Reflection on This Week’s Readings


Today’s gospel is an encouragement to always be in prayer, but the parable Jesus uses to urge people to pray is a complicated one. Jesus says the judge is unjust. The widow in the story is persistent in pestering the judge for the verdict she seeks. The judge is not convinced by evidence or reason, but simply by the tenacity of the widow. The lesson Luke passes on is that we ought to cry out to God day and night with our prayers.

The parable says nothing directly about the content of those prayers. A quick reading might lead to a place of thinking anything we pray for will be answered if we are just persistent enough. Perhaps we can wear God down like the widow wore the judge down. This suggests an approach in which prayer is used to try to bend God’s will to our own.

Rather than a force of will, Jesus encourages persistence because every aspect of our lives is worthy of being lifted in prayer to God. The Psalms show that we can and should lift our cries up to God as often as we experience them. God is able to handle any emotion or struggle we give voice to in prayer; speaking it all to God is part of grace-filled transformation.

Each Sunday we speak the words of the Lord’s Prayer, requesting with our collective voice, “Your will be done.” Instead of seeking to bend God’s will to ours, we ask for our will to be shaped by God’s. We pray for God’s forgiveness and boldly claim our own role in forgiveness. We pray for sustenance and deliverance, all while inviting God’s kingdom to come. God’s kingdom is coming without our prayer, Martin Luther reminds us in the Small Catechism, but we pray these things so that we may see the kingdom come alive in and among us. We pray to be shaped by the endless, loving persistence of God’s grace.



Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
The lectionary continues through the gospel of Luke. This Sunday falls near to October 18, the historic commemoration of St. Luke, whose gospel is featured in the lectionary this year. The prayer for St. Luke’s Day focuses on the healing power of Christ.
Believers are called to keep faith in God’s justice. Come, Lord Jesus, the church prays! By contrast with the unjust judge of the parable, the Son of Man will judge us all at the end. Luke’s focus on the needy widow is held next to the depiction of Christ as the judge.
Jews far more than Christians have been attracted to this picture of the faithful having to wrestle with God. The psalms are filled with just such wrestling with God. In the end, God blesses Jacob, along with all of us who are on the run. The narrative is set next to the parable of the unjust judge since both imply that believers must tangle with an inscrutable God. If your God is easy, it probably isn’t God.
This third selection from 2 Timothy contrasts the inspired Scripture and its correct interpretation by church leaders with self-serving heterodox teachers who attract “itching ears.” This passage became central to Christian fundamentalists who argue that divine inspiration implies inerrancy. With a wide variation in what is meant by divine inspiration—variations that might be upsetting to the author of 2 Timothy—all Christian churches say that they proclaim the inspired word of God. At weekly worship, we “proclaim the message.”

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