God is only too glad to respond to our supplications
Impudent, brazen, pushy: a few key words to describe the protagonists in the parables of Jesus on the subject of “prayer”. And these adjectives are not necessarily inconsistent with humbleness and the fear of God! A friend, a father, and a judge bear witness.
As anyone can tell you, it’s no fun spending time at the supermarket with two small children in tow. Finally the cart is full. Soon it will all be over. But not before the dreaded checkout—a cash trap. As the items slowly pass through the scanner at the checkout, the tots are wedged between shelves full of sweets. And the whining begins.
If we were at the bookstore, I would immediately say yes! Mind you, the children never beg like this when we are there. But they sure do here: sweets, tooth decay, diabetes—that’s bad news. Well, dear old dad won't allow himself to be beaten this time, definitely not…
A crash course in three lessons
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” These are promises of Jesus. And just in case any whining children should invoke this statement, it helps to note that the verbs here are in the passive voice, since that is the Hebrew way of speaking reverently about the actions of God. The One giving and opening here is none other than our heavenly Father.
The famous verse is part of a three-part course in Luke 11: 1–13 that revolves around the subject of prayer. Lesson 1 gives us the model prayer itself, namely the Lord’s Prayer. Lesson 2 encourages us to pray with reference to the Parable of the Friend at Night. And Lesson 3 gives us confidence to act—with reference to Jesus’ threefold promise of success in accordance with the formula: “Everyone who [action], [response to action].”
Impudent and toilsome
The central statement in the parable of encouragement is of note: even if the one friend did not help the other out of friendship, he would nevertheless do so “because of his persistence”, as we read in the New King James translation. The original Greek text uses the expression an–aídeia, which denotes something to the effect of “impudence”, “boldness”, or “intrusiveness”.
So does this mean we should really be pestering God in this way?
We find another clue in the form of a nuisance who surpasses even the pleading friend at midnight—namely the widow in the Parable of the Unjust Judge. The widow, who is actually quite defenceless, appears so frequently and insistently before him that the judge, who is actually an unjust man, finally gives her justice “because the widow troubles me”.
Always, persistently, and without ceasing
The moral of the story? It is written right in the first verse of the chapter, namely “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart”. And already they begin to tumble through the mind: Bible verses that echo the exact same message—for example 1 Thessalonians 5: 17: “Pray without ceasing.” Or Romans 12: 12: “[Continue] steadfastly in prayer.”
First we learned to be bold and brazen, then we learned to be persistent, but can our heavenly Father’s heart really be softened that way when we find ourselves in the cash traps of life?
The search for an answer to this question leads us to lesson three of our course in prayer. Here too we find a parable, this one about a father who would certainly never give his trustingly imploring son anything evil or bad.
Persistence in pleading
If human beings already want to give only good things to their children, how much more does our heavenly Father want to give us! These are “good gifts”—as Matthew’s version of the parable states, or “the Holy Spirit”—as it is specified in Luke. The good gifts of God are primarily of a spiritual nature.
Yes indeed, we can approach the dear God again and again, and pester Him persistently and without shame—all the more when it has to do with our soul life: for example, when we ask for inner peace, the ability to let go, or to have a loving heart for our fellow human beings.
And the best thing about it is that we are not alone in our supplications. We have an Advocate who intercedes for us directly with the Father: none other than His Son, Jesus Christ, who teaches us to pray without reservation.
Photo: Anja Greiner Adam - stock.adobe.com