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.

Learning to Pray with Jesus [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_BannerOne day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

In order to become a person of prayer, we must want to learn. Like Jesus’ disciples in Luke 11, we must not only want to learn to pray, but we must also ask the Master Teacher to show us the way. There were many things the disciples noticed about Jesus, but one of them was His life of prayer. We read in the Gospels that Jesus drew away by Himself to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12-13). The disciples undoubtedly noticed not only the actions of Jesus, but the character that resulted from this life of prayer. As they noticed it, they also desired it.

Because of what they saw, the disciples reached out to Jesus, requesting that He teach them to pray. In a few days, we will examine Jesus’ teaching on prayer, known as the Lord’s Prayer, but it is enough for us now to notice that the disciples’ request is met with Jesus’ willingness to teach. As Andrew Murray points out:

Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, only how to pray. He did not speak much of what was needed to preach well, but much of praying well. To know how to speak to God is more than knowing how to speak to man. [1]

Do we desire to pray like Jesus? Are we ready to learn from Him? Let this be the moment in which we stop all the rushing thoughts about what will come next in our day so that we might humbly approach Jesus in prayer. Let this be the moment in which we also say, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Lord, teach me to pray
 as You taught Your original disciples to pray.
Ignorant and humble as I am,
  bring the riches of wisdom about prayer to me.
Although I will always be a beginner,
  let me start today
as a student of prayer
  with You.


[1] Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer (Chicago: M. A. Donohue & Co., 1885), 15-16.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Praying Like a Master (discussion questions)

Art of Prayer Series Gfx_App Square Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Praying Like a Master,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the second of a three-part series, “The Art of Prayer,” looking at Jesus’ approach to the life of prayer from the Gospel of Luke. This week we looked at Luke 11:1-13.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the best gift you ever received from a parent or grandparent? How did it shape the way you viewed them?
  2. This week we continue our series “The Art of Prayer” from the Gospel of Luke. As you begin your study, ask God to guide you into a deeper life of prayer with Him. Then, whether you are with a group or on your own, read Luke 11:1-13 aloud.
  3. This passage is the longest stretch of teaching on prayer in Luke’s Gospel. What do you notice about the beginning of this teaching? What prompts Jesus to teach on prayer?
  4. Luke 11:2-4 parallels Matthew 6:9-13 and is usually known as The Lord’s Prayer. It is really the disciples’ prayer, showing us the heart of what Christian prayer is all about. Why do you think it is significant that we address God as ‘Father’ when we pray?
  5. Jewish prayers or benedictions often included mention of God’s name and kingdom. What would you say is the importance of this aspect of Jesus’ model prayer in verse 2?
  6. What are the three main requests in the prayer found in verses 3-4?
  7. Some traditions encourage believers to regularly say the words of this prayer together to shape our minds, desires and language for prayer around Jesus’ teaching. Take a moment, whether on your own or with others, to slowly pray these words back to God. Perhaps you may want to take some extended time on each phrase, lifting up your own words related to the phrase you just prayed.
  8. The small parable in Luke 11:5-8 aims to help us understand our approach to prayer through an argument from smaller to greater. The Middle Eastern value of hospitality figures prominently in this parable as hosts are obligated to thoroughly care for guests. What does this parable teach us about our approach to prayer?
  9. Jesus offers three significant words that describe the life of prayer in Luke 11:9-10. How would you defined them:
    • “ask”:
    • “seek”:
    • “knock”:
  1. How have you experienced prayer as asking, seeking, and knocking? How might you grow in that?
  2. The final illustration in verses 11-13 is another comparison from smaller to greater similar to the parable in verses 5-8. What would you say is Jesus’ point in this illustration?
  3. What is one significant thing you are learning through this study? How might you put that into practice this week as you pray? Whether on your own or with a group, take some time to pray based off of what God was speaking to you during this study.

[Next week we continue our series on prayer by looking at Jesus’ labor of prayer in Luke 22:39-46. Read that passage ahead of time to prepare.]

Praying Like a Master

Art of Prayer Series Gfx_App WideI continue our series, “The Art of Prayer,” this past weekend at Eastbrook with a message entitled “Praying Like a Master” from Luke 11:1-13. Jesus is the Master of prayer, and if we want to truly learn about prayer then we must apprentice ourselves to the Master. When the disciples had spent enough time with Jesus, they asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). With the disciples, we need to learn from Jesus’ essential teaching on prayer.

You can watch the message here, following along with the outline below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

 

The What of Prayer (Luke 11:1-4)

Addressing the Father

Declaring His Name and His Kingdom

Requesting what we need: provision, forgiveness, endurance

 

The How of Prayer (Luke 11:5-10)

With shameless audacity

By asking, seeking, knocking

 

The Who of Prayer (Luke 11:11-13)

The Father above all fathers

The Gift above all gifts

The Tale of Friends at Midnight

This past Sunday, November 8, I kicked-off a new series at Brooklife Church called “Storyteller,” in which we are looking at parables of Jesus.

I was looking at the parables of the friend coming to another asking for bread at midnight. The focus of my message was on the confidence we can have with our Father-God in prayer, while also providing an introduction to how we should read/hear parables.

For some background on this series and parables, read here.

You can listen to the message online here or download our podcast here.

You can also view the very simple presentation that accompanies my message below.

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