Monday, October 15, 2018

Not About Me

Luke records a parable Jesus told about a persistent widow and an unrighteous judge. The point to be taken from it, Luke says, is that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart”.

I have been reading that same parable over and over for half a century as if it has to do with my personal needs of the day, or week, or month. Persist, we have been taught, and God will give you the thing for which you beseech him. Can we get an amen, brothers and sisters?

One of the things it takes some people fifty years of praying to learn is this: prayer is not all about me.

A Cry for Justice

Now, certainly the Lord is greatly concerned about our needs, otherwise he would not have taught his disciples to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” But there are good reasons to believe he had something of universal significance in view here, as opposed to my dinner plans.

That parable is not some generic homily about the value of persistent prayer. The prayer is quite specific. It is a cry for justice from God’s people, not their daily bread or for some happy confluence of events. “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” the Lord Jesus concludes. “Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.”

“Justice” here has the sense of setting things to rights, of vindication, of meting out deserved punishment to the guilty and of acquitting the innocent and trumpeting their virtue.

Thy Kingdom Come

Obviously this is not something we see on a daily or weekly basis. True justice cannot really come to this world until Jesus returns to rule it. Thus the prayer in view here is not “Give us this day our daily bread,” as useful as that may be, but rather, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We have reason to anticipate the reordering of this world according to the principles of heaven. It is, first and foremost, this desire to which those who follow Christ need to tune our hearts and raise our voices in prayer. It is this desire which ought to occupy us and drive us to cry to God day and night. And it is this desire which God assures us he will grant.

With this in mind — that the prayer in view is for the coming of Christ to reign in righteousness — the Lord’s last line, which once seemed to come out of nowhere, suddenly connects to the parable it sums up: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Not faith that God exists, or even faith that God rewards those who seek him, but faith that never loses sight of its ultimate objective: the return of Christ.

The Ultimate Objective

The challenge for us, then, is not to spend our days blissfully oblivious to the big picture. Not to get caught up in our various personal needs, relationships and challenges as if they are the be-all and end-all of our time on earth. Not to allow ourselves to be hypnotized by Satan’s lie that “all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” — or, worse, to begin to like it — but rather to faithfully continue to pray that all things as they are currently constituted will shortly come to a crashing, burning halt and a new, just, truthful order be established across our planet.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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