If you would ask someone where they learned to pray, they might have different answers. Some people would not remember where and when they learned to pray. Others might say their parents. Others would say they learned in church Sunday school the correct way to pray. My mother knew all of prayers she learned as a child. She could say them by rote. She would be quite honest when she would say,"pray when you have a need and God will answer you". What happens, sometimes, when you have a need, you pray to God for a good resolution of a problem, and the problem does not go away. Matter of fact the problem might even get worse. Today I want to talk about an important matter that we do not often hear about. It is persistence in prayer.
I have always been a fortunate person because when I pray God usually changes things. But, there are times that God does not answer my prayers and I am at a loss for words. When this happens I ask myself questions: Am not praying right? Am I giving in to soon? Am I to much of a sinner to even ask God for help? Right now I have been praying for an intention for a long time, a real long time. Nothing seems to be happening and my hope is diminishing. Is the problem mine or is it Gods?
Then I was fortunate enough to read two of the readings for this Sunday. In 2 Timothy I read that we have to be persistent in prayer whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Can you believe that? The answer is right in front of me. Am I being persistent in prayer when it is convenient or am I not praying because it is inconvenient? I was stunned with the answer. I pray easier when it is convenient. I must do more thinking about why this is so. I hope you will take time to ask yourself the same message. This message of encouragement from Timothy will lead to more questions.
Let us go to the Gospel reading of Luke. This is one of my favorite readings. This story, in particular, talks about the persistence of prayer. It is about a woman who goes back to the judge time and again to have him render a decision in her favor. And, eventually the judge does grant her petition.
I would like to tell you some background about this woman. She exhibited persistent pressure on the court and the judge to give her a favorable judgment. Widows were extremely vulnerable in society. They compared to orphans and aliens. Usually on court days whole families would be in court to support the defendant and show the judge she was not alone.
Not in this case, she went often to court. Often the judge was unwilling to convene court. But she was persistent and unwilling to be put off. We do not know the real reason the judge granted her petition, but it was granted. I remember a priest say that the woman nagged the judge into a favorable verdict. But this was wrong, very wrong. We need to change our thinking when we talk about this Gospel story. She was not nagging woman but a persistent woman.
Just think about the persistent woman and men who persuaded the courts to change the vote to include women. They were persistent. Just think about the change in the Constitution that has allowed people of all races to vote. Their supporters were persistent.
Just as we change our attitude about prayer by being persistent in prayer in convenient times and inconvenient times we have to be persistent in working for changes that are consistent with the beatitudes and acts of mercy.
God wants us to depend on our generous God all of the time and for every conceivable need. Dependence on God and the knowing that God will be with us every step of the way. Persistence in prayer and persistence in action means that our dependence on God is overwhelming, constant, consuming, and always there.
I have a special need that I have to persistent when I call to God for help. All God asks is that I ask in convenient times and inconvenient times. Change in our behavior and the behavior of our children comes with persistence and trust. We can do our part and God will do the rest.