He also said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’ Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness. And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened. (Luke 11:5-10)
Context: The disciples have just asked Luke’s Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus has taught them the short version of The Lord’s Prayer. He then goes on to tell this parable.
- “Asking for a friend.” I’m not sure why this meme has recently entered our social media consciousness. It’s usually said with a nod and a wink as a way of sharing an opinion or a joke, but we couch it as asking for advice from the general public “for a friend.”
- Intercessory prayer is asking God to do something for someone. We are interceding, asking for a friend—sincerely.
- Jesus characterizes prayer as asking one friend to help out another. I think this is a beautiful image. It’s probably not coincidence that Jesus just taught a prayer asking for daily bread.
- Parables are not simply illustrations of what God is like. The point of this illustration is that God is not like a reluctant friend who is simply too comfortable to get up to help us out. We call this apophatic theology—describing what God is not (Its opposite is kataphatic theology, describing what God is like).
- The image is supposed to be amusing. The reluctant friend dragging himself to the door, rubbing his eyes. The sound of the door unlocking, opening just wide enough to thrust out three loaves of bread. “Here, take them.” “Thanks so much! Sorry to bother you.” “Mm,” God grunts, shutting the door.
- Even if he wouldn’t answer out of friendship, he would answer because of his friend’s audacity. This last word is hard to translate, but it seems to indicate, “I can’t believe you’re asking for this at three in the morning.”
- He will give his friend whatever he needs. Not just bread. The implication is that the friend could ask for nearly anything, and the lesson is that we should not be afraid to ask.
- “Is this what you imagine God is like? Too sleepy to answer the door?” Jesus seems to be asking. He sets us up to hear the next saying: Ask, seek, knock.
- This parable isn’t in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, but the “Ask, seek, knock” saying is. You can read about Matthew’s version here. We tend to conflate the sayings, but Matthew’s version has a different context. Matthew is talking about letting people seek their own path. Luke’s version is addressing prayer.
- Luke goes on to talk further about prayer and relationships. We’ll look at the rest of the saying tomorrow.
Great Mystery, we often project our weaknesses onto you. Shatter our expectations by answering our prayers for your kin-dom, for bread, and for mercy.