Sunday, April 12, 2015

Teach us to Pray: Part 47: Persistence in prayer

Then He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and from inside he answers and says, '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. ' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. (Luke 11:5-10 NASB)

This chapter opened with the disciple's request that Christ teach them to pray, just as John had taught his disciples. After Jesus gave the disciples the model prayer, he continued the lessons on prayer with two interesting examples. The first is an example that concludes with a phrase most people know. "Ask and it will be given to you." It would be easy to assume that this lesson is about getting what you want, but it's not quite a simple as it seems.

In this example, Jesus sets the scene. Imagine this, He tells the disciples. A friend shows up unexpectedly in the middle of the night after a long trip. You have made no preparations because you didn't know the friend was coming, but you want to provide some food. What will you do? Jesus suggested that you might go to another of your friends to get some help. You knock on the door, but it is after midnight and your friend refuses to even open the door. He yells through the door, "I'm already asleep, and so are the kids! Quit this ruckus or you'll wake the baby! I'm not getting up to get you anything!" You are determined to get something to feed your friend, so you keep knocking and shouting through the door. Finally, your friend is so tired of listening to your hammering that he gets up and hands you as much bread as you need, just so he can get some peace and quiet.

Let's look at the request in more detail. 
1) First, the request is not for ourselves. This request is to provide for someone who has unexpectedly asked shelter of us in the middle of the night. 
2) Someone has a need and we want to meet it, but have no way of providing what is needed. (Baking bread requires time for the yeast to rise, and it would take several hours before bread could be ready, even if you started immediately.) 
3) You know someone who has exactly what is required to meet the need.
4) You are willing to be inconvenienced and, potentially, embarrassed to meet the need. (After midnight, waking up a grumpy friend)
5) The request is not extravagant. It's not for caviar and filet mignon. The request is for the most basic of meals - three loaves of bread.
6) One loaf will be enough for the visitor, but three loaves is more than enough. In fact, the one requesting the loaf can share the meal with his guest, giving the guest both provision and companionship.

This example is not about getting something we want, even if we want it desperately. It is not about extravagance. This example is about persistent prayer, especially when it involves the needs of another when we are not able to meet those needs ourselves. 

As I am writing this, I am reminded of a very real need that seems impossible to me. Women who have escaped from their terrorist captors need a safe place to recover and to live, for many of them cannot go back to their homes. The opportunity to care for them was most unexpected for the ones requested to give that care. The amount of money needed is not something that can be instantly provided. The women neither need nor expect an extravagant shelter. A roof, bread, and clean water will be enough. The equivalent of one loaf would be enough, but three loaves would allow more than the basics. This is the kind of need that is similar in nature to the friend arriving in the night. 

Think of this need for a moment. Women, taken from their homes and families, trapped in the nightmare of a terrorist captivity, have finally escaped. They are traumatized, injured, sick. They desperately need help and the love of Jesus. They need us to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Jesus said that, because of the asker's persistence, his friend will give him everything he needs. Ask and it will be given you. You may remember that we prayed for the women who had been captured to be released, and God answered our prayer. Hundreds of them have escaped. (They aren't all free, but the asking has not stopped.) Now, we must ask for provision to be made for the care of these women. If we ask, God will provide. 

One of the reasons for unanswered prayer is that we ask amiss. Asking for the provision to care for the escaped captives, however, is not amiss. The women have a need and the opportunity to care for them has arisen. The need is greater than can be provided, but we know Someone who can provide everything the women need. Instead of using these verses as an opportunity to ask for what we want, let's use these verses as an opportunity to ask God to provide for those in need. 

Today, join me in asking that God will provide everything that is needed for the shelter that is, even now, being prepared for the women who have escaped their captors. If we ask, God will provide, so please help me ask.  (If you want to help, you can go to www.criout.com)

(Those who provide the care for the escaped women, and the women themselves, will face grave danger. Please pray for protection for all involved.)