When our Prayers Fly like Pebbles From a Widow’s Hand

There is a widow hiding outside the judge’s bedroom in the dead of night. I’ve seen her. Don’t worry, she isn’t up to anything salacious. She just wants him to hear her case. As if 2 a.m. is an opportune time. As if this particular judge would listen at any hour. She’s exhausted, leaning up against a tree in the shadows with a fist full of pebbles, but she’s not going away.

It’s dangerous. It’s stupid. Someone else might see her and haul her away. Yet there she is, sizing up the wide window across the lawn just above where the old man sleeps. She feels a stab of guilt for even knowing that fact. It took some snooping. What must the neighbors think?

She takes a breath, wipes the hair out of her eyes, cocks her arm back and lets the stone fly.


She holds her breath. Did a light just come on? For a moment, she panics and hurls herself back into the shadows. What if the man sees her? Wait–that’s the point of this entire plan, isn’t it?

The widow makes her face hard. No desperation. Just focus. He can’t outlast her. That is the message. This issue is not going away, so he might as well give in.

She steps out of the shadow. Slowly. The curtain inside rustles, then yanks to the side. And there he is. Eyes sunken. Hair in knots. He’s wearing a bathrobe and waving a white flag. He tells her he will listen. For the sake of his own sanity, he will give her a hearing.

And the great Storyteller says,

“Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” (Lk 18:6-8 MSG)

I always thought this story was about the judge. About how he’s different than God. He’s arrogant and unfeeling. And if even he will give in, than how much easier will God give us breakthrough?

I was wrong. This story isn’t about the judge. It’s about me.

I’ve been praying for breakthrough for a long time. I want to have a conversation with my autistic son. A real, honest-to-God “how was your day, buddy? // not bad, except i skinned my knee” exchange. I want to cut through all the scripting gibberish and hear where he is aching. Is it his legs? His head? His heart? I want him push pause on all his glassy-eyed flapping so he can finally answer when I ask, “what are you thinking about, pal?”

I’ve been praying for years. Even though we’ve seen some growth, we are still miles and miles from any kind of language that ushers in relationship. And relationship is everything.

The widow’s tale, then, is my story. And if you still pray unanswered prayers, it’s your story, too.

The challenge for us is simple: many years from now, at the end of everything, will people like us still retain the courage to throw our pebbles? Because faith is sometimes measured in the asking. Pestering judges is not a trait of weakness but a badge of high belief.

Wear that badge, friend. You hurt, but you have not lost heart. How do I know? Because you’re still asking.

It’s been six years, and I’m still here, too, waiting behind my tree. Some nights I just lean up against the trunk and go to sleep. But not tonight. Tonight I remember my son and take aim at the Judge’s window. He’s a good Judge, this One. He hasn’t answered me yet, but He’s a good Judge. And maybe tonight is my night…

1 reply
  1. Lisa Smith
    Lisa Smith says:

    I so often think of the persistent widow when i pray about autism! When my son was very young and newly diagnosed I could worry myself sick about his future, forgetting about God’s promises to hear my prayers. I love your illustration of the widow. You described me. Thanks for the reminder that God is still listening and still there for us.


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