Jesus wants his disciples to be in continual dialogue with his most dear Father, just as He was. And Jesus exhorts his disciples to intensify this dialogue during times of stress, just as He did. The dialogue is, of course, prayer.
In today's Gospel Jesus chooses the rather strange parable of the corrupt judge to illustrate his point of praying always, especially in need. The judge ultimately grants the widow's petition not because the petition was just but because he does not want to be disturbed: "While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me."
The point of the parable is clear: just as the widow continually presents her petition to the judge so must we continually present our needs to the Lord -- and the Lord will eventually respond!
Interestingly, in an earlier chapter Luke presents Jesus making a similar point through an equally strange parable. This parable involves two friends. One friend in the middle of the night comes to borrow three loaves of bread. After persistent knocking, his friend finally gets out of bed and takes care of the friend's need -- not because of friendship but because of the friend's persistence -- and so he can finally get some sleep!
Luke adds a comforting reflection to this parable: "For whoever asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; whoever knocks, is admitted." But then unexpectedly Luke concludes the parable with an surprising comparison between ourselves and God as givers. If we humans, sinful though we are, know how to give our children good things, "how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." The best gift God can give is often not what we explicitly seek but God's own self, the Holy Spirit!
Often we misunderstand the purpose of seeking God's help in prayer. We see prayer primarily as a means of controlling God for material advantages for ourselves or others; we do not see prayer as a way of acknowledging the most fundamental relationship of our life, our relationship as creature to our Creator-Father. But through persistent prayer we have the occasion to become more aware that as creatures we are not self sufficient but are dependent beings, like children to loving parents. And through persistent prayer we slowly come to realize that our Father-Creator does respond to every prayer. The response is often the best gift God can give -- God's own presence through the Holy Spirit. With this presence we have the guidance and strength to handle life's stress and problems.
Jesus in Gethsemani is our model.
By Dick Hauser