House group this week was interesting. We’re doing a study called The Prayers of Jesus, which is a DVD/study book combo looking at, well, the prayers of Jesus.

It’s a series, and we’ve previously done The Parables of Jesus and The Miracles of Jesus. Once you get past the slightly odd bollywood-esque music and Americanisms, the material is top notch – inspiring, interesting, and challenging.

This week was session 2, although the DVD player didn’t work, so we didn’t actually hear what the scholarly types had to say about the passage, which meant an amount of guess work was required in answering the questions in the book. In the end we gave up and had a general discussion about the passage, which was very interesting.

The passage was Luke 18:1-8 (The Persistent Widow), which is a pretty familiar passage and one I felt I knew fairly well. The widow in question kept on and on at the judge until she got what she wanted, and in the same way we must keep on praying.

It’s in the same category (in my mind) as other the great teaching on prayer in Luke 11 – with the chap who gets up in the middle of night because his neighbour keeps pestering him, and then there’s the great no holds barred assertion in vv 9 and 10:

9 So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

As they say on Alpha – that’s 6 times Jesus says it!

However, when I actually read the passage of the widow again, a rather different element leapt out at me… Here it is, with my emphasis:

1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

4 For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’

6 And the Lord said, Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 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? 8 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?

The widow was actually asking for justice – that is for the right and fair outcome. As I was reflecting on my own prayers, praying for justice doesn’t feature very prominently. Grace and mercy, absolutely – all the time, but justice? And what does it mean for God to give us justice?