One of the most revealing “commentaries” on prayer and how we who follow Christ use prayer comes from Janis Joplin. Her song “Mercedes-Benz” cuts to the quick when we think about those people who think prayer, especially persistent prayer, is a way to twist God’s views and make Him come around to what we want Him to do. In the song the “Christian” needs a Mercedes-Benz, a color TV, and a night on the town because, compared to everyone else, what she has isn’t right. It isn’t just.
Some seem to have taken that song and added to it the idea of persisting in prayer to make faith little more than a means to great financial gain. Persistence in prayer is important, but the focus of that prayer is important too. Jesus told a parable about a widow who was persistent in seeking a judge who finally wore down and gave her what she wanted. Note what it was that she wanted. “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” (Luke 18:4-5)
The widow wants justice! The judge finally gives it to her because of her persistence. The point of this parable is not that we have to browbeat God into submission so that we will get justice. The point is that God wants justice for His people. If an unjust judge will eventually do the right thing and grant justice, imagine what a loving, just God will do when His people seek justice! Do we seek justice anymore? Oh, I know we want mercy instead of justice when it comes to our sins – I don’t think that’s what Jesus is talking about. I think Jesus is talking about a society that is just, a society that is fair to all people. It’s easy to sit back when things go well for us and decide that society is just. Often we don’t see the underlying injustice when those who are poor are forgotten, or abused. We sometimes long for the “good old days” when things seemed to go right…for us. We forget the prejudice and hatred that existed towards people who are different. America was not perfect then, nor is she perfect today.
It is in this lack of perfection, this atmosphere of sin, that we live. It is in this world that Jesus called on the Jews to pray for justice. It is in this world that Jesus calls on us to pray and work for justice. When we look for injustices to work against, look for the people on the margins. Those in power, those who are wealthy, probably don’t want justice for all – they are happy with the way things are. It is the poor and the outcast who need a more just society; it is the single mother and her children; it is the unskilled laborer trying to care for a family. All of these and more are crushed by society today and just as Jesus cared for the woman caught in adultery, the blind beggars, the Syro-Phoenician woman, and so many others on the fringes of society in ancient Israel, we also ought to be caring for and working for justice for all in our land today. Don’t know where to start? Begin with prayer. Seek justice from the God of all justice and follow God’s direction.
Lord, we need justice in our land. So many are hurting, so many are crushed by society today. Bring justice to those who are oppressed and on the fringes of society. Use me to speak up or to act for justice. Bring justice to Your people, and use Your people to bring justice to our world.