This side of heaven, we pray for many things: healings, release from distress, blessings for family and friends, to name a few. Last week we began looking at one of Jesus’ illustrations that assures us of God’s goodness in answering our prayers.
“Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine has come to me from a journey and I have nothing to serve him (Luke 11:5-6),’” Jesus said. Despite the late hour, the culture of Jesus’ day assumed your friend would give you the bread you need to provide hospitality to your other friend.
The meaning of the illustration depends on to whom the phrase “shameless audacity” in verse 8 refers. Some translations, like the NIV 2011, attach the phrase to the friend asking for the loaves of bread. Other translations, like the NASB, attach the phrase to the friend who is being asked to give a few loaves of bread. If the phrase refers to the friend asking, the illustration is about the persistence of prayer. However, if the phrase refers the friend in the house being asked of, it shows how we can trust God to answer our prayers according to his perfection and goodness. This later interpretation makes more sense in the context, because Jesus follows it with another illustration making the same point (11:11-13).
In that shame-honor culture, for a friend to refuse a request like this would be a disgrace. Word would spread. So, in order to save face, he will eventually get up, though reluctantly, to supply his friend’s need. If this friend will supply the need of his friend, even when every bone in his body does not want to be bothered, how much greater will God freely supply our needs out of his infinite wisdom and goodness?
Truly on this side of heaven, we may not understand God’s ways. Prayers that seemingly go unanswered can create a crisis within us. However, even in our moments of greatest disappointment and pain, we can trust our perfect Father in Heaven to give us what we need when we ask in prayer. The songwriter Laura Story wrote: “What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy. What if the trials of this life, the rain, the storms, and hardest nights, are your mercies in disguise.” May we find such assurance in prayer.