Audacious Asking

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The friend at midnight. A simple parable where Jesus teaches us to pray. We’ve skimmed this story dozens of times and could recount it freely. The characters are few: a weary traveler, a needy host, and a sleepy friend. Likewise, the themes are straightforward: hunger, lack, and abundance. 

But let’s dig deeper.

Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him; and from inside he answers and says, ‘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, “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.” Luke 11:5-8

Look again at the characters:

  • The host — that’s us. We are the ones with hosting responsibilities at midnight. We’ve used up our daily bread, and when things are darkest for our friends, we find ourselves in a bind. In the ancient Jewish culture, hospitality (or lack thereof) reflects on both the host and the whole village. The host must feed the guest, or both the host and his hamlet face shame. As citizens of this kingdom, we hear the needs but realize our pantry is bare.
  • The traveler — that’s the one for whom we intercede. He’s weary, hungry, and maybe desperate. These stagger into our lives with their burdens when we least expect them. Despite the dimness of our light, they hope to find comfort and sustenance. They don’t realize how inadequate we are for their need. We’ve spent all available provision upon our own needs. 
  • The friend — that’s God. He is challenging to recognize because of his seeming reluctance. This friend has plenty, but he won’t stir, despite the village depending upon him. Have we not blamed our Divine Friend of procrastination when our answer tarries?

Notice that not one but two are roused from their bed: the plenteous friend as well as the host. If I, the host (who tends to laziness), can be awakened, surely God will be even quicker to respond. The bread isn’t for me, after all, but for a friend. 

Our Father is the One Who searches for intercessors (Ezekiel 22:30). “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Why would the Father beg us to ask yet not be willing to answer?

Jesus often uses compare and contrast in His parables. He contrasted Himself to an impatient vineyard owner (Luke 13:6-9), an unrighteous judge (Luke 18:1-6), and a delaying bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). In this parable of the annoyed friend, we also find stark differences between Himself and this grouchy neighbor.

  • Although God may appear to be sleeping when we knock, He promises that He never slumbers in His care for us. Psalm 121 is a beautifully touching song to remind us of His watch-care. As Jennifer Dukes Lee says, “God doesn’t sleep, so you can. He is working, so you don’t need to. He is on duty, so you can be at rest.”
  • The neighbor isn’t merely the dad of the children in bed with Him. This is our Father on the other side of the door. Granted, He is inside with children, but I am His child as well. “There is no partiality with God,” so we know that He won’t favor the child in bed over us who stand outside (Romans 2:11). We can be bold when we approach His door (Hebrews 10:19).
  • We still see in a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). Just because we do not know what is going on behind the door doesn’t mean that all is quiet. Preparation for our request, in some form or another, is occurring even while we pray. 
  • Remember the angel’s encouragement to Daniel? “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this….I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the Kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days” (Daniel 10:12-13). Keep knocking! 
  • Jesus’ emphasis isn’t mere persistence. The best translation for this Greek word of importunity or boldness is “shamelessness.” Indeed, we can be audacious in requests, even if it IS in the middle of the night. We can ask anything of our beloved parent!
  • Our Father’s door is never closed to us. Since Christ’s resurrection, heaven’s door is open (Stephen – Acts 7:56, Peter – Acts 10:11, and John – Revelation 4:1). When we knock, He already has the bolt ajar and angels ready to deliver. 

If we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to this traveler, how much more shall our heavenly Father give to us when we ask Him? Let us ask audaciously and frequently, knowing that He has everything needed.