THIS Sunday’s First Reading (17:8-13) and gospel (Luke 18:1-8) remind us of one thing – the need to be persistent in prayer.
In the First Reading, the Israelites were able to defeat their enemies, the Amalekites, because of Moses’ prayer.
In the course of the battle, whenever Moses’ hands were raised in prayer, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Israelites were being defeated – so much so that when he got tired, two of his comrades, Aaron and Hur had to hold his hands up high to ensure Israelite victory.
Indeed, such was a truly beautiful illustration of the constancy demanded in our prayers, and of the help people can give each other in prayer and intercession.
On the other hand, in the gospel, Jesus shows in the parable how the unwavering prayer of the widow has forced the judge to grant her request for good judgment – not because the judge was good but because he did not want to be disturbed any longer.
Jesus then raises the discourse to a higher level, mentioning that if the ungodly judge could be moved by an insistent request, then the more will the good and gracious God be moved to grant the legitimate requests of his children.
As he said in Matthew 7:7-11: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)”
But why is it that many times we do not get what we want? The answer is because we do not ask God (James 4:2b). Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24).
Yet others will say, I have always been asking. I have been praying for this thing or that thing through the years, but God seems not to listen. There may be reasons for this known only to God’s higher wisdom, and what St. James has written may be one of them.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Are we asking for the right things? Are our petitions in accord with God’s commands? If yes, then we can be assured that at the right time, the answer will be coming. St. John wrote, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).
And how are we to know God’s will? By studying and meditating on his words, the Holy Bible. As what the Second Reading (2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2) tells us, among others, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
Let us then hang on to God, trusting that our prayers, even our small whispers and unvoiced petitions, reach his ears. St. Paul challenges us, “Persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2), while St. Peter declares, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).
Indeed, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b), and that “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).
Do we need anything, or are we in desperate need for something good? We don’t have to be anxious, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, what God asks of us is to present our requests to him (Philippians 4:6).