Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus. She inspired the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama the first large scale protest of the Civil Rights movement. It lasted 381 days when it finally yielded a measure of justice long overdue.
This week Jesus teaches on prayer. He tells the story of a widow who appeals to an unjust judge on a matter of justice (the word justice shows up 5 times). We don’t know the specifics of her case, though I like to imagine her as the Rosa Parks of her community. What we know for sure is that she is relentless. She ultimately wears out the unjust judge with her demands. He grants her request, if only to get some rest.
Are we to imagine that God is like the judge?
Not at all.
But if we are honest, this describes the experience of prayer for most of us. We feel like we have to work as hard as the widow to get through to God who is indifferent to our plea. No wonder we hate to pray.
The point of the parable is not about what it takes to awaken God. It’s about how God awakens us.
The Unjust Judge
The truth is we all have an “unjust judge” who sits in our soul and claims godlike status. To borrow a phrase from James Alison, what’s needed is a widow like the one in this week’s text, who engages in constant “guerrilla warfare of desiring.” She refuses to let the unjust judge silence her deepest desires and have the last word.
Her relentless desiring reveals the true nature of prayer and the one to whom we pray.
When Jesus praises the widow’s persistence, he is inviting us to get honest about what we want and to stay in our desires. Why? Because we come into being through desire. That’s how God created us. Desire is prayer.
Prayer is not about getting rid of desire. It is about plumbing the depths of desire, risking that God is the source of all desire and that our deepest desires are already “Yes,” in Christ.
The Joy of All Desiring
Many are quick to point out the risks of this approach and they are right. If we stay at the surface level of desire we can easily lose our way. But our problem is not that we desire too much; it’s that we desire too little. In fact, all desire is a gateway to God, if we let it. This is why God is inviting us to go deeper, always deeper, like the widow in the story. This is how we wear out the unjust judge. This is how we come face to face with Jesus, the joy of all desiring.
In the end, we become like the God to whom we pray and the God to whom we pray is more like the widow than the judge.
Can we see?
It is God who engages in constant guerrilla warfare of desiring. It is God who wears us out with goodness and mercy until we finally relent and give God what God wants – justice for all, especially the most vulnerable. This is how we become fully human. So, pray always and do not lose heart.