By Michael J. Brooks
I agreed to their free offer lately and viewed several “murder and mayhem” episodes featuring Charles Manson, Susan Smith, Heidi Fleiss, Scott Peterson and Joran van der Sloot. These characters aren’t “heroes.” They are “antiheroes.” Or as a father said to his son according to an old story, “Your life isn’t wasted; at least you serve as a bad example to others.”
It’s interesting that Jesus did the same thing in several of his parables. A prayer lesson in Luke 18 features a judge whom we know as the “unjust judge.” This is an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp” because a judge has no course except justice. Judges are normally the most learned and respected among since they’re charged to uphold the law and fear the face of no man. We clothe judges in robes to underscore the dignity of their office and their weighty responsibility.
So it’s striking that Jesus would choose an antihero, a reprobate magistrate, as a model to teach his disciples about prayer.
A certain widow needed legal judgment, and she came to the judge continually to plead her case. Women usually had few civil rights in biblical days. They usually couldn’t own property and were destitute if divorced or widowed. This judge, in her mind, was the only person who could intervene for her. He initially refused. After all, he was unjust and had other things on his agenda. But he decided to give her what she needed because her continual pleading wearied him.
A synonym for this is nagging! Nagging means to say the same thing or make the same request more than once. In the widow’s case, it was effective.
The first lesson Jesus taught is the need for persistence in prayer.
Two of our most common prayer failures are promising to pray for someone who asks and not doing so and praying for a personal need one day and forgetting about it the next. Jesus underscored the need for persistence. The apostle James exhorted us to come to God without wavering in our requests (James 1:6). Many of us have found a prayer list beneficial in this regard.
The second lesson Jesus taught is that our God isn’t like the unjust judge. He never tires of our requests. We are his “elect”–the chosen whom he loves–and he delights in our coming to him in prayer.
In the Lord’s Prayer we’re taught to ask for “daily bread.” Another translation is “what we need on any given day.” This means we’re diligent to come to our loving God daily since we have daily needs.
The unjust judge serves as a bad example so we can learn to keep on keeping on in prayer. -30-
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.