Here Jesus continues with follow-up teaching after the Lord’s prayer. It’s a story about an innocent and typical request, meant to teach us about prayer. First, it’s a request between friends—always a nice start to the subject of prayer: a relationship of friends who talk and ask freely of each other. The surprise element is that this person goes at midnight—talk about inconvenient! He asks for 3 loaves of bread. In their culture bread was like silverware: they break off bite-sized pieces, dip into a common dish of meat and vegetables, and eat it. The man with empty cupboards was likely asking his friend for a main course as well as loaves of bread, and even that was typical. Somebody—a friend—showed up at his house, and he needs to feed him—a quandary we all understand.
Next surprise: the friend says GO AWAY! Now, a Middle-Eastern audience would have laughed out loud at this lame excuse. No one could ever imagine such a neighbor, acting so rudely. Nobody would do that, but that’s the story. Now here’s the deal: the guy, according to the story, feels too ashamed not to give his neighbor bread, since he inconveniently came at midnight and wouldn’t have been so bold unless he was desperate.
The story applies to the Lord’s Prayer. God hears our prayers because the very honor of his name is at stake. A couple of vectors at work here:
– We should pray like a salesman with his foot wedged in the door. Show some boldness.
– The man is not like God. He only gives in because he feels ashamed, and the neighbor’s making noise. But God doesn’t have to be wrestled into upholding his own honor.
So, Jesus gives us some lifestyle conclusions:
– God made us to seek Him. As Emily Dickinson wrote,
…The high do seek the lowly, the great do seek the small,
None cannot find who seeketh, on this terrestrial ball;
The bee doth court the glower, the flower his suit receives,
And they make merry wedding, whose guests are hundred leaves;
The wind doth woo the branches, the branches they are won,
And the father fond demandeth the maiden for his son.
The storm does walk the seashore humming a mournful tune,
The wave with eye so pensive, looketh to see the moon.
Their spirits meet together, they make them solemn vows,
No more he singeth mournful, her sadness she doth lose.
The worm doth woo the mortal, death claims a living bride,
Night unto day is married, more unto eventide.
Earth is a merry damsel, and heaven a knight so true,
And Earth is quite coquettish, and beseemeth in vain to sue…
We have built-in longings of sundry types: love, understanding, partnerships, fulfillment, success, recognition, and God, among others. So reach out. Be a seeker.
– We all have inadequacies. Be an asker. None of us is complete in ourselves.
– Opportunities surround us. Knock on doors.
Of course, all of this applies to our friendship with God, too. He is accessible, honorable, and reachable. Prayer is mostly getting your head and heart in the right places, honoring the right things, seeking the right things, having the right relationship.
You see, people aren’t rubbish. People are men and women made in the image of God. Sure, we’re messed up, and just because we are born in sin doesn’t mean we’re not capable of any good. But we know how to be good. His last statement is very instructive, though. What is the gift God gives? Answers to our prayers as if he was a big Santa? Nope. What he gives is the Holy Spirit. What matters is the RELATIONSHIP, not the stuff. What He’ll give you is Himself, and that’s what matters in the grand scheme of things. SEEK, ASK, AND KNOCK, but the point is that ultimately what you are asking about and seeking is HIM, not YOU.
You might ask, “Then what is prayer all about?” Here it says it’s about the friendship between you and God that makes it so that God is in you. Verses 9-12 are interpreted in lots of different ways, but Jesus tells us in 13 what they’re about: having the Holy Spirit in you.