to not lose heart


Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.

He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” Luke 18:1-5

Harpo Marx

I vividly remember pretending this text with my Church School classes when I was a children’s priest. We played the story over and over so everyone got to be the judge, the widow, the guards keeping the widow from the judge, the obsequious attendants, and other folk waiting their turn for justice. One ingenious 5th grade boy chose a Harpo Marx wig from the costume rack and played the widow as if she were mad.  This rendering was the most memorable because it was the most absurd and funny. But we all internalized the story that day.

Anyone who takes a life of prayer seriously experiences long stretches- years, or maybe a lifetime, when “nothing happens”: no miracles, no voices or fluttering of angel wings, no perceived coincidences, no sign of reciprocity from the Divine. Like the desert monk in meditation one ( after thirty years one might be tempted to give up.

But here’s an analogue to the life of prayer. Israel dwelt in the desert for forty years living a miracle, eating manna, following the pillar of cloud and fire. But the people complained continually and fashioned a golden calf to worship while Moses lingered up on the mountain in the cloud of Divine Presence. Generations later, during the prosperity of the Davidic era, the Israelites looked back upon the escape from Egypt with awe and the sojourn in the desert with reverence and as a sort of honeymoon with Yahweh.

Maybe the persistence Jesus asked for requires not only retrospection but introspection. Looking again. Penetrating the moment more deeply. Listening more profoundly. Perceiving the holy behind the ordinary. The Sacred within the mundane.

Perhaps you have to be a little mad not only to pray but to pray and not lose heart.

One Response to “to not lose heart”

  1. elizabeth leborgne Says:

    we have been married 37 years in 2010 and your using the word honeymoon gave me a jolt just now. Who would have thought back then during the “awful times” that we would make it all this distance? That God would be faithful, I think we both thought that and I still do. But us? When I think about the years in the desert for the Israelites that they look at in RETROSPECT as a honeymoon, I laugh. Hardship, uncertainty, being cut off from all that they knew, going to-most of them knew not where, Sounds like my honeymoon all right.

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