Jesus wants us to touch answered prayer. It’s the common thread of all His teachings on how to pray, and the parables relating to prayer in the bible, are all how to touch answered prayer.
Luke, gives us two of Jesus’ parables on prayer. One in Luke 18, I cover here “Bring before the Righteous Judge, every trespass, every violation, and every attack of the adversary“, and the other in Luke 11, which I will cover here.
In Luke chapter 11, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord teach us to pray”, and in answer to that request, Jesus gives them “Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name”, and then immediately after the Lord’s prayer, he gives them a parable. And in this parable, we get taught about prayer from THE MASTER himself.
The implications of this parable are so startling that it will offend most people, So, as a side note, if anyone has a problem with you praying like this, tell them that they should take it up directly with the person who gave it to you, Jesus himself. This is a very bold parable, and yes, today we are going there.
5 Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves [of bread]; 6 for a friend of mine who is on a journey has just come to visit me, and I have nothing to serve him’; 7 and from inside he answers, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything just because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence and boldness he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened.Luke 11:5-10 [AMP]
This is a parable of friendship. It’s a parable of three friends (one long distance friend, and a friend down the road), and if you miss the element of friendship in the parable, you miss the whole point. It’s also important to understand the culture at the time. If unexpected company from out of town showed up at your home, you were to welcome them in and throw food at them. So this person described in the parable is up at midnight, because a dear friend from out of town, passing through on a journey, has just rocked up for a pit stop, and our chief instigator in this parable has accommodated his friend, and now needs to feed the weary traveler, but he has a dilemma, because his pantry is empty and the stores are closed. So in his pickle, he slips quickly down the road to another friend’s house, in the middle of the night, at midnight, and no doubt knocks on the door, because it was closed, to request three loaves of bread.
Now, If YOU were to go down the road at midnight to someone else’s home, who you are not acquainted with, and knock on their door and demand the contents of their pantry, you WILL end up spending the night somewhere else. There are some code violations with that. Trespassing, disturbing the peace, harassment, laws that can land you in prison for the night. But, when it’s your close friend, where there is relationship, you get away with it. You can take your chances because you know it’s your friend, there’s a relationship, and you will see through the audacious midnight interaction. But it’s going to take some effort, because you need to convince your friend that you haven’t lost your mind and that he indeed needs to urgently get up, even if it means waking up the kids and family. Note how the parable says in verse 7, “my children and I are in bed”, because even Jesus knows that sleeping children are angels, and young children disrupted out of their sleep at midnight, become little monsters for their parents.
Essentially this midnight excursion for bread is a somewhat illegal interaction. There are midnight hour code violations at play. But, Jesus is saying, when you have a relationship with me, when I am your best friend, you can pray illegal prayers, at your midnight hour!
Jesus, highlighting this parable at midnight, paints us this picture of the hassle and inconvenience at that hour of the night. The whole parable paints a picture of inconvenience between all three friends. The friend who’s doorstep is wielding this hassle at midnight represents God, who is being inconvenienced by this demand, and the friend at the door even though putting pressure on the friendship in this moment of this inconvenience, is cashing in on the relational equity he has with his friend.
Is it possible that we in our prayer life, at our midnight hour, can petition heaven, even if it inconveniences God? But, because of our relationship with Jesus, we can cash in on the relational equity we have and demand tomorrow’s miracle, tomorrow’s breakthrough, tomorrow’s provision, RIGHT NOW, TODAY!
You see, the bakeries would be open first thing in the morning. This friend could have waited the few hours, and got the bread from the store, and he’d see his need fulfilled. But, NO, here he is at his friend’s door, AT MIDNIGHT, demanding tomorrow’s provision RIGHT NOW.
You have to have a friendship with God, because if you don’t have a friendship with God and you pray prayers like this, you are going to get hurt! But if you have a friendship with God, you can cash in on the relational equity and get something out of him that YOU NEED, IN your hour of need.
It’s important to build a relationship with God, and not wait until stuff hits the fan. You need to always be building your relationship with God, so that you have enough relational collateral, in the bank, to cash in on when the stuff does hit the fan.
Let’s take a look at some examples of illegal prayers in the bible.
- Daniel. Laws are passed where no one can pray to any other than the King of Babylon. What does Daniel do? He prays illegal prayers, which as we know got him into heaps of trouble, but God stands by his man and delivers him from the lion’s den. Illegal prayer!
- There’s a group of friends who vandalize the roof of someone else’s house so that they can lower their crippled friend down before Jesus to be healed. Interesting example of destruction of private property, AND answered prayer!
- The woman with the issue of blood who was by Moses’ law, considered chronically unclean, and needed to live separated from society. She covers herself and hides under a shawl or blanket, gets low to the ground so that no one can recognize her and breaks the law as she illegally pushes her way through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. According to Moses’ law everyone whom she brushed up against or came in contact with were themselves defiled and considered ceremonially unclean. But not Jesus, because Jesus had to die an undefiled spotless lamb. There was only one possible outcome, and that is she received her miracle, because of her audacious faith even in the face of breaking the law. She offered illegal prayer. “But, if I could just touch the hem of his garment”.
This is the kind of prayer that Jesus is advocating in his parable. He is saying to us, You now have a friendship with God: So, go illegal, break the law, forget the rules, push the envelope, violate protocol, demand attention, push and shove, you’re a friend, you’re a son, you’re a child of God, press the point, strain the relationship, go all in, despise political correctness, contravene convention, go ballistic, test the limits, cross the line, throw caution to the wind, go for broke, PRAY ILLEGAL PRAYERS!
