In The School of Prayer
“Because of his importunity,”
Or, The Boldness of God’s Friends.
“And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, Friend lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine is come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him; and he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.” — Luke 11:5-8
Our Lord Jesus Christ delivered the first of His teachings to His followers in the form of the Sermon on the Mount. A little over a year later, the disciples approached Jesus with their request, asking him to teach them how to pray. In response, He instructed them in the proper way to pray by repeating the Lord’s Prayer for a second time. The following is a discussion of how they should pray, followed by a restatement of what he previously stated regarding the paternal nature of God and the assurance that they will receive an answer. To teach them the twofold lesson, that God does not only want us to pray for ourselves, but also for the people who are perishing around us, and that in such intercession great boldness of request is often necessary, and always lawful, and even pleasing to God. He adds the wonderful parable of the friend at midnight in the middle. This is done so that He can teach them that in such intercession great boldness of request is often necessary, and always lawful, and even pleasing to God.
because of his insistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.–Jesus
The parable is a goldmine of information that is absolutely essential to comprehending authentic intercession. To begin, there is love, which looks for opportunities to assist those in our immediate environment who are in need; “my friend has come to me.” The desire to cry out “I have nothing to set before him” then emerges as a necessity. Then comes the assurance that assistance can be obtained; “which of you shall have si. friend, and say, Friend, lend me three loaves” Then, the unanticipated refusal comes in the form of “I cannot rise and give thee.” Then there is the doggedness that cannot be deterred by failure; “because of his insistency!” And as a final point, the reward for such a prayer is that “he will give him as many as he needeth.” An excellent presentation of the path of prayer and faith along which the blessing of God has been sought and discovered on so many occasions.
Let us limit ourselves to the primary idea, which is that prayer is an appeal to the friendship of God, and we will find that two lessons are particularly suggested. The one that states that in order to demonstrate that we are friends of God and worthy of coming to Him in that capacity, we must demonstrate that we are friends of those who are in need. The friendship that we have with one another, as well as the friendship that God has with us, go hand in hand. The other is that when we come, therefore, we are allowed the greatest amount of leeway in claiming an answer to our question.
Prayer serves two purposes: the first is to obtain strength and blessing for our own life; the second, the higher, the true glory of prayer, for which Christ has taken us into His fellowship and teaching, is intercession, in which prayer is the royal power that a child of God exercises in heaven on behalf of others and even of the kingdom. The first purpose of prayer is to obtain strength and blessing for our own life. It is clear from the Bible that Abraham and Moses, Samuel and Elijah, along with all of the other righteous men from ancient times, demonstrated their power with God and achieved victory through the act of making intercession on behalf of other people. When we make the decision to bless others with our very lives, we can be certain that God will bless us in a special way. We are able to count on God’s friendliness when we draw closer to him in his role as the friend of the needy and those who are on the verge of perishing. A just man who helps those who are less fortunate is particularly close to the heart of God. This affords a wonderful degree of liberty in the practice of prayer. Lord! A good friend of mine is struggling financially and requires my assistance. I am committed to assisting him as a friend and have taken on this responsibility. I have a Friend in Thee, one whose generosity and wealth I am certain are without limit. This friend is You. It is certain that you will grant me my request if I wait patiently enough. If I, being evil, am willing to do what I can for my friend, how much more will You, my heavenly Friend, now do for Thy friend what he asks? If I am willing to do what I can for my friend, even though I am evil, then how much more will You do for Thy friend what he asks?
Because a father is more than just a friend, the question may arise as to whether or not the Fatherhood of God does not give such assurance in prayer that the thought of His Friendship can hardly teach us anything more; a father is greater than a friend. And yet, if we give it some thought, we can see that this pleading for the friendship of God opens the door to new wonders for us. The fact that a child gets what he or she asks their father for appears to be so completely natural and unremarkable that we almost consider it the father’s responsibility to give. However, when one is in the company of a friend, it seems as though generosity is more approachable and dependent not on nature but on sympathy and personality. And so the relationship between a parent and a child is more analogous to that of complete dependence, whereas the relationship between two friends is more analogous to that of near equality. Because of this, our Lord would prefer that we approach God in this relation as well, as those whom He has recognized as His friends, whose mind and life are in sympathy with His. He is attempting to reveal the spiritual mystery that is prayer, and he would like nothing more than for us to pray in this manner.
