The parable of the unjust judge and persistent widow, in our gospel today, is found only in Luke’s gospel. It teaches the necessity of constancy and persistence in prayer. Far too often, we are inclined to throw up a desperate prayer or two for a particular need, but then drop it, and give it up, if there is not an immediate answer from God.
The judge in the gospel parable is described as dishonest; he is neither God-fearing nor respectful of others. The widow-figure makes frequent appearances in Sacred Scripture, symbolizing the poor, the marginalized and the disadvantaged. Without the support of husband, with no prospect of welfare of social assistance, she is dependent on God and others for her needs. The point of the parable is that her perseverance obtains the desired end, her vindication before her accuser. God will do the same for those who are steadfast in prayer.
A second point lies in the contrast between the unjust judge and a just God. If a dishonest judge ultimately responds to a persistent widow, a faithful Lord will do no less for his suppliants.
Faith lies at the root of the parable as is evident from the final verse. The return of the Son of Man, i.e Jesus, has been delayed. The decisive question which Jesus poses, at the end of this gospel story, points to the faith which undergirds prayer. Jesus wonders if it will perdure until the end of time and the Lord’s return. It is, then, more a posture of faith which expresses itself in persevering prayer rather than a constantly repeated formula of prayer that Jesus seeks. The prayer of petition is a very noble form of prayer. It is the prayer of the anawim, the Old Testament “poor of God” who willingly acknowledge their dependence on God.
How ready are we to give up when our prayer to God does not receive an immediate response? What do we learn about ourselves and about God, when we persist in faith-filled prayer, against discouraging circumstances? Do we believe in a God who cares, or in one who does not?