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In Luke 11:5-8, Jesus continues to instruct His disciples about prayer through a short parable,
5 And He said to them, “Suppose one of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and from inside he shall answer and say, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”
What does this teach us? The most important lesson is persistence in prayer. It also says something about timing. This prayer was motivated by need, but the timing was awful. The women normally ground their grain in the early morning and made enough bread for the day. A midnight request for three loaves of bread was preposterous.
Only a close friend would dare make such a request! The lesson is not about people presuming upon God, but about people having such a close relationship with God that they are able to make presumptive requests when a genuine need arises. Yet Jesus says that even if friendship is not sufficient to motivate him to fulfill the request, yet he will do his bidding on account of his persistence.
Perhaps this parable also speaks into the timing of God’s answers to prayer. I have found that when the need arises, so also is the provision. My wife and I have seen thousands of examples of this over the years. In the parable above, the visitor arrived unexpectedly while the man was already asleep in his bed. The unexpected need called for an unexpected prayer request. It was not a selfish prayer request, but one to allow the man to be a proper host in entertaining his guest.
In that sense, the request was similar to the wedding feast at Cana in John 2:1-11. The host ran out of wine for the guests. Jesus’ mother heard of the problem and came to Jesus. Although it was not yet Jesus “time,” yet she persisted, because she knew that Jesus would do something to resolve the problem. So she told the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” He answered the prayer request by turning water to wine.
The backdrop for this miracle was the need to provide for the guests. Entertaining guests and travelers was very important in those days, and both Jesus and Mary understood this.
In our own personal experience, I recall an occasion in the late 1980’s where we came to the end of the month and had no money to pay the rent. In fact, we had about five dollars to our name. Then a family called, asking to visit us for the week end. Well, of course, we could not refuse.
But then we realized that we had very little food in the house. So we had to pound on God’s door. The situation was so dire, and our audacity toward God was so preposterous, I dare not tell you what we actually did, lest some of you try to duplicate it by the carnal mind. I will just say that God delivered us in a very miraculous manner. We feasted that weekend and paid the rent, too.
This is one of the stories that I did not include in The Wars of the Lord. But we did come to know God in a deeper way as Jehovah Jireh, “our provider.” We learned also that when God sends guests to us, and we have no money, we have the right to ask God for provisions necessary to be proper hosts.
Jesus then continues in Luke 11:9, 10, saying,
9 And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.
Is this an open-ended permission? Will God give us everything we ask? I do not think so. This is the conclusion of the previous parable, where the need was real, the friendship was strong, and the faith of the petitioner in his friend was absolute. In such situations, even if the request seems outrageous, one can expect to receive the answer. In fact, the expectation is so solid that a person will persist until the provision is received.