Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?
The Friend at Midnight & The Widow before the Unjust Judge
[Luke 11: 5-8 and Luke 18: 1-8 ]
The Greeks have a word for it. In fact, when it comes to ‘time,’ ancient Greek had two words for it. For clock time – the minutes that tick by regularly and the dates we mark on the calendar – the word is chronos (as in chronological). Yet all of us know a different kind of time, that moves slowly when we are anxious or bored, or ‘flies by’ when we are happy, or that opportune time that we might call the ‘right moment.’ For this the Greeks used the kairos.
God is not bound by our chronological time. He is eternal, not simply without beginning or end, but completely ‘outside’ time. But there are ‘opportune times’ when God does act in our lives. The problem is we may not have the same idea of when the time is ripe. There is only one way to close the gap between our time and His – through persistence in prayer.
Luke’s Gospel reports two parables of Jesus to encourage us to pray without ceasing. In the first, a man who has locked up his home for the night, having put the lights out and the children in bed, receives an annoying interruption from a friend seeking bread for a late-arriving guest. The householder is reluctant to be bothered, but the friend outside his door at midnight insists shamelessly until his request is granted.
The second parable features a widow, the very image of helplessness, who is engaged in a legal system under a judge who neither fears God or respects others. Here only recourse is perseverance in her suit for justice. At last, the judge breaks down and grants it.
Jesus tells these parables to point out our need to pray and never lose heart. But while the friend at midnight and the importunate widow are icons of people at prayer, we must not take the householder or the judge as representing God. Quite the contrary. Here again, as often, Jesus offers parables in which God is not compared to some trait of human kind, but contrasted with it. If shameless persistence can wear down the inconvenienced neighbor or the cynical judge, how much more will God hear our prayers.
And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them (Luke 18:7-8)
Nonetheless, God’s timing is not necessarily ours. Between our asking, and his answer may come long delay. Or the answer may be an unexpected ‘no’ that requires us to rethink whether our request really availed to our salvation. In a world of chronos, chronological time, persistence is needed to recognize God’s kairos, his opportune time of blessing.
Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened. That might take asking on your knees until they are sore, and knocking until your knuckles bleed!