St. Pope John Paul II thought as a young man that prayer of petition was an immature type of prayer; it was for beginners or young people. Later on in life he said that every type of prayer includes prayer of petition and we should not be afraid to ask for the simplest things. We can pray for a good night’s rest, for help on an exam or with a medical test, for a nice dinner with a friend. It does not have to be big requests but for the simple things of life.
We will hear for two weeks Jesus speaking about some aspects of prayer. This week is about perseverance in prayer, sticking with it day in and day out and next week about praying with a humble heart to God who is my father. Do you remember that we spoke about using our eyes, heart and hands to pray two weeks ago? To use our eyes to imagine being in the gospel and hearing Jesus speak; our heart to desire to have a greater faith or more persistence in prayer and our hands to work at it, to do something like saying over and over: Jesus, help me! Increase my faith!
This parable is called the unjust judge (Luke 18: 1-8). In those days judges traveled from town to town and they would have a list of people to see. Probably a bribe would get you a good place on that list. However, this widow had three strikes against her. She was not well regarded since she was a woman, and now she didn’t have a husband to protect her or go with her to see the judge. And being a widow she was probably poor so she could not pay a bribe. And her adversary was most likely a rich and influential man and the judge and others would not want to alienate him so she was in a difficult situation.
However, it is funny to hear in the original language that the judge was afraid of getting a black eye from a punch from her. She is as persistent as a boxer in the ring. So even though he was not kind and did not believe in God he granted the widow what she wanted.
What is the gospel telling us? If this judge evil as he is gives the widow what she wants how much more will your father God give you all good things, and the Holy Spirit? But we might say there have been many unanswered prayers that I made to God. What about them? I know that God sees what is best for us. Often we have to wait to better understand his plan for us. Our prayer has to be humble and simple. It is not to convince God of something but more to align my will with his, to accept what he has given me in my marriage or what he has allowed in my life.
A young woman who prayed always for the cure of her autistic brother when she started coming to a deeper faith realized that her sick brother was a great help to the family. It humbled her father since he was the only son and he had to make many sacrifices to care for him. This son was a great blessing to the family; he kept their feet on the ground. God heard their prayer and helped them in a different way.
It is not the length of prayer that is important but that we pray every day and give it a priority in our life. To say I will pray if I find time is very different from getting up twenty minutes earlier to make sure I have time to read the Bible and speak to the Lord for five or ten minutes. The remedy for all adversities is to pray. It does not mean to pray every minute since we have to work and care for the family or go to school, but not one day should pass by without one speaking to the Lord as a friend.
When Moses has his hands raised in prayer all goes well. When he didn’t have his hands raised things didn’t go so well. Do you get it? When you pray, things go well and when you don’t pray things don’t go well. It is not magic but has to do with how our thinking changes when we speak to God every day. Even five minutes a day devoted to this conversation with God changes us.