O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God, our refuge and strength,
bring near the day when wars shall cease
and poverty and pain shall end,
that earth may know the peace of heaven
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Alleluia. Blessed are those who fear the Lord
and have great delight in his commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land,
a generation of the faithful that will be blest.
Wealth and riches will be in their house,
and their righteousness endures for ever.
Light shines in the darkness for the upright;
gracious and full of compassion are the righteous.
It goes well with those who are generous in lending
and order their affairs with justice,
For they will never be shaken;
the righteous will be held in everlasting remembrance.
They will not be afraid of any evil tidings;
their heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their heart is sustained and will not fear,
until they see the downfall of their foes.
They have given freely to the poor;
their righteousness stands fast for ever;
their head will be exalted with honour.
The wicked shall see it and be angry;
they shall gnash their teeth in despair;
the desire of the wicked shall perish.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 18.1-8
Jesus told the disciples 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?’
Today’s reading is different from many of our other readings because it starts with a statement that tells us exactly what it is about. Today’s reading is about our need to pray always and not to lose heart. Jesus sets this parable in the context of a courtroom. A widow is constantly appearing before a judge, seeking justice. We do not know what sort of justice she is seeking, but we do know that she is not prepared to take no for an answer. We do not know how many times she has brought her case before this unjust judge, but we do know that he has reached the end of his patience, and we know that she wins her case because of her persistence. The unjust judge cannot be bothered, he gives his judgement in order that he might have a quiet life.
To fully understand this scenario we need to understand how the justice system worked in those first century Jewish communities. No matter what the issue, whether it was serious or trivial, cases were brought to court by aggrieved individuals. It was not the job of the police or a state prosecution service. Every case that came before a judge was the action of a person who felt the need for justice. Similarly there was no concept of single jeopardy. If the complainant felt that they had not got justice they could bring their case before the judge time and time again. That is where the widow and the judge are in today’s reading.
We know from scripture that at the end of times there will be a moment of judgement. Christ, we are told, will come again to judge between good and evil. Jesus does not want us to get caught up in the minutiae of human justice, what we believe to be right or wrong. In this parable Jesus is making it clear that God is not an unjust judge. God does not lose patience with us. God will not be blackmailed or nagged into giving us our own way because God really does know what is best for us. The challenge for us is to understand and accept that God’s will, God’s judgement, God’s way of answering our prayers is the only way.
So many times I hear of people questioning the power of prayer. ‘What is the point?’ I am often asked. And yet, when prayer has been answered I hear talk of ‘good luck’, rather than gratitude to God. Today Jesus is asking us never to forget that God wants us to go to him in prayer. God wants us to share our fears and concerns, our joys and celebrations with him. God wants us to come to him time and time and time again. Jesus is also asking us to realize that God, unlike the unjust judge, will never get tired of hearing our voices and our prayers. So, let us never forget our need to pray always, and never let us lose heart.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to God, the almighty and righteous Judge of the Church and the world.
Preserve your Church from false teaching and keep her firm in the inheritance of faith. Fill your ministers with zeal to preach the Gospel at all times.
Guide those who administer justice, that they may be honest and merciful in all they do. Give wisdom to all legislators, that law may prevail for the common good.
We pray that the children of our own families and those of our friends and neighbours may be brought up in the knowledge of faith. Bless the teachers who serve the children of this community.
Have mercy on those who are caught in legislation and find no solution. Grant them swift and honest judgement and release from their anxiety.
We pray that those who have died may be judged with mercy through the merits of Christ. May the Church on earth and in heaven be united in endless prayer and praise.
We make our prayers through Christ, whose judgement is ever merciful.
Prayer for the week
Lord Jesus, you have shown us
how great is the price of freedom
by giving your life to deliver us from evil.
Teach us to give to the uttermost;
to respect that which others have secured for us;
and to pursue peace in obedience to your will,
until all the kingdoms of this world come to you
as Lord and Saviour of all.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Judge eternal, throned in splendour,
Lord of lords and King of kings,
with thy living fire of judgment
purge this realm of bitter things:
solace all its wide dominion
with the healing of thy wings.
Crown, O Lord, thine own endeavour;
cleave our darkness with thy sword;
cheer the faint and feed the hungry
with the richness of thy word;
cleanse the body of this nation
through the glory of the Lord.
Henry Scott Holland (1847–1918)