Persistence in prayer

Saturday after Proper 27B  – November 17, 2018 – Luke 18:1-8 – St. Mary’s Convent

I didn’t get to preach this *exact* sermon on Saturday because I kinda sorta…forgot it in the car, but we press on… Nevertheless, this is the version I prepared. 

If you pester God long enough, keep going to him with your problems, tell him just how deep you are in it, then he’ll finally help you. That was my first reaction after reading today’s gospel, but it doesn’t preach so well. It does tell us about the value of persistence, and that’s worth something, but it seems a word of grace should be built on a little more than annoying God. 

You see, it’s not persistence in pestering God that we’re after, it’s persistence in prayer. It is necessary to prayer constantly. Never give up on prayer. I’m speaking to an audience who gets it. You’ve turned over your lives to prayer. Why? Because it’s fun? I bet not! How often, when you’re in this chapel praying the daily office, do you look around and think, “Gosh, isn’t this a blast??!”

Maybe you do. If you do, you’re different than me. I don’t always think prayer is fun, but it is always necessary. If it feels like work, well, that’s because it is.

In Luke 17, the chapter just before today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that the coming kingdom of God is not exactly what they expect. “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’…”

Instead, he tells his disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it…” In other words, there will be a time in which what you long for, you will not have. During that time, you’re going to have to pray. 

Enter the widow in chapter 18. Nothing is going right. She can’t even get justice from the courts because the judge has no regard for people or for God. Jesus is telling is disciples that there will be a time like this for them. And when it comes, they’ll have to pray. They’ll have to pray because they have no other choice. 

This parable teaches us not just that prayer is a good thing, but why prayer is a good thing. The widow has no choice but to keep bothering the judge. As people of relative privilege in comparison to the rest of the world, we often have many options at our disposal for changing our situations. But some people, like this widow, are desperate. They only have one option. Lucky for them, that option is God. They still have God. So they pray. 

When we have no other option, we still have God. So we pray. We pray, not because of our piety,  not because it’s fun, not to show off for others. No, we don’t pray to demonstrate our relationship with God. We don’t even pray because we have a relationship to God. We pray because prayer is our relationship with God. 

Prayer is faith in action. Unless we cry out day and night then what do we have? Certainly not faith. Certainly not hope. Certainly not a relationship with God. 

You all get it. That’s why you’re here. And I need not say much more about it. In fact, I think you might have a few things to teach me about prayer. So, let’s get back to it, shall we? 

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