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Persistence in Hope

by Jeremy Hiers, O.S.A.

A reflection on Luke 18:1-8

When the Son of Man comes …. will He find faith on earth?

One of the hardest lessons in the life of a Christian is learning how to have faith when we face difficult situations in life, especially when our prayers seem to go unanswered. Perhaps the illness of our loved one remains uncured, or there is a difficult relationship in our life that doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Perhaps we just can’t score an A in that class we are working so hard at or we feel powerless over an injustice that we may see on the news.

Perhaps we are struggling with the reality of COVID19

We all have needs and desires that we have brought to this site as we read this post. Yet, if the Son of Man were to appear today, would He find faith in the midst of our needs and desires?

The older I get, the more I study Scripture, the more I become convinced that while God does not always answer our prayers in the way we expect, God does in deed answer ALL prayers.

Sometimes God immediately says yes:

Ask and it shall be given to you….

Matthew 7:7

Other times God says not yet because God’s timeline is different than our own:

There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven…

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Still other times God says, I have something better because what we really need is so much more than what we are asking.

Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  (Matthew 7:7-11).

Matthew 7:7-11

Yet, I do not believe God ever says no when we pray for what we need. Jesus tells us throughout the Gospels to ask and it shall be given to us, knock and the door shall be opened (Matthew 7:7). God loves us and has a plan for our needs and our deepest desires, as he did for Augustine, though Augustine had to journey through several life “detours” to find that answer.

I therefore propose that the story of the Persistent Widow is an invitation to persist in remaining hopeful in the God who loves us and cares for us in those times when our prayers seem to go unanswered. To resist the temptation to give up, to resist the temptation to succumb to despair. To remain hopeful even when God seems to respond with “not yet” or “I have something better.”

A widow in the time of Jesus was one of the most vulnerable of people in society as they had few rights under the law of the land at the time. Yet the widow did not let the odds stop her from believing that things could be different. If she could persist in getting a secular judge to grant her the kind of justice the law of the land denied to widows, how much more would the God who loves and cares for her grant her the kind of justice that God promises to those in need?

Consider the rich meaning found in the Battle of Amalek as recorded in the Book of Exodus. In this story Moses was charged by God to send Joshua to lead the Israelites into a battle in which the odds were stacked against him. As the battle raged on, as long as Moses kept his hands raised the battled continued in Israel’s favor. However, any time his hands were lowered, Israel began to lose. When his arms and hands grew tired, Aaron and Hur came to support them to ensure Moses would keep his hands raised and Israel would win the battle (Exodus 17:8-13).

Sometimes we too get tired of raising our hands in prayer. Perhaps most recently with the COVID19 situation. We sometimes find ourselves like Moses, in need of help to persist in raising our hands to the God who answers all prayers in due time.

Persistence in hope and prayer. Let’s pray together as we journey through COVID19 and lift our needs and the needs of the world to the God who loves and cares for us. Let’s work together in imitation of Aaron and Hur, helping each other and those around us to keep hands raised in prayer to the God of infinite love and wisdom.

Click here for a reflection on an Augustinian response to COVID19

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