Jesus told many stories about unnamed women–the woman searching for a lost coin, the woman kneading bread, the women waiting for the bridegroom. In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus describes a widow who had apparently experienced some kind of injustice. She had no husband or other relative to defend her. She was likely poor, without money to hire a lawyer to present her case or to bribe the judge to act in her favour.
Yet in spite of her situation, this widow was neither weak nor helpless nor discouraged nor in despair. She was bold enough to present her own case before the judge, not just once, but numerous times. Convinced of the rightness of her case, she was courageous enough to keep on going even though the judge refused her time and time again. She was a woman of action.
I wonder if she was also a woman of prayer. Did she go to God with her case as often as she went to the judge? Did she draw on God’s strength as she appeared before the judge again and again and again? How else could she have persisted as one lonely voice of protest before the formal authority of the court?
For many, prayer and action may seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. We may tend to think of prayer as sitting quietly, as we give thanks and make our requests to God. We may tend to think of action as physical movement, as we work, play, and interact with the world and with other people. We may think of prayer and action as very distant relatives instead of twins belonging to the same family.
But in this text, the gospel writer links the widow’s persistent action with Jesus’ words on persistent prayer. Here, as elsewhere in Jesus’ life and ministry, the two go together. Jesus spent the night in prayer before he chose his twelve disciples. He spent the night in prayer before his arrest. He taught his disciples both to pray and to act.
Today we also need both prayer and action. In fact, any situation that requires persistent action requires persistent prayer. Do we need persistent patience with a toddler or a teenaged son or daughter? Do we need persistent good humour to get ourselves through another day at the office? Do we ned persistence in serving on a church committee or working in our community on housing, education, or other issues? Then we also need persistent prayer.
Our prayers help us to hear God as the guide and energizer of our action. Our actions give hands and feet to our prayers and give us ever more reason to pray. Action and prayer are inseparable. Each enriches and completes the other.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: Where do you need persistent action and persistent prayer in your own life? Do you tend to emphasize one at the expense of the other?