But if that is the case, we ought to be conducting our lives as His friends. Even though I wander, I am still a child, but whether or not we remain friends depends on how we behave. “You are my friends, and whatever it is that you do, do it as I command you.” “Thou seest that faith worked with his works, and by works was faith made perfect, and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, And Abraham believed God, and he was called the friend of God!” It is the Spirit, “the same Spirit, that leads us that also bears witness to our acceptance of God;” similarly, it is the same Spirit that helpeth us in prayer who leads us and guides us. A life lived as a friend of God grants the wonderful liberty to say, “I have a friend to whom I can go even at midnight.” This is because a life lived as a friend of God enables one to say that God is their friend. And how much more so when I go in the very spirit of that friendliness, manifesting in myself the same kindness I look for in God, seeking to help my friend as I want God to help me, and doing so in the spirit of that friendliness? When I come to God in prayer, He always pays attention to the purpose of my supplication. If I seek His grace for no other reason than my own pleasure or contentment, I will not be granted it. But if I can say that I may bring glory to Him in the fact that I am able to bestow His blessings on others, then I will know that my prayer was not in vain. Or, if I ask for other people but I want to wait until God has made me so rich that it does not require a sacrifice or an act of faith to help them, I will not obtain what I have asked for. But if I can say that I have already undertaken for my friend who is in need, that in my poverty I have already begun the work of love because I know I had a friend who would help me, then my prayer will be heard. I will be able to say that because I know I had a friend who would help me. Oh, we don’t know how much good the plea does; the friendship of earth looking in its need to the friendship of heaven, “He will give him as much as he needeth.”
However, this does not always occur instantly. Faith is the one and only means by which a man can honor and delight in his God. The act of interceding is a fundamental component of the education provided by faith. In those moments, both our relationships with other people and with God are put to the test. There, it will be determined whether my friendship with those in need is genuine enough for me to invest time and energy into helping them, even if it means getting up at midnight or sacrificing my rest, and I will not give up until I have what I need to give them. There, my friendship with God is so transparent that I know I can depend on Him to not drive me away and pray until He gives.
What a profound heavenly mystery it is that prayer remains constant. The God who has promised the blessing, who yearns for it, and whose unwavering intention is to give it to his people withholds it. The matter is of such profound significance to Him that His friends on earth should know and fully trust their rich Friend in heaven, that He instructs them in the school of answer delayed to learn how their perseverance does prevail and what kind of mighty power they can wield in heaven, if they do but set themselves to it. There is a faith that is capable of perceiving the promise and accepting it, but which does not in turn experience the fulfillment of that promise (Hebrews 11:13, 39). When the answer to prayer does not come and the promise we are most firmly trusting appears to be of no effect, this is when the trial of faith, which is more precious than gold, takes place. During this time of testing, the believer’s faith, which has already taken hold of the promise, is cleansed, bolstered, and made ready to enter into a more intimate, holy fellowship with the living God in order to behold the glory of God. It seizes and guards the promise until it has accomplished what it had asserted to be a reality in the unseen but living God, and until that time, it will not release its hold on the promise.
Have courage, all you children of God who are trying to serve your heavenly Father by doing the loving work that needs to be done. Everyone who, within his own small circle, has accepted and is bearing the burden of hungry and perishing souls should have the courage to do so. This includes the parent with his child, the teacher with his class, the visitor with his district, the Bible reader with his circle, and the preacher with his hearers. Nothing seems as strange to us at first as the idea that God should require persistent prayer and that there should be a genuine spiritual requirement for importunity. The Master teaches us using this somewhat peculiar parable in order to better illustrate his point. If it is possible to overcome the unfriendliness of a self-centered earthly friend by being persistent, imagine how effective this strategy will be with the Friend in heaven, who loves to give but is prevented from doing so by our spiritual unfitness and our inability to take advantage of what He has to offer. Let us thank Him that in delaying His answer, He is educating us up to our actual position and exercising all of our power with Him. He is also training us to love with Him in the fellowship of undoubted faith and trust, so that we may indeed be the friends of God. And let us not let go of the threefold cord that cannot be severed: the friend who is in need of assistance due to hunger, the friend who is in need of assistance due to prayer, and the Mighty Friend who is eager to give as much as he requires out of love.
“Lord, teach us how to pray.”
My Holy and Merciful Lord, Who Is Also our Teacher! Prayer is the only way I can approach Thee at this time. The glory of thy teaching is beyond my capacity to comprehend, despite the fact that it is so lofty. I have to admit that my heart is not big enough to take in these thoughts of the wonderful boldness I will have with Thy Father as my Friend. I pray that one day I will have a heart big enough to do so. Lord Jesus! I put my faith in you, Lord, to bestow upon me Thy Spirit along with Thy Word and to cause my heart to receive the Word with vigor and speed. I have the intention of keeping this day’s portion of Thy Word, which reads, “Because of his eagerness, he will give him as many as he needs,”
Lord! I want to learn more about the power that comes from persistent prayer, so please teach me more. I am aware that the Father, in it, adapts Himself to the amount of time that is necessary for us to achieve our goal of living a more spiritual life. Its maturation and advancement, in order for His grace to be internalized by us and become wholly possessed by us. I am certain that He would love nothing more than to teach us how to have the kind of unwavering faith that clings to Him tenaciously even in the face of what may appear to be failure. I have no doubt that He wants to bring us to that wonderful liberty in which we comprehend how He has distributed His gift according to the prayers that we have offered. Lord! I am aware of this; please show me how to see it in its true spiritual and physical form.
And may it now be the joy of my life to become the almoner of my rich Friend in heaven, to care for all those who are hungry and perishing, even at midnight, because I know my Friend, who always gives to him who perseveres, because of his importunity, as many as he needeth. And may it now be the joy of my life to become the almoner of my rich Friend in heaven. Amen.
Original by Andrew Murray
Revised and Updated by Nathan Zipfel