“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart (ἐγκακεῖν, grow weary or despondent). He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice (Ἐκδίκησόν με, avenge me) against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. But God (ὁ δὲ θεὸς), – will he not grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly (ἐν τάχει) grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” (Lk 18: 1-8)

I think we often miss the point of this “Parable of the Persistent Widow,” taking away from it that God is somehow “like” the unjust judge, who reluctantly helps us because he grows weary of our “persistency” in prayer. But the whole point of the parable is precisely that God is “not like” the unjust judge. God never “grows weary” of us, nor is He ever reluctant to help us. Yes, our Lord is saying, you do need “to pray always,” so as not to “lose heart” or “grow weary/despondent” (ἐγκακεῖν). Because in that prayer-less state, our hearts become closed to God’s grace, which is always on offer; which He is always ready to shower upon us, and to do so “quickly.”

So let me not project onto God what He is not, like this image of an “unjust judge.” He has not erected barriers between me and Him, which I am supposedly tasked with breaking down. No. He calls me to take down my barriers, to stop struggling pointlessly in self-reliance and self-isolation, and embrace God-reliance, “praying always.” This kind of “cry to Him day and night” can take on different forms, including a simple awareness of God’s presence, or what is traditionally called “walking before God.” Let me try that today. “Lord, I have cried unto You. Hear me!”

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