The Friend at Midnight

“It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. ‘Give us each day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'” Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:1-13)

We have seen in Jesus’ use of Parables as His method of teaching and has covered different subjects. Most have been about the Kingdom of God. But Jesus has used Parables in response to questions by His disciples and even His enemies. This Parable is told in His response to a question on prayer. Their question was, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

Jesus gave His disciples a threefold answer to their question. First Jesus taught them how they are to pray and He taught them what to pray for. Jesus then told this Parable of “The Friend at Midnight” to stress and important element of prayer. Then Jesus followed the Parable by elaborating on what the Parable was to illustrate to the disciples. The disciples often witnessed Jesus praying to the Father and this prompted their request to be taught how to pray.

In all four of the gospels we have glimpses of the prayer habits of Jesus. Jesus often arose early in the morning to pray in a solitary place. “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” (Mark 1:35) It was not uncommon for Jesus to withdraw into the wilderness to pray. “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16) Jesus had special times of prayer, as when He was praying for the direction to choose His disciples. (Luke 6:12-13) In John chapter 17 we are able to read His high priestly prayer to the Father. Matthew recorded His prayer of great agony before His crucifixion. (Matthew 26:36-44) There were the prayers that Jesus offered to the Father from the cross. (Luke 23:34; 46) There is no doubt that the prayers of Jesus had a great impact upon those who witnessed them. John the Baptist had taught his disciple to pray and now the disciples of Jesus wanted Him to teach them.

Jesus began His teaching by offering a model prayer known as the “Lord’s Prayer.” (Luke 11:2-4) We also see this model prayer in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 6:9-13) The Lord’s Prayer is not a recital but a model of how we should pray to the Father.

In Matthew “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:7-8) It is in Matthew chapter six we begin to see the “how” of prayer. “Pray, then, in this way.” (Matthew 6:9) How then to pray is in simplicity without the use of meaningless words for the sake of being heard by others but pray from our hearts in the Spirit of Truth. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

The model prayer that Jesus offers is short on words and strong in meaning. (Luke 11:2-4) It is here that we lean the “what” of prayer. The Prayer has four key elements. We are to pray in reverence for the name of God that we are calling upon. The Praise that only the Father is worthy to receive. “Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.”  We are also to pray for the progress of His Kingdom and will to be done on the earth. For He is able to provide for all our need both physical and spiritual. “Give us each day our daily bread.”  God is gracious and His mercy endures forever. For we ask for God’s pardon and forgiveness. “And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”  Lastly we seek His protection. “And lead us not into temptation.”

The Parable itself is that a man finds himself with company that he did not have provision for. He decides to go to a friend’s house and asks if he can borrow some food to feed his company. It is late at night and his friend’s family has already gone to bed for the night and he refuses to get up and provide food for his friend at the door. But the friend in need persist and is given the food.

The point of the Parable that Jesus is telling is the importance of being persistent in prayer. Jesus is teaching that those who are persistent in prayer, those who ask, seek, and knock will receive and have the doors opened unto them. Ask, seek, and knock are spoken in the present tense which is saying to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. There is also a progression seen here in the usage of the language. One usually starts by asking but in the progression with they seek to receive what they are asking for. As they perceive their persistence about to bear fruit they will begin to start knocking. If we do not persist in our prayers this could be a reason that our prayers are not answered.

We must at all times in prayer be mindful of who we are praying to. Jesus makes this point clear by comparing the request made to earthy parents. If a son asks his father for bread he would not receive a stone. He would not receive a serpent when asking for a fish. Neither a scorpion for an egg. Jesus here is asking a rhetorical question and the answer to each is “no.”

If earthly fathers, as evil as they are, know how to give good gifts to their children, then God who is righteous would give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. The reference of the Holy Spirit relates to the promise of the Holy Spirit which had not yet been given. The Apostles recieved the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

The point of the Parable is this. If we can be persistent with a friend and it becomes fruitful, if earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, then how much more will persistence in prayer to the heavenly Father be for us.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant February 17, 2017

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