Jesus told a parable about the need to pray always and not lose heart. “There was a judge who respected neither God nor people. A widow kept coming to him, saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while the judge refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no respect for God or for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice.’” – Luke 18:1-5 (adapted)
Civic change for marginalized communities doesn’t happen overnight. It typically comes about because politicians have been worn down by the people’s persistent bothering.
President Biden’s recent student loan forgiveness plan for some borrowers wasn’t simply the result of his kindness and compassion. It was the result of a long, well-organized bothering campaign.
President Roosevelt didn’t enact Social Security purely out of the goodness of his heart. The Social Security Act was the fruit of grassroots activists bothering for legislation to protect seniors.
Bothering: persistence, constant, relentless, skillful attention to what’s happening in the moment—the political moment, the social moment, the interpersonal moment, the environmental moment, the inner moment—that, Jesus says, is the essence of prayer. That is what prepares the way for justice.
In other words, when we bother to give prayerful attention to what’s happening in the world and respond with just love, we reveal and release holy power. We are both prayer and the response.
Now is always the time for holy bothering.
God, if I don’t bother to pay attention to what’s happening in this moment, send someone to bother me.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.