Summary: ..."In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himsel
Those who have visited Israel (and probably most of those who haven't) will have heard of the "Wailing Wall", which is part of the ancient city of Old Jerusalem, and located at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. This section of wall is the only surviving remnant of the ancient Temple - not the original Temple of Solomon (destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.) but of the second temple, and more specifically a part of the extensions made to that temple by Herod the Great in 19 B.C., which makes the wall still thousands of years old.
And Jews by their thousands come and pray at this wall each day, and as they pray they shokel, which is the technical term for the way they sway as they pray (some suggest in accordance with the words of Jeremiah whose bones shook under the influence of the word of the Lord [23:9]).
And curious western journalists often interview those who pray by the wall, and according the account of one journalist, he found a man who had been coming to the Wailing Wall to pray for thirty-three years, every day without fail!
And the journalist was amazed. Could it be true that this man had come to the wall to pray every single day for thirty-three years? "Yes", the man assured him, "every day for thirty-three years"
"What do you pray for?" the journalist asked. "Oh, I pray for lots of things". he said. "I pray for my people. I pray for my family. I pray for my daughter - that she won't marry that rotten tailor. I pray for the Palestinians. I pray for lots of things."
"And have you seen many of those prayers answered?", the journalist asked."No", the man said (after some hesitation)."No. In fact, I don't think a single one of my prayers has been answered! Thirty-three years and not a single prayer answered. I tell you, sometimes you feel like you're praying to a brick wall!"
Let me tell you another story: "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Give me justice against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not wear me down by her continual coming.'" (Luke 18:2-5)
The second story doesn't get as many laughs, does it? Maybe that because we know that it was Jesus who first told it, and we're not used to laughing at things that Jesus says. It's sort of like when the Headmaster walks into the room - laughter is not the immediate, knee-jerk response. And yet both stories could be classified as jokes. The real question is, "which joke rings more true to our experience?"
I don't know how many great pray-ers there are amongst us. My guess is that for most of us, as with most people on the planet, the amount of prayer we put out tends to be in inverse proportion to the amount of happiness we are experiencing. We pray best when things are at their worst, and indeed, many of us prefer to leave off praying until we have reached a state of genuine emergency!
I heard of a ship captain once, praying as his vessel was going down, "God, I know we haven't spoken in fifteen years, and I promise that if you'll help me out of this fix I won't bother you for another fifteen!"
Of course, a part of the problem with praying only when things have reached crisis point is that we do need to have our prayers answered now, and yet our experience in this situation so often is that our prayers do seem to hit a wall!
Yet this is where the story of the man at the wailing wall and the story of the tenacious widow are at one in reflecting our experience. For Indeed, so often nothing seems to happen immediately!
Perhaps this is a large part of our problem, for we live in an age of instant gratification. We live in the era of slot-machines, where you put your coin in one end, push a button or turn a handle, and whatever-it-is-you-wanted pops out the other end! I think we come to expect that all of life should be like that - put in your coin, turn the handle, and out pop the goods. And so we expect prayer to work like that too - you send up your prayer, turn the handle, and... "where is my pack of crisps?"
And we know what to do when you’ve been waiting for more than ten seconds and nothing has appeared in the out-going bin of the vending-machine. We start swearing at the machine and kicking it!