It is frequently true that persistence is necessary to achieve results. When we begin to learn something new, it is often discouragingly difficult. If we cease trying, we never learn; but if we continue our efforts, we eventually become adept. Persistence is also necessary with respect to prayer and other aspects of our relationship with God.
This Sunday’s reading from the book of Exodus illustrates this point. Amalek waged war against Israel. Moses sent Joshua to lead an army against Amalek. While he did so, Moses stood on top of a hill and raised his hands in prayer. As long as Moses continued to pray, Israel was successful in the fight. But when Moses stopped praying and rested his hands, Amalek was successful. Moses sat on a rock, and Aaron and Hur supported his hands so that Moses could pray without ceasing. “And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”
In the reading from the gospel according to Luke, Jesus tells a story making the same point. There was a dishonest judge who “neither feared God nor respected any human being.” A widow used to come and ask for justice against her adversary. For a long time the judge ignored her. Eventually he did what she asked because she kept bothering him. (Jesus tells a similar story in Luke 11:5-8.) Jesus concludes that if a dishonest judge responds to persistent prayer, we can be very sure that God will also do so. As long as we continue to pray for justice, we can be confident that God will give us what we ask.
Jesus ends by asking, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” This shows that persistence in prayer is based on faith. Our faith in God moves us to pray. As long as we believe that God can and will give us justice, we will continue to ask for it. The danger is that we will cease to believe and to ask for justice, not that God will fail to give us justice.
The reading from the second letter of St. Paul to Timothy also urges persistence in faith. Paul tells Timothy, “Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed.” Paul mentions two foundations for this faithfulness. First, Timothy learned what he knows from Paul himself. Paul implies that if Timothy reflects on Paul’s life, Paul’s example will inspire Timothy to be faithful to what he learned through Paul. Second, Timothy is familiar with the sacred Scriptures that can supply wisdom for salvation. Scripture is inspired by God and equips the one who belongs to God for every good work. “Scripture” here means the Old Testament; however, what Paul says about the Old Testament is also true of the New Testament.
Paul urges Timothy not only to remain faithful, but also to be persistent in proclaiming the word. Paul says that Timothy should do this “whether it is convenient or inconvenient” and that he should “convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”