When we read the Gospels, we can often miss the intent of what Jesus said because we’ve heard it so often. Our familiarity can blind us to the grace and truth of what Jesus has chosen to have written for our benefit. I find that if I’m too familiar with something, reading it in another translation sort of wakes my spirit up. One such place is in Luke 11. The setup is the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray like John taught his disciples. Here’s how the chapter begins (from the Passion translation):
One day, as Jesus was in prayer, one of his disciples came over to him as he finished and said, “Would you teach us a model prayer that we can pray, just like John did for his disciples?” So Jesus taught them this prayer: “Our heavenly Father, may the glory of your name be the center on which our life turns. May your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us. Manifest your kingdom on earth. And give us our needed bread for the coming day. Forgive our sins as we ourselves release forgiveness to those who have wronged us. And rescue us every time we face tribulations/ordeals.”
Ok so we’ve all heard what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Look at why Jesus said what He did. The prayer most people were used to in the Old Covenant was a form prayer; something they could say the same each time they prayed it. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that type of praying and Jesus gave them what they asked for – a sort of form to pray through. The disciples perhaps thought that’s how Jesus spoke to His heavenly Father. They observed Jesus praying and wanted in on that prayer.
Jesus didn’t stop at this form of prayer though, see what He said next!
Then Jesus gave this illustration: “Imagine what would happen if you were to go to one of your friends in the middle of the night and pound on his door and shout, ‘Please! Do you have some food you can spare? A friend just arrived at my house unexpectedly and I have nothing to serve him.’ But your friend says, ‘Why are you bothering me? The door’s locked and my family and I are all in bed. Do you expect me to get up and give you our food?’ But listen—because of your shameless impudence, even though it’s the middle of the night, your friend will get up out of his bed and give you all that you need. So it is with your prayers. Ask and you’ll receive. Seek and you’ll discover. Knock on heaven’s door, and it will one day open for you. Every persistent person will get what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he needs. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door. (Italics mine).
I believe Jesus was taking them to a higher level of prayer, asking, seeking and knocking. He wanted them to picture, imagine, to see by faith what situation He was describing. Most of us would think this illustration is rude, impolite and otherwise the wrong kind of thing to do to a neighbor. And the neighbor is pretty honest about being woken up to just give his food away. Jesus wants us to listen though – listen to what He is saying! “Because of your shameless impudence”…wow! Shameless means without shame – someone not afraid of being impolite, brash, harsh, rude, audacious, and transparent. Impudence means impertinence, insolence, effrontery, audacity, cheekiness, cockiness, brass, boldness, presumption, disrespect, rudeness, impoliteness, and ill manners.
“Wait a minute Jesus – do you mean You actually want us to come to You this way?” I believe the answer is a profound YES! Jesus was telling them that the old system, the old covenant way of coming to God was ending with Him. He was going to tear the veil between God and man at the cross. There was now going to be a new foundation for talking to God. When all our sins were erased at the cross, there is nothing hindering us from talking to God. He wants us to be so honest that we may seem impolite and rude in our asking. No more trying to clean ourselves up “so that” we can ask Him something. He sees us perfected in Christ so we are already clean by the blood of Jesus. Now that is something we don’t hear preached very often!
Most of the times I am gut honest with God aren’t pretty. When I read this passage I asked the Lord, “So Lord, those prayers I prayed that weren’t pretty, organized, or polite, are You saying You love those prayers? And, when I keep on asking You the exact same thing over and over, You aren’t put off by that (even though I give up)?” A resounding “yes” is the answer. So be bold, be real, and be honest before God, who never sees your sin because of the finished work of Christ. Tell Him exactly what you think and feel no matter how rude it may seem to you. Even if you feel somewhat fearful (of His anger or judgment) praying that way, just tell Him about that. His anger was exhausted at the cross so talk to Him without fear! God sees what you think even before you think or say it anyhow. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Keep getting in His face about your concerns – He loves it!
What follows Jesus’ illustration also speaks volumes: “Let me (Jesus) ask you this: Do you know of any father who would give his son a snake on a plate when he asked for a serving of fish? Of course not! Do you know of any father who would give his daughter a spider when she had asked for an egg? Of course not! If imperfect parents know how to lovingly take care of their children and give them what they need, how much more will the perfect heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit’s fullness when his children ask him.” On the heels of talking about prayer, I believe Jesus was also confronting our wrong view of the Father. These examples He gives are meant to provoke us into thought. Our own experiences with our parents shape us for life sometimes and I think Jesus is telling people that the Father and His love are so much different than human love. I think if we’re all honest, we have all wanted or asked for something from a person and gotten just the opposite and those experiences lead us to believe the wrong thing about our heavenly Father. Jesus is calling us to consider who the Father really is. He is not someone who gives and then takes away. Satan is the thief who comes and takes away, not God. Jesus knows what you really want and need. He is not guessing at how to answer your prayer!
Oh, how sin has deformed God’s nature in our eyes! Jesus is the only answer to the confusion and frustration in this life. Jesus said emphatically in John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Pray with all your heart, be honest before the One who knows you inside and out. Take comfort that He knows all about you and desires to give, not take away. Don’t allow your past experiences define who God is. Allow Jesus to define who the Father is. Jesus said in Luke 11:35, “Open your heart and consider my words. Watch out that you do not mistake your opinions for revelation-light!” Let God into your circumstances, your ordeals, your frustrations and see that He will answer you with all the grace and love that He is!