My Favorite Parable About Prayer
Do you ever end up praying for the same thing over and over again and wondering if it’s worth it?
Shouldn’t God hear you that first time around? Does God know what we want and what we need, without us entreating him? Why should we ask again and again? Why not give up?
There’s one parable I always go back to when I’m struggling with this conundrum of prayer. It’s not usually in any Top Ten list of favorite parables. It’s really only in one gospel, the Gospel of Luke, and it’s variously called “The Parable of the Insistent Friend” or “The Parable of the Midnight Knocker” or “The Friend at Midnight.” On a first or second or even tenth reading it’s a real head scratcher.
The story goes, and I am paraphrasing Jesus's words from Luke 11:5-10: Imagine you have a friend whom you go to in the middle of the night and say, “Loan me three loaves of bread because I’ve had a guest drop in unexpectedly and I don’t have anything to feed him.” Imagine that your friend yells from inside the house, “Hey, man, don’t bother me. It’s late. The door’s locked. My kids and I are in bed.”
“I assure you,” Jesus says, “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.”
Brashness in prayer? Wait a minute. Aren’t we supposed to be reverent, patient, long-suffering, silent... but brash and insistent? Well, yes, here Jesus tells us we are. We’re supposed to keep bugging God, like that insistent friend, until he hears us. As he will hear us.
So keep praying, even if you think you’re repeating yourself, even though you know God heard you that first time around. Jesus urges us to entreat our Father in heaven the hundredth or thousandth time. The best part of the passage comes at the end. It deserves to be in bold: 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.
Not for nothing is the Gospel called the Good News. Keep praying. That door is ready to be opened.
That's what's special about a prayer from childhood: It’s always there inside you, ready to be called to your lips when you need it.