Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
Here’s a story Luke placed immediately after the Lords’ Prayer (Luke 11:1-4).
Jesus said, “Imagine a friend comes to town late and stays at your place. But you don’t have anything to feed him, so at midnight you go to the neighbor’s, bang on the door, and shout, ‘Hey! Can you lend me some snacks? I have a visitor to feed.’”
Your friend will be totally annoyed that you destroy his sleep and wake up his kids. But, says Jesus, if you keep knocking annoyingly your friend will soon enough get up and give you all the snacks you need.
In Luke 18, Jesus tells another annoying story (Luke 18:1-8). A widow who wants justice against her adversary petitions a hard-nosed judge who doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t care about people. The judge tells her to shove off, but she doesn’t. She keeps on asking. Finally, he gets so annoyed he renders a favorable judgement, just to shut her up.
Some observations on these stories.
- First, many people believe I have skills at being annoying, rather like the householder and the widow in Jesus’ stories. But these days I try to use my skill sparingly. When I annoy people, I’m more likely to arouse anger than helpfulness. Perhaps the people in Jesus’ stories had better skills than I do.
- Second, the judge gave the woman what she wanted. I’m glad I wasn’t the defendant in that case. A judge who doesn’t care about God or people probably doesn’t care that much about the law either. When he gets into his “I just need to make this widow stop” mode, will he deliver a just judgment?
- Third, in both stories, the person who receives those untimely and persistent requests represents God. Is Jesus suggesting that God is like the man in bed, unenthusiastic about helping his neighbor? Or is God like the judge who doesn’t really care about people and justice?
These are wonderful metaphors, not because they teach us that God is easily annoyed, but because they teach us about ourselves. Prayer is the easiest thing in the world to give up on. You know the routine: you ask for something a couple times, but God isn’t listening or answering, so you conclude, “Well, that was a waste of time!” and you quit praying. That’s precisely the attitude Jesus pinpoints in these stories.
Here’s his message: “The biggest risk to prayer is giving up too soon and too easily.” His suggestion: “Don’t give up. Keep asking, even if your prayer doesn’t work. Even if you feel you’re annoying God.”
4. And finally, I observe that in both stories, the “annoyer” has an element of faith. The householder knows his neighbour well enough to believe he’ll share from his well-stocked cupboard. The widow believes that the judge will help her if she can just motivate him to act.
Let’s pray. (scene change)
Our father, we would find it helpful if you were more responsive to our prayers, if we felt we didn’t have to annoy you into action. Teach us to press on in the face of our desperate need and your persistent silence, until we understand that you will give us everything, in your time and your way.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.