Today I wanted to share with you some insight that could help change your perspective on your prayer life from a familiar parable found in Luke 11:5-8, The Friend at Midnight.
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything. 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity (yet because of his good name) he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
If you read this parable for face value and read through it without any deeper study you will walk away with the traditional view of this parable and that being; we need to be persistent in prayer, or have a shameless audacity in our asking.
The problem with this perspective is that it portrays God as reluctant to answering our prayers unless we pray hard enough, long enough; or if your a pentecostal charismatic (I am), loud enough. The mindset behind the traditional is that if my prayers are presented in such a way sooner or later I will get God’s attention and get the answers I’m seeking.
I believe God is better than this traditional view of this specific parable.
As I’ve been drawn to this passage and began to dig a little deeper I thought to myself if this was truly a parable Jesus didn’t do a good job of hiding his secret in this one. I’ve discovered that in my study there are actually 3 different views regarding this parable (tradtional, neo-traditional and the shame view) that possibly could be more of an accurate interpretation of the original greek that reveals a Kingdom secret that will shift how you approach prayer. Even more important that the variety of views is there are 3 important things to understand about the cultural context of this passage.
- In Eastern Culture when a visitor came to man’s home, he was not considered simply the guest of that man, but was a guest of the entire community. If the visitor was not treated well it spoke badly of the entire community.
- An individual’s honor was closely tied to his reception by his community.
- One of the greatest fears in Eastern culture was to be cast out of or shamed within one’s community.
In addition to the cultural context most versions translate the orginal greek word (Anaideia) into English as persistence or importunity which puts the focus back and burden of prayer back on the hosting friend (the person praying) instead of the community and changes the meaning of the entire parable.
A better translation of the greek word anaideia that differentiates the views of this passage is said to be avoidance of shame. This keeps the focus back on the sleeper’s (God & community) commitment to provide his friend whatever he needs to take care of the guest and not let down his community and keep His good reputation. In my opinion this view reveals a much better secret of prayer that Jesus hid in this parable.
Keep in mind the cultural significance! If he doesn’t give the bread, he would have brought shame on the entire community as well as himself, but because of his desire for his community not to be shamed and because of his good name, he would grant whatever the borrower asked.
The wrong interpretation places the responsibility of seeing our prayers answered on us, but a better translation places the responsibility on a good father that gives answers for the unexpected visitor that shows up unannounced.
What can we take away from this parable if we shift our view from the face value of this parable? I’m glad you asked.
- When we are visited by the unexpected guest it is the responsibility of the entire community.
Here’s the shift that has to happen. We go from brother/sister I’ll be praying for you. To brother/sister we will pray you through.
- When we are visited by the unexpected guest many times God provides the answers through the community we are surrounded by.
When the unexpected comes to visit you should know where to go and who to turn to in your community
- When we are visited by the unexpected guest we can go to God who is never surprised.
Look at the contrast between the supposed reaction of the sleeper in the parable in Luke 11 and the reality of God’s true response to our prayers in Matthew 6.
Luke 11 portrays how many of us walk away from our prayer times because of a wrong perspective.
Luke 11: 7– And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.
Matthew 6 displays the confidence we can have before we even start our prayer time.
Matthew 6:7-8 – And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
- God is NOT like a reluctant (good for nothing) friend that doesn’t want to get out of bed, He is a responsible, rewarding Father ready to meet you’re every need when an unexpected guest shows up.
Psalm 121: He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Your prayers actually awaken you to a God who never falls asleep or takes a nap. God is always ready to meet your need because he already knows the answer to your need.
- Getting answers to the unexpected guests in our lives has nothing to do with the persistence of our prayers, but instead the goodness of our God who is committed to standing by His good name.
I love the Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament translates Luke 11:8 of this parable thta supports this view:
8 I say to you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of the prospect of being put to shame he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
Even if it’s just for me this perspective has changed the way I approach prayer and my view of God in how He responds to prayer. God is not surprised in the least bit about the unexpected guests that show up in our lives. Instead; He is ready to meet every need on behalf of the community for His names sake.
What do you think about this perspective on this parable?