Monday, October 24, 2016

The Persistent Widow's call to us...Pray Constantly

I confess I do not like today's parable…I just don’t because it implies that if you pray long and hard enough God is going to give you what you want but if we look at Jesus’ way of being in the world and his way of prayer we may be able to get at his meaning.
One clue that this was not the message Christ was trying to get at is the simple fact that this story starts with an atheist Judge.  His listeners would know that that isn’t likely so we cannot take this parable literally.  You see in that day and age of you were a Jewish Judge you followed Jewish law and prescribed to Jewish theology.  If you were a Roman Judge you proclaimed that the emperor was a God you could not be an atheist and well, be a judge. 
enough Trivia
Richard Rohr reminds us that “Jesus’s own style of teaching in stories, parables, and enigmatic sayings was undoubtedly learned in his own prayer practices.  He clearly operated from a consciousness different from that of the masses and even that of the religious leaders who largely fought him.  Most seemed to misunderstand him, or even ignore him, despite what seem to be astounding healing and miracles.”[1]
I believe this parable is an example of that…this misunderstanding can and has led to the prosperity Gospel.  Where if you pray for it, it will come and if you don’t get it you did something wrong and/or you’re a sinner!
Jesus seemed to know that he would be misunderstood and did not allow that to stop him nor discourage him.  He even said: “For this people’s senses have become calloused,
        And they’ve become hard of hearing,
        And they’ve shut their eyes
            So that they won’t see with their eyes
            Or hear with their ears
            Or understand with their minds,
                And change their hearts and lives that I may heal them. [A]
16 “Happy are your eyes because they see. Happy are your ears because they hear.” (MT 13:15-16)
Let us explore a little further what Richard Rohr addresses.
  Jesus himself seemed to prefer a prayer of quiet, something more than social, liturgical, or verbal prayer, which is mentioned only a very few times.  What we do hear are frequent references such as “In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place to pray.” (Mark 1:35; also in Matthew 14:23 and Mark 1:12-13) Luke describes him as praying privately before almost all major events. There are the forty days alone in the desert, which means he must have missed the family-based Sabbath observances and the public temple services.  And of course there is his final prayer alone in the Garden of Gethsemane.[2]
Richard Rohr Points out that Jesus taught us “You should go to your private room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in that secret place.” (Matthew 6:6)  This is again rather explicit and also intimately invitational, especially because most homes of his people would have had no such thing as a private room.”[3]
But some people Caught what Jesus was teaching, he was teaching of seeking a quiet place.  This quiet private space does not need to be physical.  It can be spiritual, it can be done in group much as it is done here today.
“We need no wings to go in search of
God, but have only to find a place where we
can be alone and look upon Him present
within us.” These words were written by St.
Teresa of Avila in her book The Way of

Jesus says we should not seek prayer in public, now he did not condemn the concept of church or synagogue but he did emphasize a different kind of prayer life. “What all of these teachings of Jesus seem to say is that we probably need “unsaying prayer,” the prayer of quiet or contemplative prayer, to balance out and ground all “saying prayer.”  Many Christians seem to have little experience of prayer of quiet, and tend to actually be afraid of it or even condemn it.”[5]
Without this inner, secret contemplative prayer life, a life of constant prayer, a conversation of love in God that is ongoing  our external, communal prayer becomes nothing more than a meaningless show, prayer, communal and silent are practices that each supports the other.
St. Teresa reminds us that: “First, we must be searching for God. If God is just a name, if God’s love for us is an abstract truth which we believe but do not realize, we will hardly search for It. … If, on the other hand, we are convinced that God is in Teresa’s words “a better prize than any earthly love,” if we realize that we actually have within us something incomparably more precious than anything we see outside, then we will desire to enter within ourselves and to seek God. When we are convinced that God cares for us and waits for us, we will have the security and the courage to love God in return.”[6]
This is what that odd parable is about, it is not about bugging God to get what we seek, but it is about what we should be seeking  a relationship with God.  When the stern Judge offers justice to the woman she is getting what she sought and there is a relationship there now between the judge and her.
When we turn inward and constantly seek God we will find God seeking us as well.
“Western culture has tended to be an extroverted culture and a “can-do” culture.  Prayer too easily became an attempt to change God and aggrandize ourselves instead of what it was meant to be – an interior practice to change the one who is praying, which will always happen if we stand calmly before this uncanny and utterly safe Presence, allowing the Divine Gaze to invade and heal our unconscious, the place where 95 percent of our motivations and reactions come from.  All we can really do is return the gaze.  Then, as Meister Eckhart so perfectly said, “the eye with which we look back at God will be the same eye that first looked at us.”  We just complete the circuit!”[7]

[1] Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (New York: Crossroad Pub., 2009).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ernest E. Larkin, St. Theresa Speaks of Mental Prayer, accessed October 11, 2016,
[5] Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See.
[6] Larkin, St. Theresa Speaks of Mental Prayer.
[7] Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See.

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