This week we begin with Question 39 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 3 (questions 36-52), which focuses on the Spirit, restoration, and growing in grace.
Question 39: With what attitude should we pray?
Answer: With love, perseverance, and gratefulness; in humble submission to God’s will, knowing that, for the sake of Christ, he always hears our prayers.
Perseverance in prayer is very important in the Christian life. Although Jesus warned against a kind of prayer that is nothing but vain, repetitious noise that assumes we can only capture God’s attention by repeating the same mantras over and over (Matt. 6:7-8), nevertheless, he did teach his disciples the importance of persevering in prayer by continuing to bring the same matters of concern to God’s attention for as long as it takes. In Luke 18:1-8, he made this point in the form of a parable about an unjust judge who was finally worn down into granting justice to an oppressed widow, not because he had any real concern for justice, but simply because he could no longer take her bothersome appeals. He gave her justice against her adversary simply to get her to be quiet.
Jesus’ point in this parable is not at all that God is like the unjust judge. He is not bothered by our concerns or unmoved by our needs. On the contrary, as a loving Father he is eager to hear us and come to our aid. And so the parable’s point turns on a move from that which is more difficult to that which is less difficult. If it is more difficult to swallow the idea of an unjust judge finally relenting and giving in to a poor widow’s appeals, how much easier is it for us to believe that the God who loves us will certainly hear our prayers and grant justice in answer to our cries for his kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? God is very much unlike the unjust judge. However, the parable resonates with our experience at the main point of the analogy: our need to persevere in prayer, calling out to God daily to send his Son from heaven to triumph over all enemies, to bring in the fullness of his kingdom, and to grant us the inheritance long promised to us. Persevering in prayer for that day, through all the ups and downs of this world, is an expression of an enduring faith.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Luke 18:1-8. What is the main point of this parable? How is God not like the judge in the parable, and how does that fact only give us more reason to persevere in prayer?