After teaching the disciples the form of prayer, he went on to teach them about God’s response to prayer. He did this in a parable recorded at Luke 10:5-13. This parable only appears in Luke’s gospel.
In this parable a person has a friend arrive at his house around midnight. The friend likely traveled at night to avoid the heat. He may have had problems that caused him to arrive very late or even miscalculated how long the trip would take.
Even though the friend arrived very late, the duty of hospitality required the man to welcome him into his home. It also required him to provide food. The problem was, he had no food.
Since he had no food, the man went to his friend who lived nearby and knocked on the door. No one likes to have someone knock on their door at midnight. But he did knock and he asked to borrow three loaves of bread.
This story reminds me so much of my childhood, when most women stayed home with their children and, in our economic class at least, did not have cars. So, it was very common for a neighbor woman to knock at the door and ask for a cup of sugar or an egg or something like that. My own mother sent me on such errands several times.
On this occasion, though, the neighbor was already in bed. Probably, the big room was a family bedroom and the whole family was tucked in to sleep. If he got up to get the bread, the might wake up the children, which would mean then trying to get them back to sleep so he could go back to sleep himself. The man really did not want to get up. He gave two excuses: the door is shut and the children are asleep. It was not really that the man could not get up, but that he did not want to. It was inconvenient.
Jesus said the man would not normally get up and grant this request, but he would do it because of the man’s impudence. “Impudence” here means a lack of sensitivity to what is proper.
A parable normally has one main point. It often contains a comparison for emphasis. We do not look at every item of the parable for a symbol as we would with an allegory.
Since the context of the parable is Jesus’ teaching on prayer, we immediately understand that the man asleep with his children represents God the Father. This does not mean that God sleeps, or sleeps with his children, or is annoyed if we pray at night. Rather, it means that, as the neighbor has the means to provide for his friend, God has the means to provide for his disciples who ask.
Here is the comparison. The man only answered his friends’s request because the friend would not stop knocking on the door. God, however, is always available and always receptive to our prayers. And further, he gives good gifts. Jesus said, if we who are evil by nature give good gifts to our children, how much better gifts will God give? In fact, he will even give us the Holy Spirit.
Since God is willing to answer our prayers and able to provide for us, we should not hesitate to ask. For us, impudence means something like “holy boldness”. It is not irreverent or demanding. Jesus has already said to pray that God’s name is “hallowed” and that his kingdom come. But, we do not have to be timid or “beat around the bush”. For example, once when we were really struggling, I asked God for a certain sum of money I needed to pay our bills. He answered my prayer by sending a man to pay back part of the money he owned me for work and had never paid.
Jesus tells us to ask and God will give it to us, to seek and we will find and to knock and it will be opened to us. This is a parallelism, saying the same thing three times: ask God and he will answer and provide for our needs.
A second message in the parable is that we should be persistent in prayer. We should pray until we have an answer. This is not about God changing his mind, it is about our earnestness. It is about caring. It is one thing to dash off a one sentence prayer and then forget about it. That does not show that we care much about it. But when we pray continually about something until God answers, it shows we really do care about this thing and we really want God to answer.
God is there, he is approachable and he cares.