We conclude what became an eight-part series on Jesus’ lessons on prayer from Luke 11 with Jesus’ assurances of God’s goodness in responding to our prayers. Jesus gives two basic illustrations to make this point.
We understand the second of these easy enough, so let’s look at that one first. What parent in their right mind would give his child something harmful, when his or her child asked for something as basic as bread or eggs (Luke 11:11-12)? Would not our Father in Heaven, who is infinitely greater than our earthly parents, respond perfectly to the prayers of his children? Does he not give us the very best thing we could ever ask for, the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)? This makes sense. The first illustration takes more explanation.
In North America today, we tend to value privacy and good manners more than hospitality. Not so, in Jesus’ day. Hospitality ranked among the highest values. When we hear about the man who banged on his friend’s door at midnight for a few dinner rolls to feed another friend, we feel a sense of solidarity with his agitated friend. Who in their right mind bangs on their friend’s door at such hours with such a lame request? We might argue with Jesus and say this friend was right to say: “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.” (Luke 11:7)
However, in the culture of Jesus’ day, this friend’s response represented something like scandal. In that day, providing something needed for hospitality to a friend, no matter the time, ranked much higher than privacy or good manners. As one biblical scholar captured it, it would be like your friend calling you in the middle of the night to tell you that his wife is in labor and his car will not start. He asks you if he could borrow your car. Would you not feel enraged, if your friend replied: “I’m so sorry. I just tucked the kids in and left my keys in their bedroom. I really hope you find another way. So sorry.” One of the key interpretive issues in this passage regards to whom the phrase translated in some translations as “shameless audacity” refers to. That however, will need to wait till next week. So much for an eight-part series. I guess we’ll have to go to nine.