Importunate Prayer

Importunate Prayer

Pray without ceasing. How to pray.

(The Gospel History, Section 116)

And he spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, and regarded not man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came oft unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest she wear me out by her continual coming. And the Lord said, Hear what the unrighteous judge saith. And shall not God avenge his elect, which cry to him day and night, and he is longsuffering over them? I say unto you, that he will avenge them speedily. Howbeit when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Importunate Prayer

(The Saviour of the World, Vol VII Book I Poem XII)

The doctor comes—he takes the hand
Of the sick father; by him stand
Mother and children: piteous, she
Cries to the man whose word shall be
Sentence of death, or hope of life:
Oppressed with sorrow for the wife,
The children—soon shall orphans be—
The friendly doctor scarce can see
For tears of sympathy that rise
The while he their last hope denies.

So Jesus saw, oppressed with grief
The woe for which was no relief
Settle, a heavy cloud on friends
He would have saved; how make amends?
“Nay, children there is ever prayer!
Still are ye in your Father’s care
How dark, how awful be the fate,
Of them, continue reprobate!
’Tis not enough yourselves to save
Ye would the lives of these men have,
The people amongst whom ye dwell?
This fond concern of yours is well:
Remember Abraham, how he prayed
For wicked Sodom; he essayed
Four times to move God’s pitying ear;
Each time, God heard; O’ercome with fear
Lest he should weary God, he stayed—
Alas for them for whom he prayed!”

Then told the Lord the tale we know
Of that persistent widow, who
Came often to the judge and cried,
With clamour not to be denied,
‘Avenge me, lord, on him hath wrought
Such wrong upon me, that, distraught,
I have no thought but how to urge,
That thou wilt act the land to purge
Of one doth cheat the widow’s bread
And leave her babes uncomforted!’

The widow moved the judge to mirth,
In scorn he cried, ‘Now, what on earth
This woman thinks she to obtain?’
Driven off, the woman came again,
And yet again and many times
Would she rehearse th’ oppressor’s crimes
In the unwilling judge’s ear:
He bade her thence; she had no fear;
The harder he, th’ more she cried:
Said he, ‘I can no more abide
This woman’s importunity:
She and her wrongs are naught to me;
I fear not God nor care for men
But needs must quiet hours regain:
Go, grant th’ wretch the boon she asks
That I be free for other tasks
More to my mind; outworn am I
By her persistent, dreary cry!’

Then spake the Lord a word of grace:
The disciples heard with clouded face
Nor e’er perceived that—for their grief
The Lord had offered sure relief.
Their souls were sad for Israel’s fate,
How might they all those woes abate
Christ had foretold? He bade them pray;
The crying of His own elect
The Lord would hear: lest they expect
Too little of the Father’s love,
Too diffident His ear to move,
He bade them ponder how the cries,
Th’ persistent, unremitted sighs
Of the poor widow—for his ease
Inclined to grant what she should please,
That callous and indifferent lord
In whose hands lay power to award
The boon she craved.

If prayer hath power,

Unfed every day and hour by hour
A heart tyrannical to melt
What then of prayer to Him who felt
The wrongs His children suffered ere
They thought to come to Him in prayer?

Poor souls there are who day and night
Cry on their God, that He requite
The wrongs they suffer, hunger, cold
Distresses that have been of old
The poor man’s part; but God perceives
Th’ accumulated wrongs; and grieves
Him for His poor; for He
Who knows the utmost truth, can see
Each motion of the arrogant heart,
Each shameful act tears men apart
Your God beholds; in His due time
He visits men for ruthless crime.

Ye cry for vengeance or for peace;
Your God sends chastisement, release;
A man schools, God imparts
His tender dealings break men’s hearts—
Sure, every soul must turn to God
Frank as the daisy in the sod!
Alas, men are perverse and cold,
And benefits but one day old
Are out of mind: the man’s concerned
With that he sees, his face being turned
Back from the shining of God’s grace,
Say! When He comes, shall He find place,
The Son of man? Faith shall He find?
Will men leave all that they may bind
His cross upon their shoulder?

St. Luke xviii. 1-8