So I've been thinking about the parable of the widow and the unrighteous judge all week. I've been thinking about prayer, and the problem of the parable, because, you know, it does seem like the parable is encouraging us to be persistent (perhaps not just in prayer, though), even though after 2,000 years it is clear that that all of the prayers and yearnings of all of the saints have not been answered with all speediness.
So I can't stop thinking about it. Prayer, and persistence, and what we want, and what we pray for, and hope for, and work for, too. Because all of these things are tied up in this parable for me, in eight short verses.
What is it we really want? What is it we pray for? The widow wanted justice, passionately.
So I was thinking about these things on Friday night while we were bookstore shopping, and I came across this issue of Poetry Magazine. Near the beginning was a poem by a woman named Alice Fulton. Here are the first few lines:
For your birthday, I'm learning to pop champagne corks
with a cossack sword when all you asked for was world peace.
I'm actioning the deliverables to wish you many happy returns
of the ecstasies that are imminent when all you requested
was a contentment so quiet it's inaudible. Remember when
I gave you a robe of black silk that floats and does not rustle?
When all you desired was to turn from what was finished and hard
in the darkness.*
What is it we really want? What is it we pray for? We pray for our family to be safe, for roofs over our heads, for food, for world peace.
Persistence is not just about prayer. It is about lived prayer, our efforts, the mercy we show, the peace we work to create.
And yet, when we are honest, we know that the really important things are beyond us. At our best, we cobble together little pieces of mercy, shards of peace, remnants of the promise of abundance.
So prayer reveals us. Prayer reveals both the meanness and the depth of our hopes.
As it turns out, the things we really want, really need, are beyond us.
Don't give up.
*Alice Fulton, "You Own It" (October 2013 Poetry)