Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8 (NRSV)
**This week’s devotional is written by Mark Roberts: https://depree.org/the-parable-of-the-squeaky-wheel/
Traditionally, Luke 18:1-8 is called “The Parable of the Unjust Judge.” That’s an appropriate name, to be sure. Recent commentators prefer other titles: “A Parable on Bold and Persistent Prayer,” “Speedy Vindication for Any Who Have Faith,” or “Parable of the Nagging Widow.” Those are fine too, but I’d like to suggest another one: The Parable of the Squeaky Wheel.
I expect you’re familiar with the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” It’s used in a variety of ways. It could mean, “The most obvious problem gets immediate attention,” or perhaps “The loudest or most persistent complainer gets prompt assistance.” Something along those lines, anyway.
In Jesus’s parable, a widow in need of justice asked a judge to prevail on her behalf. But the judge, whom Jesus identified as “unjust” (18:6), refused to help her. Widows in the time of Jesus were without cultural power, so it would be easy for a judge without integrity to ignore her case, even if she was clearly a victim of injustice. But the widow was not to be stopped. She kept pestering the judge until he chose to act, not because of concern for her or the law, but because she was wearing him out by her persistence.
Let’s be clear about something. Jesus did not tell this parable because God is exactly like the unjust judge. Like the judge, God responds to requests for help. Unlike the judge, God is not unjust. We can expect God to respond when we pray because God is, of course, supremely just.
But Jesus’s main point in this parable was not the nature of God. Rather, as Luke says, Jesus told this story to his disciples “about their need to pray always and not to lose heart” (18:1). Jesus encouraged his followers to pray and keep on praying, just like the “squeaky wheel” widow.
Upon reflection, I find a couple of things particularly interesting in this parable. First, Jesus assumes that there will be times when we ask God for something in prayer but don’t get it. We will find ourselves in a situation rather like the widow in the parable, where we’re asking for God’s help but God is not obviously responding. If you’ve done much praying in your life, you’ve surely experienced the frustration of what feels like unanswered prayer. I say “feels like” because, often, God has answered our prayers, but not in a way we prefer. Or, at other times God is answering but not according to our preferred pace. Jesus acknowledges this reality by the way he frames the story.
Second, I’m struck by the fact that, implicitly, Jesus is responding to one particular explanation for the problem we call unanswered prayer. This explanation claims that God is simply not good. We cry out for justice. God doesn’t act. So God must be unjust. Or so the argument goes. While this seems logical, and while sometimes it can feel to us as if God is not actually good (for example, see Psalm 77:7-9), Jesus rejects this way of explaining why our prayers are not answered. It’s not that God is unjust. There are other reasons (which, unfortunately, Jesus does not offer in this parable, as much as we might wish he did).
When I consider the Parable of the Squeaky Wheel, I’m reminded of the fact that there are divine mysteries we will never solve, at least not this side of Heaven. We won’t know for certain why God doesn’t answer favorably many of our prayers. It’s not because God is unjust. And it’s not because we are unfaithful. Something else is going on, something is known to God but not to us.
Nevertheless, we should keep on praying. That is, after all, Jesus’s main point. When we ask for something that God does not grant, it’s okay for us to ask again and again and again. Jesus actually commends a squeaky wheel approach to prayer. If you’re like me, you’re inclined not to want to bother God with repetitive prayers. But Jesus says, “Go ahead and bother!” So, even though we won’t ever get all our questions about prayer answered, we would do well to follow Jesus’s counsel by praying, praying, and praying some more.
How do you respond to this parable of Jesus? What do you think? What do you feel?
Can you remember times in your life when you were rather like the widow when you had a “squeaky wheel” approach to praying?
When you ask God for something but God seems not to answer, what do you do?
What helps you to be persistent in prayer?
Red Bird Mission Trip
Our church is looking to send a team of our members to a Red Bird Missions for a week of service in Appalachia, Kentucky. This mission’s trip would be from July 16th to the 22nd and you would be working alongside other Methodist churches from New Jersey.
If you have questions or are interested in being part of the team that goes down to Red Bird Mission, please contact Walter Maze at email@example.com or Pastor Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also learn more about Red Bird Mission by visiting their website at https://rbmission.org/ or watching this video https://vimeo.com/85865427
Pastor Chris’ Paternity Leave
Pastor Chris’ last Sunday before he begins paternity leave will be February 20th. The current plan is for Pastor Chris to take three weeks off to focus on assimilating to his new role as a parent. Our very own Bruce LaPenta and Rev. Taka Ishii will be preaching during that time.
Please be aware that anyone may supply flowers for the altar. There is a sign-up flower chart on the bulletin board right outside the sanctuary. The cost is $20, and an announcement will be added to the Sunday bulletin to indicate who the flowers are for. If you have any questions, please contact the church office.
Sharing Prayer Requests
If you have a prayer request, you can fill out a prayer card in the back of the sanctuary or email our Office Manager, Gretchen, at email@example.com. We will add it to the list on the back of our bulletin. You can also email Gretchen to take off any prayer requests that are no longer relevant or needed.
Leadership Council Meetings
Our next Leadership Council meeting is Tuesday, March 6th, at 6:30 pm and will be in the conference room in A-Wing. Also, the minutes from January’s meeting have been formally approved. You may email Gretchen for a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org.