‘Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray, and not give up. He said, ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, Grant me justice against my adversary’.
For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will come and see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’
And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
Luke 18:1-8 - NIV
This devotional is brought to us by Joanne Tweedie a Leader in The Abbey. You can follow her work here.
CHASING INTIMACY WITH GOD
I wonder what age Jesus was when he first felt the pull towards intimacy in prayer with his Father? Did he first feel the whisper of heaven as a child? Perhaps as Kahlil Gibran imagines*, while his human body slept His mind was still wide awake turned toward visions from Heaven and watching from above over those He loved.
Throughout scripture we find references of Jesus time and time again pulling away from the crowd for times of prayer and contemplation. The ultimate teacher, He never spoke a way of living that he did not model first.
So how do we, too, find this place of prayer & intimacy?
King David referred to it as a secret place reserved for the lovers of God,
There is a private place reserved for the lovers of God. Where they sit near Him and receive the revelation secrets of His promises.
-Psalm 25:14 (TPT)
What might be different in your heart – in my heart – and collectively within the world around us if we, like the persistent widow, committed to a practice of prayer without ceasing?
To pray like this widow goes to the root of faith & identity; for to pray is to live with the confidence that we are ones who know our God and are truly known by God (Galations 5:9).
Steeped in the confidence that we know where the source of our strength, and every breath, comes from. What difference might it make to keep this connection with the Father present, pulsating and strong within our every waking moment? To know what it is like to wake up alongside the presence of the Father? To feel the joy of the Father woven through the ordinariness of our everyday? To feel the Father walk before, beside and behind us within the daily highs and lows? To wrestle and grieve while keeping true connection with the Father? Not turning away, but turning over to Him these secret parts of ourselves? For surely THIS was how Jesus lived?
And this is the invitation he places before us in the parable of the persistent widow.
Here we find Jesus teaching His disciples to pray without ceasing and to never lose their grip on hope. Here we find a widow who is persistent in pleading with an unjust judge for justice from her oppressors. Eventually the judge relents, not due to a heart of mercy, but because of her persistence and faith.
In contrast, our God stands as our ever faithful, ever honourable, ever just true judge. And Jesus promises that our cries are heard by Heaven.
Don’t you know that God, the true judge, will grant justice to all of his chosen ones who cry out to him night and day. He will pour out his Spirit upon them…so be ever praying, ever expecting.
-Luke 18:8 (TPT)
We are struck by the provocative end to this passage posing the question whether Jesus will find this kind of faith – alive, living, active – when he returns to earth. Within the myriad distractions and groanings (Matthew 24:8) of our modern, 21st century world, how do we live a life of prayer without ceasing?
Our heart posture matters, first & foremost
We are first drawn to the character of the widow, who is relentless in bringing her need before the judge. When Jesus asks if he too will find this kind of persistent faith, I feel this gets straight to the heart of the matter. We pray as a ‘get to’ not a ‘must to’, responding to a divine invitation towards surrender, choosing to look outside our presiding cultural narrative of ‘self help’ to find our source in a strength outside of ourselves.
Prayer is a choice, an act of will, a turning towards God as our source of everything, And believing that our needs, our heart, our every breath and being is being held by the hands that created Heaven.
Prayer sometimes feels like the ultimate act of both courage, and vulnerability. Choosing to come before God with the messiness of our everyday lives with a faith that he is a good, good Father. An act of remembrance that his face is turned towards us when we cry out to Him. That we don't need to go far to usher in His presence and feel his arms lovingly wrapped around us. An invitation towards the greatest kind of freedom where we can be both persistent in petitioning God, while releasing our burdens towards him to carry.
But, how do we wrestle well when our needs are seemingly unmet?
Perhaps you - like me - have been praying for your breakthrough? Praying for your healing? Praying for so many unmet needs? And you struggle to reconcile your head knowledge of a good, good God with your unanswered prayers?
Yeah, me too.
While we often don't have the answers this side of eternity, we can find rest in the deeper-spaces of intimacy that we find when we choose to ‘wrestle well’.
What do we mean by this?
We are drawn into a deeper confidence and rootedness in our faith when we can declare – mind, body, soul and strength as Christ-centred yogis – that we trust in the Lord. A trust that means that we rely on the Lord with all our heart,and not our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). While my unmet needs may not feel good, I know that I can trust in a God who is always good because he cannot deny himself.
Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane can we be brave enough to kneel before the Father and say not my will, but yours be done? To sacrifice our own agenda to be part of God’s plan and how he is moving on this earth?
It is in this space that we connect to the heart of Jesus more. Fully God. While being fully man. Vulnerable to every emotion we too experience in our time on earth. When we ‘wrestle well’ we follow in Jesus’ footsteps as his disciples and honour his memory well.
A divine invitation awaits
This month, as a community, let’s take more time everyday to sit at the feet of Jesus with intentionality and prayer. To take up, and live our own way of the cross. Choosing perhaps not to go to friends, to social media first but to the refuge and guidance of the one who loved us first. For it is written, Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened towards you (Matthew 7:7).
To each of these stages of prayer, there is a distinct promise: When we ask, we will be given what we need (but maybe not what we want) from loving hands. When we seek, we will find, we will enjoy and we will grasp. When we knock we will go deeper still for we will understand. And discover the true goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Not only for ourselves, but in intercession and faith for the needs of others.
May we truly be this month a community that lives as if we are chosen for this time and place. Living lives that are bold, and full of vibrant, harmonious colours. On the lookout for the presence of the Lord always moving among us. For our lives are the beautiful poetry written by God that will speak forth all that he desires in life (Ephesians 2:10 TPT).
Some of Joann’s favorite resources:
Jesus Son of Man by Kahlil Gibran
Prayer That Gets Results by Benny Hinn