18:1-8. And He spoke a parable to them, to the intent that men ought always to pray, and must not grow weary; saying, There was in a certain city a judge, who feared not God, neither felt shame at man. And there was a widow in that city, and she came to him and said, Avenge me of my adversary. And he would not for a time: but afterwards he said within himself Though I fear not God, and have no reverence for man, yet because this widow wearies me, I will avenge her, lest finally she annoy me by her coming. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge says. And shall not God avenge His elect, who cry unto Him day and night, and He is longsuffering towards them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, shall He find faith upon the earth?
THE fountain of every blessing is Christ; “Who of God was also made unto us wisdom:” for in Him we are made wise, and filled with spiritual gifts. Now any one who is right-minded will affirm that the knowledge of those things by means of which we may prosper in every method of saintly excellence of life, and advance in virtue, is God’s gift, and one well worthy of our winning. And we find one who asked it of God, saying, “Show me Your ways, O Lord: and teach me Your paths.” Now the paths which lead those onward to an uncorrupt life, who eagerly advance therein, are indeed numerous; but one, which especially benefits those who practise it, is prayer: and the Saviour was Himself careful to teach us by the parable now set before us, that we must make diligent use of it. “For He spoke, it says, a parable unto them, to the intent that men ought always to pray, and must not grow weary.”
For it is, I affirm, the duty of those who set apart their lives for His service, not to be sluggish in their prayers, nor again to consider it as a hard and laborious duty: but rather to rejoice, because of the freedom of access granted them by God; for He would have us converse with Him as sons with a |552 father. Is not this then a privilege worthy of being valued by us most highly? For suppose that some one of those possessed of great earthly power were easy of access to us, and were to permit us to converse with him with full license, should we not consider it as a reason for extraordinary rejoicing? What possible doubt can there be of this? When therefore God permits us each one to offer our addresses unto Him for whatever we wish, and has set before those who fear Him an honour so truly great and worthy of their gaining, let all slothfulness cease that would lead men to an injurious silence therein; and rather let us draw near with praises, and rejoicing that we have been commanded to converse with the Lord and God of all, having Christ as our Mediator, who with God the Father grants us the accomplishment of our supplications. For the blessed Paul somewhere writes, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.” And He somewhere Himself said to the holy apostles, “Hitherto you have asked nothing in My Name: ask, and it shall be given unto you.” For He is our Mediator, our Propitiation, our Comforter, and the Bestower of every request, it is our duty therefore to “pray without ceasing,” according to the words of the blessed Paul, as well knowing, and being thoroughly assured, that He Whom we supplicate is able to accomplish all things. “For let a man, it says, ask in faith, in nothing divided: for he who is divided is like a wave of the sea, troubled and blown about by the wind. For let not, it says, that man think that he will receive anything of the Lord.” For he that is divided is really guilty of mockery: for if you do not believe that He will incline unto you, and gladden you, and fulfil your request, do not draw near to Him at all, lest you be found an accuser of the Almighty, in that you foolishly art divided. We must avoid therefore so base a malady.
But that God will incline His ear to those who offer Him their prayers, not carelessly nor negligently, but with earnestness and constancy, the present parable assures us. For if the constant coining of the oppressed widow prevailed upon the unjust judge, who feared not God, neither had any shame at men, so that even against his will he granted her redress, how shall not He Who loves mercy, and hates iniquity, and Who |553 ever gives His helping hand to them that love Him, accept those who draw near to Him day and night, and avenge them as being His elect?
But come now, and let us examine who it is that offend against them: for the examination of this question will beget much that is of profit to all who are well taught. For very many, and those of various classes, offend against the saints. For the holy ministers and teachers, who rightly divide the word of truth, are assailed by all who are the truth’s enemies; men ignorant of the sacred doctrines, and estranged from all uprightness, who walk in the crooked path, remote from the straight and royal road. Such are the impure and polluted gangs of heretics, whom one may justly call the gates of destruction, the snares of hell, the pitfalls of the devil, the slough of destruction. These bring persecutions and distresses upon such as walk uprightly in the faith; and just as men drunk with wine, and unable to stand, take hold often of those near them, that they may not fall to the earth alone, so also those, as being lame and halt, often bring to ruin with them those who are not steadfast. Against such men must all who are known of God make supplications, imitating the holy apostles, who, calling out against the wickedness of the Jews, said, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, and grant unto Your servants that with freedom of speech they may declare Your word.”
But perchance some one will say, ‘But lo! Christ somewhere said to the holy apostles, “Love your enemies: pray for them who use you despitefully:” how then can we cry out against them, without despising the divine command?’ To this we answer, Shall we then pray that boldness and power may be given them by God, that they may more strenuously attack those who praise His doings, not permitting them to teach, and resisting the glory of Him to Whom we address the supplication? But how would not this be thorough folly? Whenever therefore offences are committed by any against us personally, let us immediately even count it our glory to be forgiving towards them, and full of mutual love; and imitating the holy fathers, even though they smite and scorn us, yes, even though they inflict violence upon us of every kind, let us free them from all blame, and be superior both to wrath |554 and vexation. Such glorying becomes the saints, and is pleasing to God.
But when any sin against the glory of God, heaping up wars and distresses against those who are the ministers of the divine message, then indeed let us at once draw near unto God, beseeching His aid, and crying out against those who resist His glory: just as also the mighty Moses did; for he said, “Arise, O Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered, and let all those who hate Your Name flee away.” And the prayer also uttered by the holy apostles shows, that it is not without advantage for the success of the divine message for the hand, so to speak, of the persecutors to be weakened. “For behold, they say, their threatenings,” that is, prove their opposition to be in vain, and grant unto “Your servants, that with freedom of speech they may speak Your word.”
But that men would make merchandize of the word of uprightness, and prevail on many to abandon a sound faith, involving them in the inventions of devilish error, and “belching forth, as Scripture says, things out of their own hearts, and not out of the mouth of the Lord,” He foretold, saying, “When the Son of man comes, shall He find faith upon the earth?” It escaped not His knowledge: how could it, seeing that He is God Who knows all things? He tells us then, to use his own words, that “the love of many will grow cold,” and that “in the latter times some shall depart from a correct and blameless faith, going after seducing spirits, and giving heed to the false words of men who are seared in mind.” Against whom we draw near unto God as faithful servants, praying Him that their wickedness, and their attempts against His glory, may be brought to no effect.
And others also there are who wrong the servants of God, and whom we may without sin attack in prayer. And who again are these? They are the evil and opposing powers, and Satan the adversary of us all, who fiercely resists those who would live well; who casts into the pitfalls of wickedness whoever slumbers; who plants in us the seeds of every sin. For with his satellites he presses upon us furiously. And on this account the Psalmist called out against them, saying, “How long set you yourselves against man? and you slay all of you, as it were a leaning wall, and a bowing fence.” For just as a |555 wall that already leans on one side, and a fence that bows over as having been loosened, readily fall when any one pushes against them, so also the mind of man, by reason of its own great inclination of itself to the love of worldly pleasures, readily falls into them whenever any one draws and entices it thereto. And this is Satan’s business: and therefore we say in our prayers to Him Who is able to save, and to drive away from us that wicked being, “Avenge me of my adversary.” And this the Only-begotten Word of God has indeed done by having become Man: for He has ejected from his tyranny over us the ruler of this world, and has delivered and saved us, and put us under the yoke of His kingdom.
Excellent therefore is it to make request by constant prayer; for Christ will receive our supplications, and fulfil our petitions: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |556 (source)