Many years ago I had an experience of being prayed with, by the laying on of hands, for healing for my back. I wasn't particularly hopeful that it was going to work - after all, it was not as if I had cancer and actually needed God to rescue me. But I was willing to go along with their desire to pray for me.
A few minutes of quiet prayer passed, and the group stepped back having, they thought, finished with me.
But one woman, sitting close beside me and holding my arm, was anything but finished. Her prayer intently continued, as she lightly touched my lower back and showed no sign of releasing me.
Not wanting to be rude, I quietly sat, waiting. A minute is a long time when it feels like everyone is waiting for you, and it was indeed a long couple of minutes before I felt a slight shift and click in my back, and the woman let go of me and sat back.
Still somewhat skeptical, it was not until the next day that I was certain I had indeed been healed. There was no ache, no movement limitations, no lack of strength. I spent the last part of that day helping pour concrete into forms, my back as strong as it had ever been.
I think that woman who prayed for me was like Moses in the First Reading this Sunday. Amalek had come to fight, and Moses held his arms up in prayer as the Israelites did battle. So long as his arms were up, Israel prevailed. When he tired and stopped his prayer, the battle turned.
It was not enough for Moses to ask once for God to defeat the enemy. There was, somehow, an essential role that Moses played in God's action in response to his prayer. We sometimes say that God uses us to answer the prayers of his people because we are God's hands and feet here in the world.
That is true, but it is not the whole story. We also say that sometimes God doesn't answer prayers right away - we need to keep asking because we are changed by our prayer. That too is true, but it is still not the whole story.
There is another dimension to our prayer, an aspect that is mystery. There is a way in which God engages those who pray in a movement of power that heals and transforms others. There is a way that our openness, our availability in prayer, is the means by which God accomplishes the answer to those prayers.
Sometimes that requires us to persevere, to be like Moses, continuing to pray until the battle is over.
Luke tells us that Jesus used the parable of the unjust judge to teach them about the need to pray always and not lose heart.
We pray, like the widow did, because we believe that God has the power to answer our prayers.
We pray, too, because we believe that God cares enough about us that he will hear the cry of our heart.
But the story of Moses also teaches us that we pray because God, in his extravagant love, gifts us with a role in the answering of those prayers.
For that we may need to persevere in faithful prayer.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)