Pray Without Ceasing: parables

This Sunday is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary Cycle C. In yesterday’s two posts, we explored the content and setting of our upcoming gospel. Today will serve as a reminder that the importance of prayer is not appearing for the first time here in this gospel.

Jesus’ parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary (v.1) stands as a climax for the longer section on faithfulness at the coming of the Son of Man (17:20-18:8). Read against the horizon of 17:22-37, Jesus’ teaching is particularly oriented toward the necessity of steadfast, hopeful faith in the midst of trials.

This parable is unique to Luke, as is the following parable on prayer (18:9-14, the gospel for the 30th Sunday in Year C). Luke has a greater emphasis on prayer than the other gospels. In the following five synoptic events, Luke adds a comment that Jesus is praying that is not found in the other gospels:

  • Jesus is praying at his baptism before heavens open (3:21)
  • Jesus spends the night praying to God before selecting the twelve (6:12)
  • Jesus is praying before he asks the disciples, “Who do the crowds/you say that I am?” (9:18)
  • Jesus is praying on the mountain before the transfiguration. (9:28, 29)
  • Jesus is praying before the disciples ask him to teach them to pray. (11:1)

The following parables about prayer are unique to Luke are worth a pause to refresh the details in your mind:

  • The Friend at Midnight (11:5-8, following the Lord’s Prayer)
  • The Widow and the Judge (18:1-8)
  • The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14)

Brian Stoffregen also points out that besides the topic of prayer, our text and the following parable are also connected by a number of words with the Greek root –dik– = generally referring to “what is right”.

  • a-dik-ia — unjust (18:6)
  • a-dik-os — evildoers (18:11)
  • anti-dik-os — opponent (18:3)
  • dik-aios — righteous (18:9)
  • dik-aioo — justified (18:14)
  • ek-dik-eo — grant justice (18:3, 5)
  • ek-dik-esis — grant justice (18:7, 8)

Is this Luke’s way to convey that the content of prayer must always address justice or the lack of it? Clearly the parable of the judge and widow is a case of justice that has seemingly been denied.

Image Credit: Братья Белоусовы (Палех), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Modified to include both parts of a larger plata.

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