Now some may question, and say, but you cannot question God’s sovereign will or God’s sovereign purpose, and yes this is true, and this parable is not about that, this parable is about the timing. Give me three loaves of bread, NOW. The three loaves of bread were available, just not then at midnight.
- Mary comes to Jesus at the wedding asking him to work a miracle and provide more wine for the guests. Now suddenly, Jesus finds himself caught between Abba Father and MOM! Why? Because, we know Jesus says in scripture, in John 5:19, that He would do nothing, unless it is something He sees the Father doing. So, Jesus replies to his mom, “My time has not yet come”, meaning that according to Abba Father, the time for Jesus’ miracle ministry to be manifested had not yet come. But Mary pushes back and turns to the servants and says, whatever he says to you, do it. Such is the nature of illegal prayers, they do not challenge God’s sovereign will nor God’s sovereign purpose, but they do question God’s timing. Jesus’ miracle ministry WAS to be revealed, just not today. Mary needed tomorrow’s miracle, today. So, she cashed in on the relational equity she had with her son, after all, she had conceived him, she had carried him, she had birthed him, she had fed him, she had changed his diapers, she had raised him. And, who knows, she may have also reminded her son that the scriptures DO SAY, children, honor your father, AND mother. And, so, Jesus’ miracle ministry was revealed that night ahead of time, and the slippery slope to calvary’s cross kicked in earlier than what God had intended, but God’s sovereign purpose remained intact. Mary was actually doing 2nd Peter 3:12: “hastening the coming of the day of God”. Through her intercession she was bringing into today, what God was going to do tomorrow. She was changing times and seasons in the heart of God through the audacity of this kind of praying. And it’s all because she has relationship.
Just as with the “friends” in the parable. Later, bread would be available (from the bakery, or baked at home), but it was required at the inconvenience of the midnight hour. Give me your three loaves of bread, NOW.
The whole parable paints a picture of inconvenience at the midnight hour. And, it’s this inconvenience that invites illegal prayer. But it can only work where there is relationship. Without relationship, you have no right for the audacity to petition prayer that questions God’s timing.
Jesus is teaching us how to trouble and inconvenience God’s timetable. Jesus did not teach this parable to the multitudes, he taught this to his inner circle, the disciples, with whom he had a relationship with. There is a kind of prayer that gets us today what God was going to make available tomorrow. And it’s a bold, dangerous kind of praying. Jesus is teaching us to go head-to-head with him, and get into a scrap about it if need be, and challenge his calendar, and push back on heaven’s timing.
If we look at verse 8, there are two elements to answered prayer in the parable, firstly there is friendship, and then there is persistence. And if all you have is friendship with God it’s not enough for answered prayer. To your friendship, you must add persistence, and when you have friendship AND persistence together, you now have a combustible mix that produces answered prayer.
The Greek word for persistence is this scripture is “ANAIDEIA”, coming from two root words meaning “No Shame”, and refers not to the persistence of knocking on the door, but to the nerve, the effrontery, the invasiveness of standing at midnight and demanding three loaves of bread. The Young’s Literal Translation uses the word importunity, meaning “persistence, especially to the point of annoyance”. The Complete Jewish Bible uses the word “hutzpah”, meaning audacity, cheek, guts, nerve, boldness, supreme self-confidence, unbelievable gall, effrontery.
Jesus is telling us to pray with hutzpah. To pray illegal prayers. To pray strong faced prayers. This is John Knox going “Give me Scotland, or I die”. This is like serving God an ultimatum.
- Fill me, or kill me
- Raise me up, or take me out
Oh, but we can’t talk to God like that, it’s illegal. Not if you have relationship, it’s not. You see, the hour for safe prayer is over. We’re in our midnight hour, and the hour of hutzpah prayer is upon us.
This is Esther going before the king, “Give me a hearing, or give me a hanging”.
- In the book of Esther (chapters 4, 5, and 6), the king has passed a law that all the Jews are to be exterminated. So Esther goes to the inner court, which was illegal, to present her case before the king. Ultimately she would reveal to the king that she was a Jew, which would mean she’d also be executed as per the king’s edict, so she had nothing to lose and went illegal. Into the inner court, before the king and prays illegal prayers. Noone was allowed into the inner court except that they were brought before the king from the outer court. This was to protect the king from assassination. There was a process of security clearance at the outer court, and whether your petition was worth the audience of the king, before being brought one by one into the inner court. How Ester got into the inner court by bypassing the outer court is not described in the text, so we can only assume it was because of her relationship to the king that she was able to convince the guards to let her through. (And no doubt with some hutzpah?)
Esther got into the inner court because of her relationship to the king. All she needed to do was stand in the inner court, and she was serving the most powerful person on the planet an ultimatum, “Give me a hearing, or give me a hanging!”. And, because of the King’s relationship to Esther, he needed to know what Esther wanted SO badly that she was willing to sacrifice her life for it, and raised his scepter to her, giving her a hearing.
In contrast, in chapter 6, Haman goes to the outer court to petition his request before the king. Haman went the legal route to offer prayer, and lost his life. Esther went the illegal route to offer illegal prayer and saved her life.
Illegal prayers are prayers that serve the God of the universe an ultimatum. Fill me or kill me, raise me up or take me out. People will tell you, you cannot talk to God like that, it’s illegal. And you know what? They’re right, they are illegal, unless you have relationship. And if you have a relationship with your beloved savior, you can lean on him and cash in on the relational equity, and say, “I can’t live with that answer, I need three loaves NOW”!