Saturday, 16 October 2010
On and on and on and...
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’
And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’
A strange Gospel this; mostly because of the insinuation that we can get whatever we want from God just by nagging.
Or maybe it is just the image of the widow woman that makes it seem like that? Nevertheless, there is this impression that God never says ‘no’ just ‘not yet – because you haven’t prayed hard enough, you haven’t managed to attract my attention.’
And that seems odd to me.
From out of Gospel stories like these comes the practice of Novenas – a belief that if we say enough prayers; at certain times and in certain orders then our prayers will be answered. And there are the adverts in the personal column and the masses of thanksgiving that suggest that, at least some of the time, such methods work.
But how do you know?
The first (and only) Novena I ever said was in my early years; with a task even then that I knew only God could help with. It may not even count as one Novena because I said it over and over again; that was blind faith because as much as I prayed – nothing happened.
I gave up eventually; deciding that I was too far below God’s radar to attract His attention; even with all those prayers. But then, about twenty years later I was reminded of them and reminded that my prayers were answered – I had just been asking for the wrong thing and saying ‘no’ was what God had had to do.
Twenty years later…..
In that twenty years, I had learn a lot; about life; about me; about seeing the good when ‘bad things happen’; in the value of making mistakes and, I hesitate to say it, but even some of the reasons why we suffer.
I wonder what the widow had been doing with her time in between haranguing the judge. Had she been learning lessons in patience? Had she tried to work things out herself; had she become an advocate for others; a seeker of justice for more than herself? All the time becoming more and more convinced that what she was asking for was justice; and more and more determined to get it. Knowing more and more that there was no other way; convinced that the only person who could help was the Judge.
Was the waiting a part of the answer?
Ever since realising God’s part in ‘that’ Novena I have always found asking God for things quite difficult – even good weather! Because how do I know I am asking for the right thing?
Am I being selfish; impulsive; am I saying that I know better than God?
But that doesn’t stop me praying; giving God what is in my heart; in my life. Giving God my tears, my frustration and my anger. And still losing my temper on occasion ‘Am I really going to have to wait twenty years again! I may not have twenty years this time!’
But praying; praying because I know God’s there; praying because I know God knows I’m here.
Praying because there is a time and place for everything and in the meantime there’s a lot to do and a lot to learn.
Praying because me and God are in a long term relationship – and we both know – there are no quick answers to hard questions.