July 15, 2018

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

The Widow and the Unjust Judge
Luke 18:1-8

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“Persistence in Prayer”

Jesus taught the disciples a parable about the importance of persistent prayer. Often in the dynamics of the story, we miss the important point, so we misunderstand the importance of the parable’s dynamics.

The widow is without social agency, voice, or safety. She has lost the male counterpart who gave her identity, resources, and protection during this era. The widow represents socially powerless and marginalized people. The judge represents those with power yet lacking compassion. The temperament of the judge represents those people too apathetic to concern themselves with the needs and treatment of the needy and vulnerable of our society. These people refuse to look around to identify the ways they can change the circumstances of the least of those in their midst.

We can see the widow representing people in communities that lack nutrition and wellness resources or the under- and unemployed. Conceivably, the widow represents women who make less than their male counterparts. The widow can represent any group we identify as needy or oppressed. The judge represents those in power or those refusing to use their power to relieve the struggle of others.

The pattern of prayer this widow provides is praying eyes wide-open and ever voicing the need for relief from injustice and depraved indifference. Too often we think of prayer as peaceful meditation, a quick grace before a meal, or a bedtime ritual. Jesus is teaching another prayer model in this parable; a prayer that is unrelenting, public, targeted, and full of urgency. As we pray for heavenly deliverance, we continue to resist, advocate, and mobilize to effect change. Indeed, we are to make a ruckus, create a scene, and disrupt the normalcy of the lives of people oppressing us and others. We are social disrupters agitating for change, and we want that change immediately.

I believe we understand the necessity of this type of persistent prayer when we get pushed so far down that we cannot even remember there is a possibility of up. During the Civil Rights era, Fannie Lou Hamer expressed it this way, “All my life I’ve been sick and tired. Now I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”[1]

I believe Jesus is teaching us that every believer should have a point that, when reached, they will mobilize in relentless and persistent prayer. With the widow’s example, Jesus is demonstrating that even those of us with the least political and social agency are a powerful force when engaged in prayer. Jesus closes this parable with a question. When Jesus returns, will any faithful be found? The faithful are those mobilized in persistent, provocative prayer. The faithful understand that desperate times demand a different type of prayer positioning and claiming of our power.

I believe that is what propelled Patricia Okoumou up the Statute of Liberty on the 4th of July. She knew the treatment of refugee families in detention centers demanded drastic action.[2] Similarly, this point of persistence was reached in South African Apartheid resister Allan Boesak, who taught, “When we go before Him, God will ask, ‘Where are your wounds?’ And we will say, ‘I have no wounds.’ And God will ask, ‘Was there nothing worth fighting for?’”[3]

—Kelly Bates Oglesby, kellyoglesby@gmail.com

© 2018

1. For background on Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous quote, see www.thisdayinquotes.com/2010/08/im-sick-and-tired-of-being-sick-and.html
2. Anne Branigin, “Patricia Okoumou Knows She Could Have Died During Her Statue of Liberty Protest; She Did It Anyway,” The Root, July 9, 2018, www.theroot.com/patricia-okoumou-knows-she-could-have-died-during-her-s-1827443582
3. See www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/256414.Allan_Aubrey_Boesak

Kelly Bates Oglesby of Indianapolis, Indiana, is our ABS Online writer for Justice in the New Testament, our Summer 2018 study. She is joyfully married to Herman Oglesby. Kelly enjoys writing and teaching. She is discerning opportunities for pastoral ministry.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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