Copyright 2006 Rob Marshall
In Luke 11:5-8 we read a parable that Jesus taught the disciples. Luke 11 is the story about Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray. And while this parable isn’t technically a “prayer that God answered,” by asking some questions about this parable, we learn some valuable lessons that will help our prayers get answered.
Who is the “friend”?
Jesus starts the parable by asking, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’?” (Luke 11:5-7)
Since Jesus is teaching about prayer, and we are the ones going to the friend, the friend must represent God. In Philippians 4:6 the apostle Paul tells us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
What does it mean that the man went at midnight?
It’s interesting that Jesus specifically states that the man went to his friend at midnight. It represents the darkest hour of the night. It’s the time when we feel the most hopeless and desperate to get the help we need. And it’s the time when there is nowhere else to turn but to God.
We have probably all experienced times when we felt that we were at the end of our ropes, when our faith was failing, but we went to God anyway. And we simply prayed, “Lord, no one can help me but You. Please hear me!” That’s what it feels like at midnight.
Why does he ask for three loaves?
Have you ever had guests come to your house? If they were coming for a meal, how much food did you want to have in the house? Was it: not enough, just barely enough, or more than enough?
Most people would want to be sure that they had more food than was needed. The reason is that they would want their guests to feel that they could eat as much as they wanted and not feel guilty about it. If there wasn’t enough food this man would have been embarrassed in front of his guest and his guest may have felt bad and not enjoyed the food.
When we come to God at our most desperate hour, it’s time to ask God for more than we need. I don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself saying, “Lord, all I need is just this little tiny bit…” Jesus is teaching us that we should come and ask for more than we need. That’s the kind of prayer a loving God wants to answer.
Why does the friend tell him to go away?
For a long time I just didn’t get this. I read it and sort of skipped over it because it seemed like the intent of the parable was to teach us to be persistent with our prayers. I thought that the fact that the “friend” didn’t want to get up and give the man food was unimportant.
Recently I realized that this is a crucial part of this parable. If the friend represents God, what does it mean that God tells us to “go away”?
What it tells us is that God creates resistance! I’m not really sure why that is, but that’s what Jesus is saying. One reason may be that God is testing our faith in order to purify it and drive out the doubts that cause us to question Him. But whatever the reason, we need to understand that this isn’t just some game that God is playing. He wants to answer our prayers, but He also wants us to remain steadfast in our faith even when He resists.
Can we be persistent and get our prayers answered?
Jesus concludes the parable by saying, “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” (Luke 11:8)
It’s not a matter of being obnoxious or harping on God, but of understanding our need to depend on Him. It’s midnight, we’re desperate, and there’s nowhere else we can go. God is telling us that He wants us to keep praying and asking until we receive what we need.
The benefits go far beyond just getting the answer we want, because God is perfecting our faith at the same time that He is responding to it.
It is right after this parable that Jesus gives us one of the most well-known promises about prayer, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
Will you go to your friend and keep knocking on His door until you receive what you need? Because that is the kind of prayer that God answers.