And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? – Luke 18:7
No matter what we think or say, we usually pray as if we are trying to convince God to do the right thing. He usually does and He does not need to be convinced.
Our prayers reveal more about ourselves than about God. They reveal how much we trust God. It is not uncommon to hear someone give up on their faith because God did not answer their prayers. Most of the time, these are not selfish prayers.
Our average week consists of speaking to children who are perfectly happy using drugs all the time. There is one boy in particular, Israel, whom the missionaries have never seen without a bottle of paint thinner. He has been using drugs for so long that he is having tremors. He is really a very sweet boy. We pray for him but nothing changes. He is getting worse daily. Unfortunately he is not the only one. Weekly there are more children joining their ranks. They use drugs to escape reality. We pray to help us deal with reality.
The parable of Jesus about the unrighteous judge and persistent widow is puzzling. It appears to say that our persistent prayers will eventually annoy God into action. However, we know that this is not true. We believe in a God who is constantly acting. He acts even before we pray. However, Jesus admonishes us to pray persistently. Persistent prayer does something.
The point of the parable is not that the judge gave up and did the will of the widow. It is about transformation. Prayer is not a means to manipulate God. Prayer is transformative even when the people involved are not willing to be transformed. When we pray things do not have to change but we have to change. God does not change but we change. We are transformed to understand things in His way even though we might not be willing to see things His way. Prayer opens our eyes and ears to see the Holy Spirit in action. The action of the Holy Spirit is a mystery and our sense of justice is insufficient to understand the mystery of the Holy Spirit. We need to pray to be transformed. We need to pray so that we can continue to trust in God whose mercy is never-ending.