls the man.
“Sir, according to our research you haven’t made a contribution to the United Way this year, would you like to do so?”
The man responds as if surprised, “A contribution? Does your research show I have an invalid mother who requires expensive surgery once a year just to stay alive?”
The volunteer is feeling embarrassed and replies, “Well, no sir, I’m….”
Interrupting the worker the man continues, “And does your research show that my sister’s husband was killed in a car accident? She has three kids and no means of support!”
Now the worker is quite embarrassed and says, “Oh, I’m terribly sorry…”
“Does your research show that my brother broke his neck on the job and now requires a full-time nurse to have any kind of normal life?”
Now the volunteer is humiliated at this point. “I’m so sorry sir, please forgive me…”
“The gall of you people,” the man spouts, “I don’t give them anything so why should I give to you?”
There are remarkably insensitive, selfish and negative people in the world today, as well as in Bible times. The Teacher knew this and spoke a parable that relates to prayer, using this human character trait. The passage is Luke 18:1 through 8 that refers to a judge who had no empathy for God or his fellow man, and acted accordingly. This self-righteous man loved his power and control over others and believed he reached his position with his own skill and without help from anybody else. You might say he fit the description of a self-righteous man.
As the parable relates, the judge was being bothered by a widow who kept asking him to avenge an accusation against her. But, he was too busy and really didn't care about her. The problem for the judge was not the injustice being carried out against the widow; he was bugged by her persistence and couldn't dismiss her since it was his job to see that justice was done. Obviously, she had no political favors to exchange nor could she advance his self esteem. Finally, just to get her to go away, he decided to do what an honestly-righteous man would do; take care of her business that only he could accomplish.
Yeshua was making a point about prayer with this parable. First, let’s consider what the first hearers of this story would think.
A judge in Bible times was keenly aware of religion since the Law by which he judged was from the Torah. There was no law of the land such as the likes of the U.S. Constitution, so adjudicating religious law is what judges did. For Jesus to relate in this parable that the judge was one who cared less about God and his fellow man was a person way out of character since the very Law was careful to instruct society on how widows and orphans were to be treated. Obviously, this judge was a strange one, much like self-righteous people today. Remember that a Pharisee could be a judge and we know there were disagreements between followers of Messiah and the Temple. What makes this judge really different is that the Temple served as the courthouse for the Jews in Christ’s time, and such a non-responsive judge would be so out of place. How could he not care about God while serving in the temple? Surely nothing of the kind happens today!
The other person described in this story was a widow. Surviving a husband’s death was a serious issue in those days. Widows had a very difficult time meeting financial needs, and Bible stories often include the word “widow” to indicate hard times ahead. Miracles happened around and to widows, proving that God does see and care about people in need after tragedy. For example, there are three miracles described in First and Second Kings plus Luke 7:11 through 17 that restore sons to widows so the family can survive. In other cases, widows had to use whatever resource they had to stay alive and provide for their children. Several rules that were a part of Jewish life were meant to provide protection widows, even though, and obviously, they were not always followed. First Kings 17 is where you find a well-known example of how the Law applies to those charged with caring for a widow. Elijah follows the rules and is an excellent example, unlike the judge described in the story.