I read the story of the persistent widow again this week. You know, the one that involves a slacker judge who is not all that interested in justice and the woman who keeps badgering him to make things right for her until he finally relents and does so. Jesus told this story to teach us the value of consistent and persistent prayer. Kind of a backwards way of doing it, don't you think? He contrasts God to an unwilling and uncaring judge who gives the woman what she wants only after she has worn his resolve down by her constant asking.
Sad to say, many times the contrast between God and this dead-beat judge does not seem to be all that great. We can ask and ask and ask him for something and when nothing seems forthcoming, God does indeed seem unwilling to act on our behalf. Does he need convincing? Is he slow? Is he trying to teach us a lesson?
Let me give an example. Someone comes to me and asks me for 10 dollars. I take 10 dollars out of my wallet and give it to them. A simple transaction, it doesn't take more than 10 seconds. The request has been answered and the person is on their way, happy to have received what they asked for.
Let me rewrite this story just a bit. Someone comes to me and asks me for 10 dollars. I take out my wallet and give them 1 dollar. They go on their way with the one dollar and realise that it is not enough, so they come back for more. I take out my wallet and give them another dollar and ask how things are going. What did they do this week? They reply that they went to camp and go on their way with the second dollar. Still not totally satisfied, they come back again and I give them another dollar. This time I ask what happened while they were at camp and they tell me a funny incident about falling in the septic tank (this is actually what was told to me when I enacted this story)! I laugh and they go on their way. They quickly turn around and come back, taking the next dollar and continuing to tell me about the aftermath of their fall. It brings a smile to my face. The next few transactions progress with the person coming to me for one dollar at a time until he loses count of how much has been given to him, but he keeps staying longer and telling me about his school, his favourite subjects, and something about his family. After I give him the tenth dollar, I give him a hug and tell him I have enjoyed our interactions.
This is what persistent and consistent prayer is about. It is not about showing up at the vending machine of God and getting what we want, it is about developing a relationship through the habit of coming to God often - for small things and big things. He does not withhold things or ask us to wait because he is mean or slow. He is exactly the opposite of that unwilling and unjust judge. This benevolent Father wants us to keep coming back so that we realise that the thing we asked for is not the main thing. In fact, we could probably make do without many of the requests we make of God, but we cannot do well without a living relationship with the Lover of our souls.
This habit of coming to God consistently and persistently is what will make us people of great faith. It will grow the realisation in us that we can always come to God and count on him to give us something. And that tomorrow, he will have something more for us.
Go ahead, ask him for something now. And keep asking.
This is Niagara Falls, where the water just keeps coming and coming and coming....