Praying with Shameless Audacity: Jesus’ shocking prayer parable in Luke 11

One of Jesus’ most unique teachings on prayer is found in Luke 11:5-8.

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” (Luke 11:5-8)

Jesus sandwiches this parable in the midst of His teaching on the model prayer (Luke 11:1-4) and approaching God with the humble trust of a child with a good father. His disciples are to approach God in prayer with shameless audacity.

There is no parallel of this parable in any of the other gospels. In it, Luke records a gem of a story to help us really grasp the way in which we should pray. In a culture of strong hospitality, the request of a neighbor in need, even in the middle of the night, cannot be refused, no matter how much one might like to do it. There is a social expectation of responding with hospitality to an unexpected guest and, likewise, to provide for a neighbor in need of rolling out the red carpet of hospitality.

In like manner, when we approach God in prayer, we can bring an expectation that God is committed to respond to us in our need. Our approach to prayer is like the neighbor who comes with “shameless audacity.” The Greek word ἀναίδεια, translated in the NIV as “shameless audacity,” has a range of meaning that we understand better when we consider how it is translated elsewhere. It is variously rendered “impudence or persistence” (ESV), “importunity” (NKJV/ASV/KJV), “brashness” (CEV), “persistence” (NRSV), and “shameless persistence” (NLT). Because of who He is, we can expect God to respond to our shameless audacity in prayer.

Not only that, but God is even better than the neighbor in the parable. God does not grudgingly get out of bed to answer our prayers. No, as Jesus continues in Luke 11:9-10, when we ask, seek, and knock in prayer, we encounter our God who is a better Father than the best of earthly fathers. Our shameless audacity is augmented by knowing that the One we approach in prayer is more good than we can ever imagine.

As Julian of Norwich wrote, “All of the strength that comes in prayer comes from the goodness of God, for he is the goodness of everything.”[1] And so, let us boldly approach God our Father in prayer. Let us come with a boldness that borders on impudence, as we shamelessly and audaciously ask, seek, and knock with persistence in prayer.

[1] Julian of Norwich in Devotional Classics, rev. ed., ed. Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2005), 77.

2 thoughts on “Praying with Shameless Audacity: Jesus’ shocking prayer parable in Luke 11

  1. Wrong and shallow interpretation of that particular scripture the woman whose door is knocked is Jesus and we are told she said i and my children are already sleeping the children mensioned there are those who have understood their sonship in christ Jesus while the woman knocking who does not even have for herself no the guest has not come to self realization of sonship .sons dont knock

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