• Persistant prayer for justice (Luke 18)

    Posted by John

    15 March, 2011

    Unanswered prayer.

    What do those two words make you think about? What emotions do they raise?

    They make me think about injustice - because a vast majority of my prayers are requests that injustice would be replaced by justice - that God would make wrong things right. What happens to my faith when the thing I prayed to be made right remains wrong?
    I was thinking through these questions with some friends last week and I re-stumbled across a little parable in Luke 18:1-8. It's often referred to as the Parable of the persistent widow:

    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 what people thought. 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 what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually come and attack me!'"

    And the Lord 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. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

    As I re-read it I asked myself why we at Micah Challenge hadn't used it or discussed it in the context of our work? I think ignorance is the only answer to that question, but my first official piece for this new blog is as good a time as any to address our oversight.

    This is not rocket science. For once Jesus tells us straight up what the purpose of the parable is - 'to show them that they should always pray and never give up'.

    The relationship Jesus draws between the unjust judge and God is not so much a comparison, but a juxtaposition. If persistence works even with the most unlikely of judges, how much more is persistence warranted with the God of justice?

    But the fascinating thing for me last week was to notice that the persistent prayer for justice is chosen by Jesus as the evidence of faith that he will look for when he returns. This seems a far cry from the kinds of things we usually assume Jesus looks for; things like a set of rules, activism, piety or a decision we once made to follow Jesus long ago. In this case, if Jesus wants evidence of faith, the question he will ask is 'did you consistently bring your requests to God in the face of the injustices of this world?'

    I made my re-discovery of this parable on the eve of International Women's Day. I couldn't help but think of the persistent widow when thinking of the millions of women in the developing world who daily face the injustice of violence, rape, inadequate access to healthcare or unfair work conditions; the powerless widows of contemporary society whose voices are rarely heard.

    How would one of those women read this parable? What about the victims of disaster in Japan, Queensland, Pakistan or Christchurch? Is there any comfort for these people in this story from Jesus' lips?

    I hope so. At the very least there is a promise from God that he will establish justice.

    So I see here some guidance as I ponder the mystery of unanswered prayer. I see an acknowledgement of injustice - the problems of this world are not a surprise to God. I see a firm promise from a faithful God in response to that injustice. And I see a call to faith (expressed through prayer) in response to that promise.

    So this parable acts as a kind of template for us as we launch this blog. This blog will be a place where we highlight questions of injustice, and ask 'Why?' It will be a place where we mobilise people to raise their voice against injustice until justice is granted. But we at Micah Challenge are people who trust in the promise of a faithful God. So most importantly, according to this parable, it needs to be a place where we pray, and where we encourage others to pray, as an expression of faith.

    In some ways we offer these discussions and dialogues as a prayer in themselves - a kind of wrestling with the tension between a God of justice and a world of injustice - a bit like the Psalmists I guess!

    John Beckett (known to most of us as JB) is the National Coordinator of Micah Challenge Australia. JB holds a Masters in Theology from Regent College in Canada. He now lives in Sydney with his beautiful wife Allie and baby daughter Molly.

    JB desires to see more and more Christians taking on justice, mercy and humility as a way of life and speaking, praying and acting for and with the global poor.