“And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” (Luke 18:7)
This week’s Gospel reading reminded me of a story I was told about an elderly Jewish man who, every morning, would walk from his home in the old city of Jerusalem to the ‘wailing wall’ (the last remaining remnant of the ancient temple, spoken of in the Christian and Hebrew Scriptures). The man would spend an hour in prayer there every morning before getting on with his day.
A young pilgrim encountered him there and asked him how long he’d been maintaining his discipline of prayer. The older man said, “I’ve been coming here to pray every day for nearly sixty years”. The young man was astonished and asked him what he prayed for. He said, “I pray for a lot of things. I pray for my people. I pray for the Palestinians. I pray that my granddaughter won’t marry that rotten tailor.” The young man asked, “and do you see many prayers answered?” The older man paused for a while and then responded, “No. I don’t see many prayers answered. In fact, over sixty years, I can’t think of the last prayer I saw answered. I tell you, sometimes you feel like you’re praying to a brick wall!”
This experience of feeling like we’re praying to a brick wall is something we’ve all struggled with at one time or another. I think of some of the things I pray for daily:
- For reconciliation with my dear eldest daughter
- For freedom for Julian Assange
- For an end to the sanctions on Syria
These are heartfelt examples of things and people I’ve been praying for fervently every day for years. None of those prayers looks any closer to being answered now than when I started praying! Sometimes I do feel like the guy at the wailing wall.
Jesus addresses this issue directly in a joke He tells about an unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) – an official who is so corrupt that he says openly, “I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone” (Luke 18:4). The judge is a sinister caricature, but he grants justice to at least one widow, not because he cares about her or about justice, but because she is relentless in her petitioning, and he doesn’t want her to wear him out!
The corrupt judge is an awkward metaphor for God, but the point of the joke seems to be that if we can squeeze justice out of someone like him, how much more confident should we be in petitioning our loving Heavenly Father? “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.” (Luke 18:7-8)
The punchline is clear enough. The only problem is that it seems to contradict the very experience that it addresses. We bring our frustration to Jesus – that sometimes we feel we are praying to a brick wall – and Jesus responds by telling us that even corrupt judges eventually give way, and so we can expect our loving Heavenly Father to respond quickly. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? God doesn’t seem to be responding at all, and certainly not quickly!
Perhaps when Jesus says “quickly”, He’s working on a different time scale to ours? Perhaps our prayers are being answered in little ways that we haven’t recognised? Perhaps we did get an answer, and the answer was ‘no’? Perhaps … perhaps …
Luke tells us that Jesus shared this story so as to encourage us to “pray always and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Perhaps Jesus’ point is simply that focusing on the character of God, rather than on the pain we feel, will give us the confidence we need to keep going.
Speaking personally, what keeps me going is my history of prayer. Yes, some of my prayers aren’t being answered right now. On the other hand, so many of my prayers have been answered! Indeed, I’ve prayed for so many seemingly impossible things over the years, and many of those prayers have been answered spectacularly!
I guess that’s left me with a confidence in God as one who does hear and does answer. Even so, I can’t work out why the Almighty is taking so long to get around to responding to my current crop of petitions.
The Sunday Eucharist
We shared a lovely Eucharist last Sunday, with a new special guest – Robert Nalbandian – who was a fellow UAP candidate in our last Federal election and is a man of sincere Christian faith. We also had two old friends join us on the panel – Sam Madden and Andrew Madry. Enjoy the highlights below.
This Sunday we have another first-timer joining us – Rev. Ivan Harris. Ivan is an Anglican priest who, like myself, is based in Sydney. Like me too, he lost his job recently, but not for the same reasons. He was working as a chaplain in a juvenile detention facility. He was sacked for not being vaccinated!
I’m really looking forward to having Ivan with us this Sunday, along with dear Dave Baldwin. As I write this, I’m still looking for a third person – someone to lead us in prayer. If you think you could be that person, let me know.
We’ll be broadcasting this Sunday from about 11.45 am through the usual channels:
Thanks for your support
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- Middleweight Division ($10/month) where you get access to the member site, along with the videos and other resources.
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What’s on this week?
- Saturday, October 15 – Boxing will be happening at 3 pm @The Fight Lab
- Sunday, October 9 – The Sunday Eucharist at midday
- Tuesday, October 11 – – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Thursday, October 13 – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
As you may remember, I missed our boxing session last Tuesday as I had been invited to speak that night at the “Mercy Dinner”, commemorating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, held at our state Parliament House. What a privilege! My sincere thanks to Imam Azzam Mesto and the Rachma Association of Australia.
I’ve included both the pics and a video of my address below. I was worried that I’d go over the five-minute limit on speeches, but I managed to come in at a sleek four minutes and fifty seconds.
In closing today, let me ask you once again to please say a prayer for our bush retreat, Binacrombi.
I thought we had things sorted there with our new man, Paul, coming on board. Unfortunately, those arrangements have all fallen through. Even so, I haven’t yet let go of the vision of Binacrombi as a spiritual community and a place of healing.
Please pray with me, displaying the tenacity of the persistent widow of Luke 18. Surely, the answer will come quickly!
Your brother in the Good Fight,