Every night before dinner, my husband and I stand in the doorway of our small kitchen, join hands and pray. We bless God for his provision, and we pray for each member of our family by name. Each day, there is something new for which to pray on their behalf. We can’t help but pray, driven to the Father by his gift of love’s dogged persistence.
One of my favorite parables is the story of the persistent widow. I first shared my modern take on the story here, then reposted it here. On this steamy midsummer afternoon, why not take a few moments to pause and treat yourself to a few moments with this story. I hope you’ll find encouragement to persist in prayer for someone in your life.
THE STORY OF A WOMAN WITH A ONE-TRACK MIND
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” -Luke 18:1-8 (NIV)
“No matter where I go, there she is.” He sighed and took another long pull of his drink. He was safe inside the dark, smoky inn, a Cheers-like place where everyone knew his name and they were all glad he came. This was one place that was off-limits for a lady like her.
His buddy had to yell above the din in the place. “Hey, you think she’s a stalker? Maybe you could get a restraining order or something. Have one of your boys toss her in jail for a few nights. That’ll shake her up a little.”
He’d toyed with that very idea almost every day the last few weeks, when he saw her standing there like Stonehenge outside his courtroom, waiting for him.
“Judge…may I please speak with you? It’s about my case…” Her soft voice and mousy appearance didn’t command his attention – at first. In the culture of the time, she dressed the part of a poor young widow who knew she would probably never be asked to remarry. And apparently, her widowhood left her with nothing. No family to go home to. No kids to take her in. Without a familial safety net, this meant that her career choices were as slim as her bank account appeared to be. She could support herself by begging. She could sell herself into slavery.
Or she could become a hooker.
He’d learned over the past few weeks that a favorable decision in her court case would give her another option – financial independence. It seems that most of her deceased husband’s assets had been frozen by a business competitor who’d attempted a kind of ancient corporate takeover. The guy’s accountants and lawyers had frozen distribution of the estate under a mountain of complicated legal motions and requests for continuances that would keep the case tied up for years, if not decades. The guy had an army of legal talent working for him. The penniless widow had nothing except her conviction that if only a judge would really look at the case, he’d be able to unbury the truth. She was sure of it.
The judge took another long pull of his drink. “Nah, she’s not a stalker. She doesn’t want anything from me except for me to hear her case. I keep telling her she’s got to wait her turn, but she says that her turn needs to be now.”
It had been easy to ignore her at first. She’d stood unsmiling and somber outside of his courtroom every single day, calling out his name in a voice that was surprisingly childlike in quality. It was like a whisper in the cacophony of a busy courthouse complex.
“Please, sir…my case…”
The first few times, he’d ignored her. He had no recollection of her specific case, or when she’d first made an appearance in his courtroom. He was a busy guy, and couldn’t be expected to keep track of all of the shekel and dime civil cases that crossed his bench.
But he soon noticed that she was waiting for him outside of the courthouse every day. Every stinking day! “Sir, please. If you could just look at my case…”
He tried ignoring her. He said polite things to her, hoping she’d leave him alone: “I’ll have one of my assistants look into it next week, ma’am.” He had no intention of actually doing this, but he thought maybe this would placate her. He even tried telling her to just run along home, and he’d get back to her as soon as he could. She looked at him with those sad brown eyes and said in a quiet voice, “I’d go home if I had one, sir. The case…” He walked away before she could launch into her sorry story. Again.
She was right back in the same place the next day, waiting.
After a few weeks of this, he snapped and asked her for the case name and number. She said gravely, “Please don’t hand this on to one of your assistants, sir. I’d really appreciate it if you’d review the case. I know if you look at the facts, you’ll decide fairly.”
He pulled the documents for the case after that, flipping through it quickly. The case was small potatoes compared to most that came before him. She’ll get her hearing eventually, he thought. Her case will just have to work its way through the system. He tossed the file aside. He decided to go back to his original plan of ignoring her, hoping she’d disappear until her day in court.
Shortly after that, she changed tactics. She was waiting outside the health club where he went twice a week for a steam and a massage. “Sir, did you get a chance to review my case?” She couldn’t have been more out of place, looking for all the world like she was a fragile bone china tea cup sitting someone had placed on the counter at McDonald’s.
She showed up at his house, tagging along behind a man delivering packages to the address. She delivered a singing telegram in her flat, sad monotone. She swept the floor of the courtroom one morning, trying to catch his eye. She positioned herself next to the beggar he always passed each day on his way to work.
She’d even started appearing at the edges of his dreams, teary-eyed, always saying the same thing: “My case, my case.”
The next morning, she was there waiting outside the courtroom. Again. After a night with her interrupting his dreams, it felt like he’d just spent 8 hours with a broken record.
He pulled out her file, and called her to the bench. “You know, once this case comes to trial, it may not go your way.”
She nodded gravely. “That’s a risk I’m willing to take. I think that the facts will speak for themselves. I want justice to be done.”
She stood there looking at him, unblinking. Waiting.
“If I cut through all the legal red tape your opponent has spun around this case, will you leave me alone?” he asked.
She burst into a huge smile and nodded yes.
He’d never seen her smile before.