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Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Aaron says, “If we’re the widow, God is NOT the judge…”

March 3, 2011

Rewind: Something goes wrong, so you turn to God, and you start praying.  Or maybe nothing goes wrong, per say, you just need some guidance; so you turn to God, and you start praying.  Then you pray a little more.  Then you ask your friends to pray for you.  And you all pray a little more.  You pray and you pray and you pray, but you just can’t seem to get an answer… You throw up your hands and ask God where He is.  What has He been doing this whole time?  When’s He gonna step in and help out?

We’ve all been there.  We’ve all asked ourselves, at one point or another, “What’s the use?  What’s the point?  What difference do my prayers even make?”  Last night, Aaron told us that people have been asking those questions for centuries, and, guess what, Jesus gave us an answer:

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  He said: “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 himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”  And the Lord [still Jesus speaking here] said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”” Luke 18:2-8

This is yet another example of what Aaron talked about a few weeks ago: Jesus really loved teaching in stories; they force people to pay attention, to think about what Jesus is saying, and to rely on God’s wisdom to achieve understanding.  This story in particular is key to a foundational understanding of prayer, so let’s take a moment and break it down.

Aaron explained that, because this is a parable – a fictitious story used to relay a moral truth – every element in the story is important; Jesus chose to center the story around a widow and a judge.

At this time in Israel, widows had no way of supporting themselves; a woman wasn’t really permitted to work, so once her husband was gone, she was at the mercy of her community for even the most basic of needs (think about it: no cash means no rent check and no grocery money).  Hence God’s soft spot for widows and orphans; without the love and kindness of other people, they would be left destitute and helpless – a combination which often results in hopelessness.  Meanwhile, the law in Israel stated that judges must fear God (do what is right), and defend the oppressed (have compassion for mankind).  Therefore, when the widow approached the judge to ask for help, probably because her home was being taken away, she expected to receive help, because that was his job.  Rather than extending grace and a helping hand, however, the judge is said to have continually ignored her pleas.

Finally, the widow wears him down.  Picture it: she’s spent weeks asking this stone-cold man to do his job and answer her – to defend her cause – but to no avail.  Just as she is about to throw up her hands and give up, he, albeit grudgingly, agrees to help (but only because she’s been so annoying).

In this story, we are the widow.  We can sympathize with her because we too are in desperate need of help.  We live in a broken world filled to the brim with problems that threaten to consume us.  We all know what it is to beg and plead for help, and feel as though our petitions are falling on deaf ears.  But, if the widow in the story is us, then who is the judge?  Well, one thing is for sure, God is NOT the judge in this story.

Unlike the judge, God does not brush off our prayers.  He not only hears us when we call out to Him, but He values our prayers, and He wants to answer them.  It all comes down to the fact that God wants to be in relationship with us; He wants to be the one we choose to rely on.  So, keep on praying, even when it feels like God is taking His sweet time answering you, because you’re prayers do matter to God.

Like Aaron said, when we’re standing there with our arms outstretched, crying out for the God of the universe to step in and defend, guide, and comfort us, our Father has compassion for us, because He too has had outstretched arms.

Pause: Have you prayed to God lately?  Is there something you’ve been wanting to pray about, but afraid that God doesn’t have time to listen to you?  You should pray.  Right now.

“Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.  Guard my life, for I am devoted to You.  You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You.  Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to You all day long.  Bring joy to Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

“You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.  Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.  In the day of my trouble I will call to You, for You will answer me” Psalm 86:1-7

““Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”” Mark 11:22-24

Push Play: I’ve always thought of myself as a relatively patient person; it takes a lot to really ruffle my feathers, ya know?  On the other hand, I’m a planner; I really enjoy knowing what’s going on now, and what’s going to happen next.  For the most part, wanting a plan isn’t too much of a problem because activities usually come with a schedule of some sort, and even a vague outline is enough for me.  The real issue comes when the plan I’m looking for isn’t something as simple as delegating a task, or figuring out when I need to be somewhere.  It’s when I’m waiting for God to show me His plan for my life – what I’m supposed to be doing, who I’m supposed to be with, where I’m gonna end up – that I feel my patience wearing thin, because, really, I just want to know.  But that isn’t always how God works; I believe that sometimes He chooses not to answer us, or at least He chooses not to answer us in a way or a time frame that we expect.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe that God always answers our prayers, I really do.  I just don’t think we always notice or understand.  And that’s ok.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really glad my God is not a God who is easy to predict or understand.  I’m overjoyed that the Lord is surprising and complex; that He’s more than big enough to cover everything in His love, His grace, His mercy, and His eternally-minded plan.  And if that means I need to have a little more patience, well, I’ll just have to keep praying that He’ll grow that in me.

Much love,

Taylor

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