29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Simham)
ARE YOU CHANGING THE PLAN OF GOD BY PERSISTENT PRAYER OR REALISING IT
One of the things that most of us hate is “nagging” or “pestering”. We feel so irritated and angry and embarrassed when we are pestered. We want to get rid of such people and so we are prepared to do anything or give anything to get rid of them. Look at today’s gospel. Jesus tells us a story of a nagging widow to teach us about consistency in prayer.
There is a widow in a town. She is in need of justice. And she goes on nagging and pestering the judge till he does something to get rid of her. Look at the description of the judge. A man who fears no one; neither god nor fellow man. A careless and reckless fellow. But the irony is, he fears this widow and wants to get rid of her by giving her what she wants. A man who boast that he does not fear any one is afraid of a poor widow and concedes to her request. Amazing story. Jesus uses this story to teach his disciples about the need to be persistent in prayer.
And also look at today’s first reading. Wonderful scene of Moses praying on the top of the mountain and people of Israel fighting their enemies down the mountain. Interesting thing is, as long as Moses is holding his hands up Israelites are winning; the moment he drops his hands they loose. Meaning “as long as you pray you win, the moment you stop praying you will loose.
After reflecting on these readings I got two basic questions to reflect upon. These are not questions for questions sake but genuine doubts asked by some people in the course of their prayer life.
- Does God need to be reminded again and again? God knows what you need even before you ask him why you need to ask him again and again? Is God an unyielding boulder against which prayer must come repeatedly like the blow of sledgehammer? No, the heavenly father whom Jesus revealed is not a God who is reluctant to act on our behalf. He is not a God with a heart of stone which has to be broken with the hammer of prayer. He is a passionate God who goes all out to rescue and help the lost and needy. If it is so, then why have we to pray constantly?
- Second question: Can we change God’s will by constantly pestering him? By constantly reminding him what to do can we change his will? These are some of the genuine questions we ask sometimes.
As I was struggling to find some answers to these questions I came across a book called “Prayer: The cry for the Kingdom.” By Stanley J. Grenz.
He says “prayer is especially effective when we know the will of God and can pray confidently it be done.” In any given situation there is need for which we pray and there is God’s will. Successful prayer is one in which what we ask for is what is willed by God. We get it immediately and our prayer is successful. There is no need for constant reminder. Are you with me. But the problem is we do not know what is God’s will in that situation. We only know what we need or desire. In fact what we desire for is not what we need. And only God knows what we need. And we do not know often what is his will. When we do not know God’s will, persistence in prayer takes its significance. In such situations, prayer serves as a crucial means for discerning God’s will. We go on saying God I need this. God, I need this. As we go on saying our need we slowly will discern God’s will. This what the author says in the following words.
“When God’s answer is not forthcoming, Persistent prayer emerges as a conversation with God, or perhaps a dialogue with God’s silence. We struggle to know God’s ways. When this struggle gives way to clarity regarding God’s purposes, we come away from the experience with a greater awareness of who God is and a deeper relationship with the God whom we serve. This marks the victory of persistent prayer in our own lives.” As we go on repeating our need sometime we may suddenly feel this is not what God wants. As a result of persistent prayer we may change our will instead of God’s will.
He goes on to add “our goal is not to overcome God’s resistance but to release God’s willingness. When we know that God will act in God’s own good time, we can pray in faith un till the answer comes.”
In conclusion let me go back to the basic questions and give simple answers. Does God need to be reminded again and again to act on time? No. If your need is in accordance with God’s will it will be answered immediately. If your prayer is not answered immediately you persist in prayer not to change his will but to realise his will or release his will to answer your prayer in his own good time. Amen.
Fr. Showreelu Simham