St Luke tells us in today’s Gospel that Jesus told this parable to teach that we should pray constantly. If we accept that we should, however, that still leaves the question “Why?”. Why do we pray? It is an important question, because if we stop asking it, it is likely that we have lost interest in the answer, because we have stopped praying at all.
At its heart prayer is a statement of humility and faith. Humility, because it is an acknowledgment of lack, that we do not have what we need, and we cannot provide it for ourselves. Faith, because it is a statement that we believe the one we ask can provide it. The widow cannot have been enthusiastic about going again and again to the unjust judge. Jesus makes clear he was not a good man. Yet she did not have the justice she needed and deserved, and he was the only one who could give it to her. And so, she returns again and again. Clearly, it is something that we are prepared to do in with a mortal, sinful, human being. How much more the, should we be prepared to do this with our loving Father.
But our prayer should be more than just a longer version of the word “please.” We are called not just to prayer but to prayerfulness. That is, an ongoing receptivity at all times to the active presence of the God’s life in which we live and move and have our being. That prayerfulness is how Christians are to evaluate and appreciate all that happens in their life. In all matters the Christian should be prayerfully ready to turn to Christ and the Holy Spirit of our Heavenly Father to guide and direct her. Every Christian by their baptismal birthright has received the gift of counsel. Not that charismatic gift of counselling others which some receive, but, by our adoption, the grace to be counselled by the Holy Spirit of Jesus constantly.
Our receptivity to this counselling could be enhanced or diminished. In our secular world it is all too easy for this Christian attentiveness to be attenuated. We have all allowed our Christian imagination to be secularised. We no longer talk of the graces and blessings which surround us. (Nor of the crosses we are asked to carry). We should instinctively turn to Christ’s presence in all situations of life. Prayer at its most basic is an ongoing conversation with God. A loving two-way conversation if we are both humble and insistent in asking, and humble and attentive in listening.
If we allow ourselves to recognize that presence of Christ around us, we will have that constancy in prayer by which Moses, in our first reading, supported the people of Israel. And in that way we will find true triumph in our own day.
Fr Chris Denham