In Luke 11:5-7, Jesus drops a little parable in after teaching the disciples “the Lord’s Prayer” – it is one of those, “which of you…” type stories. If your friend shows up in the middle of the night, you will go to your neighbour to get the food you need to show hospitality, right? Right. And your neighbour won’t be delighted at you waking up his household, but he will give you the bread you need because of your … persistence? No, that is not the word here. Impudence. Temerity. Shamelessness. Audacity.
Some thoughts from this parable in its context and its application to us:
1. Father God. This kind of audacious boldness would work with a friend next door. But a far more familiar situation may be in view here. After all, Jesus has just taught his disciples to call God, Father (v2). He will conclude the section by underlining the graciousness of God the Father (v13).
Jesus did not teach us to call God, Boss. When we talk to our boss we tend to negotiate, pointing out our good performance or avoiding the boss when we have failed to reach targets. Our focus is on what we might gain, rather than the security we feel in the forever compassion of a good good father.
Jesus did not teach us to call God, Genie. If we pray like God is a genie then we will focus on rubbing the lamp properly. What is the right approach? How can I say enough adoration, confession and thanksgiving to activate the mechanism and get what I want? Again, the focus is on my technique and not God’s goodness.
Jesus told us to call God, Father. Shamelessly. Audaciously.
2. Bother God! The friend in his house may say “do not bother me!” But a good father does not. My children will approach me at two a.m., shake me and tell me they have a need … “so and so is crying,” or “I feel sick,” or “I had a scary dream,” or whatever. No respectful introduction, no box of chocolates, just an unhesitating boldness. God is our Father, he wants us to bother him. How easily do we drift into prayerlessness? Or into a formulaic ritualistic prayer pattern that essentially denies the closeness of the relationship we have been given in Christ?
3. Giver God. Jesus draws a comparison at the end of the passage – if you who are evil know how to give good gifts… we know what is coming, right? How much more will your heavenly father give good gifts? No, that is Matthew. Here in Luke it says, “give the Holy Spirit.” This probably feels disappointing to many in our churches, but is it disappointing? Not at all! Chase the wonder of what it means to have the Holy Spirit because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. To have the Holy Spirit means to have profound, communicative, assured relationship with God. It means that we get to participate in the very life of the Trinity.
As a preacher I am not immune to the human tendency toward autonomy any more than you are. We drift that way all the time. Our tendency is to think that we can handle life, but autonomous life is a lie. We are most alive, most human, when we pray. When we are expressing our dependence on and need of God, then it is our prayer that makes us most human!