“Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?”
“I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.” (Luke 11:5-8)
Jesus’s disciples asked him to teach them to pray, and he gave them this little story. The key to getting your prayer answered is persistence. No, more than that, it is impudence, an offensive boldness. Not that God is in bed and too lazy to get up, but that we must not give up in shame or weariness. We must believe that he is willing and able to answer.
Why do I so rarely pray that way? I think I see the reason in the words “I have nothing to set before him.” My friend is hungry and I have nothing to give him to eat. I don’t pray with impudence because I don’t pay much attention to the need of my friends, or when I do, I think I already have what they need. Both problems are born in the deep fear of facing my own helpless dependence on God.
I want to believe that everyone around me is fine. When I see that they are not, I can probably also see how they brought their troubles on themselves. No use bailing them out, they will just do it again. I could give them wise advice if they asked. After all, I haven’t had to deal with that in my life, and I’m sure it’s because I always do this, or never do that.
Thank God, he will not leave me here. I can hear him say “Don’t be afraid to soften your heart and let it be pierced with another man’s pain. Don’t judge him or analyze the cause of his problem; just let yourself feel for him. Let me fill you with my compassion for him. You don’t have the living bread that he is starving for, but I do. Stand in the gap boldly and don’t give up and you will see him satisfied.”
Did Jesus teach his disciples how to pray, or did he teach them to pray?