Persistent? Or Doubting?


The Parable Of The Friend at Midnight

Luke 11:5-13 NIV

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; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 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.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

Man desperately needing door to open“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

God Seems To Value Our Persistence

Right after teaching the disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus told the parable of a neighbor who was in need of bread for a visitor.  The disciples had just asked Him to teach them to pray, and the lesson He is teaching through this parable is to be persistent in prayer.

Hospitality was a strictly observed tradition in the Middle East, and a man found to not have bread for a visitor would be in a shameful position. Only such a need would drive a man to his neighbor’s house at midnight with this level of persistence.

Is God Obligated?

There is a huge difference between persistence and insistence.  We are never to approach God with a demanding or dishonoring attitude, or with requests that are a reflection of our human will more than of His sovereign will.  He is our Father and we are His children. We come before Him as a child comes before his earthly father, in respectful confidence that his father loves him and knows what is best for him.  If the man in the parable would give his neighbor what he wanted just because of his persistence, how much more will God, who loves us perfectly, give us when we come into His presence?

Jesus tells us to ask and keep on asking (Matthew 7:7), and whatever we ask in God’s will is assured to us (1 John 5:14).He had just taught the disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer, which includes the phrase “Your will be done” (Luke 11:2). In proper context, we see that we are to be persistent in asking for God to work in our lives and answer our prayers according to His perfect will and timing, having confidence that He will do so, while trusting his perfect timing and knowledge.

He Answers Every Prayer

As fallen human beings, it’s easy for us to think that this teaching is telling us that whatever we want, God will grant that to us if we are persistent in asking.  That sounds more like a Jeannie in a bottle to me.

I believe a more accurate understanding of the parable will reveal that the persistence in our prayers is not to so we might sway God’s will or actions in a different direction. I actually believe quite the opposite.  The reason God calls us to be persistent is to allow our human will to be exposed, examined, and brought more into alignment with His perfect will.  It’s us that do the changing.

Our prayer may be for God to act in a situation or relationship in our life. Sometimes He changes our circumstances.  Other times He changes our heart.  Either way, He is faithfully answering every prayer.


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