Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine has stopped here while on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’ Then he will reply from inside, ‘Do not bother me. The door is already shut, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though the man inside will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of the first man’s sheer persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
(Luke 11:5-8 )
There’s a nuance to this parable that I never noticed before that God opened my eyes to this time around. Jesus is teaching his Disciples how to pray, so the parable is a teaching on prayer. When we read it up front, basically there are two camps, people that say the ‘sheer persistence’ is how we should pray, being persistent in asking God for things. I think that’s good, but obviously we have to be careful, persistence doesn’t mean that God has to give us what we’ve asked for.
The second camp is that the ‘sheer persistence’ (anadeia in Greek) should be translated ‘shamelessness’, and applied to the man inside the house. The lesson then is that there are certain requests that are so in line with God’s heart on a matter, that he is bound by his own character to grant them. It’s not a call to ‘strong-arm’ God in prayer, but to pray more in accord with his will.
Ultimately I think both of those are applicable truths about God, and maybe that’s why a vague term was used, because it teaches two levels of truth about prayer in the same parable. I could be wrong on that, but it’s a thought.
Here’s where I think the key to the parable lies, that I missed every time:
The man asking for bread, isn’t asking it for himself.
He’s asking it for a friend
I’ve begun to be convicted about how many of my prayers are about what I need.
One of my favorite exercises when I was leading a group of skateboarders in discipleship here in Portland, was to go around the circle and take prayer requests, and each pray for one another’s requests, rather than everyone praying on their own for their own needs.
There is a value to prayer in community, that is outwardly focused, rather than inward.
It frees me.
It frees me from thinking that it’s all about me and God, and that I have a relationship with him in a vacuum.
We are agents of redemption on mission to the people around us in the power of the Spirit, so this week I’m committing to pray only for others, and when I need something, to ask them to lift me up in prayer.