Confident and persistent prayer

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Luke 11:9

Daniel J. Habben  

I think Jesus made a mistake.

It just doesn’t seem that his promise in Luke 11:9 is true. I’ve asked, I’ve sought, I’ve pounded on the door to God’s heavenly treasure room, but I haven’t always received what I wanted.

Getting what we need

How are we to understand this promise about prayer? In the short parable before the verse, Jesus describes a man who received an unexpected midnight visitor. He had no food to offer this visitor, so he went to his neighbor to beg for provisions.

Knowing that the neighbor represents God, how would you have written the ending to the parable? Would the neighbor in your version of the story have whipped up an omelette with all the fixings? Would he have insisted on personally hosting the unexpected visitor? Isn’t that what we want God to do—to put to bed all our problems? Instead, the neighbor in the parable told his friend to go away! Are we supposed to think of our heavenly Father as a grumpy neighbor who won’t help?

But Jesus doesn’t make mistakes. The parable doesn’t end there. One key to understanding this parable is to remember that Jesus never promised to give us whatever we ask for. No, he said that God would give us whatever we need. In the parable, the man boldly asked. As a result of the man’s bold asking and knocking, Jesus said his neighbor gave him just as much as he needed.

Dealing with the unexpected visitor

Unlike the grumpy neighbor’s first response in the parable, God delights to hear us knocking at his door. And he loves to answer us in just the right way. But what if I’ve persistently prayed for financial stability only to have my car break down? That “unexpected visitor” makes me realize just how ill-prepared I am to handle life’s trials on my own. It sends me running again to my loving Father, my heavenly neighbor who can supply all my needs. If I ever doubt his willingness to help me. I need only consider the cross. It is God’s perfect answer to the problem of my sin: his son Jesus.

Jesus himself knows what it’s like to deal with a “midnight visitor.” Maybe it was around midnight when he was on his knees in the Garden of Gethsemane praying that God would remove the cup of suffering he was about to endure on the cross. Jesus was persistent in that prayer, asking three times for it to be removed. But each time he also added, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus was confident that his Father knew what was best. And his Father did provide what Jesus needed. He gave him the strength to finish his work of earning salvation for a world full of sinners.

God may not rescue you from your financial mess in quite the manner you prayed for, but he will give you the calm to handle the crisis. If your midnight visitor is a difficult coworker or your own grim diagnosis, God may not deliver you from those situations by making them suddenly disappear. But he will give you enough strength and patience and peace each day to handle your hardships.

So keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. The door to God’s heart is open to you. He’ll always give you what you need.


Contributing editor Daniel Habben is pastor at St. John’s, St. John’s, Antigua, West Indies.  


Note: The artwork is a painting called “Midnight visitor.” It features Luke 11:9 in Japanese: Motome. Sagase. Tatake. (Ask. Seek. Knock.)


 

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Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 105, Number 1
Issue: January 2018

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