Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. Luke 18:1 (MSG)
Prayer Is Not Something That We Do – Widows and Judges Series – Part 3
Prayer is not something that we do, but something we are a part of. It's more than words and phrases and knees on floor and heads bowed. Prayer means God is here and we are connected. It's being awake, aware and alive to the divine around, in, and through us.
“It is not enough to say prayers; one must become, be prayer, prayer incarnate. It is not enough to have moments of praise. All of life, each act, every gesture, even the smile of the human face, must become a hymn of adoration, an offering, a prayer. One should offer not what one has, but what one is.” (1.)
Your whole life is a prayer.
“And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’” (Luke 18:3 NIV).
For many, when we think of people who are vulnerable and in need, it’s widows and orphans. And rightly so. All through the scriptures are decrees and commands that they are looked after, supported and included. And rightly so.
But, some of the most resilient, strong, gutsy, resourceful, wise people I know are those who society would label as vulnerable and in need of “care.” I’m all for caring, but sometimes caring feels more like patronizing; putting people in boxes, treating them how we think they need to be treated rather than listening to what they want and really need, or noticing what they can do and can contribute.
Just because someone is a widow doesn’t mean that they’re weak; that they need propping up and supporting. We come to this scripture with an assumption about what the label “widow” means – It's someone who needs to be aided rather than emulated. Perhaps this is where the challenge of our parable begins… “Biblical widows are the most unconventional of conventional figures. Expected to be weak, they move mountains; expected to be poor, they prove savvy managers; expected to be exploited, they take advantage where they find it.” (2.)
Women (widows) like:
Tamar (Gen 38:11).
Naomi (1 Sam 27:3).
Ruth (1 Sam 30:5).
The wise woman of Tekoa (2 Sm 14:5).
They all manifest agency and defy the convention of the poor and dependant woman who could only ever “need.”
In ancient Judaism women were not completely powerless, they did have rights and could employ them when needed. Our widow may not have been a helpless woman with no options. There is nothing in the parable to suggest that. In fact, she may have been anything but weak and powerless.
She lived in a city: a place where you wouldn’t normally find a destitute widow. She continually badgered the judge: she must have had the time and means to do so. In the original text, the judge isn’t concerned that the widow will wear him out, he’s scared that she’ll “give [him] a black eye.” Yep. And was it for justice? Or vengeance that she continually showed up? We don’t know. The story doesn’t say. And that’s part of the challenge.
The widow in Luke 18:1-8 may have been destitute, abused, desperate, and her actions towards the judge her last and final chance of survival. Or she could have been well off, powerful, and vengeful. Or perhaps she was somewhere in between. But if we stereotype her, approach the story with assumptions and labels, we can ignore the challenge of the parable, and in turn, ignore how it challenges our stereotypes.
What if part of prayer is to be aware of our tendency to stereotype people and situations and be challenged to listen a little longer and look a little harder?
Written by Lizzy Milani