This week’s passage has Jesus teaching his disciples about the necessity to pray always without becoming weary. This reminds me of our monastic tradition of asking the abbot for permissions.
“Father Abbot, may I receive permission to visit my parents?” “Abbot, can I be excused from this community meeting?” This simple tradition has at least one practical and one spiritual benefit. Practically, it allows the superior to know where a brother is in case of an emergency. Spiritually, it affirms the fatherhood of the abbot and humble obedience of the monk. The monk makes a legitimate request and in love, the abbot gives him a “yes.” This is the ideal. It doesn’t always happen.
What happens when a request is not given? Responses vary. Most humbly request a meeting to explain and eventually accept the decision. Some accept, but give the silent treatment for a few days or a few years. I’ve heard one incident in which the brother, in a fit of rage, threw an object at the superior.
The last response reminds me of a scene I witnessed years ago at a shopping center. A young boy received a few quarters from his father and proceeded to a vending machine to buy a bag of Cheetos. After entering in the appropriate number, the spiral turned to release the bag, but it got stuck. The young lad nudged the machine multiple times, but the bag would not budge. Angry, he slapped the glass window, screamed, and kicked the machine. It released. Too worked up by this point, he grabbed the Cheetos, threw it in the trash and stormed away.
This is clearly the opposite of what prayer ought to be. However, if we expect our prayers to be answered immediately, it could tempt us to treat God as a vending machine. God’s delay in response fights against this temptation and invites us to develop a deeper relationship with him.
God is a loving Father who only wants what is good for us. Jesus amplifies this truth with the parable of the persistent widow. If a helpless widow can obtain her request from an unjust and godless judge because of her persistence, how much more would a loving God give to those who ask of him? Jesus answers his own question to emphasize the point, “I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.” In the person of Jesus, God has shown that His love for us is tenacious and complete and the invitation to this relationship is open. Perseverance in prayer is our yes to this invite.
*Abbot of St. Martin Abbey
By Fr Marion Nguyen osb *