Focal Passage: Matthew 15:21-28; Luke 18:1-8
Concerning prayer, Kierkegaard tells the following story:
An ancient pagan, who in pagandom was renowned and praised for his wisdom, sailed on the same ship with a wicked man. When the ship was in distress the wicked man lifted up his voice in prayer, but the wise man said to him: “Keep quiet, my friend; if heaven discovers that you are on board, the ship will go under.”
French philosopher/theologian Jacques Ellul once wrote, “Faith is not a place of refuge for passive souls; it implies the will to change the world.” Faith lives in the language world of risks and courage. It is best seen in our individual prayer expressions.
We pray prayers of burdened requests and impassioned pleas. Our prayers are in effect longings for divine activity and alteration in those events that appear hopeless and pointless (whether it be illness, economic instability or guidance). Enveloped by a sense of abandonment we pray for intervention and respite.
Sadly, our prayers can become self-contained rather than kingdom-focused.
Today’s lesson examines the faith and persistence of two women. One is described as a “Canaanite,” and the other a Jewish widow. The Canaanite woman came from a culture renowned for its wickedness and depravity. She was not a Jew or proselyte of the Jewish faith, yet she recognized who Jesus was. With the little light she may have possessed, she exercised “great faith.” Against all odds, she persisted courageously and humbly, reverently and respectfully seeking a miracle from God. She wanted her world (and that of her sick daughter) changed, even if all that remained were the leftover crumbs of the gospel — that was more than enough!
The second woman was a widow seeking redemption and vindication (over a legal matter) from a very unsavory judge. Poor and defenseless, her only resource was uncommon persistence. She would not give up, regardless of the cost of time and energy. Her persistence was as intense as a “punch in the face” (the judge feared that she would exhaust or give him a black eye if he did not respond to her). Of such is the kingdom of God, for “it is necessary always to pray and not to lose heart.”
“But when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” That is, when he comes will he find a people risking all for the sake of the kingdom, trusting the Lord’s answer knowing it means courageous change and not passive refuge?