Have you ever wondered if you’re bothering God with repeated requests for help? I have, at times.
When we ask for God to intervene, and then experience what seems to be a delay in his response, we can become heartsick. We can lose patience, and even listen to the devil’s lie that God doesn’t care about us.
Jesus is unequivocal in teaching his disciples to risk a “shameless boldness” (Luke 11:8, CSB)) when it comes to our prayers and requests to God.
After providing a model prayer—what we call “The Lord’s Prayer”—Jesus stressed that when we pray beyond that for specific needs, we are to persist.
We knock until a door opens. We ask until we receive an answer. We seek until we find.
Then Jesus goes even further. He illustrates with a commonplace hypothetical situation. What if you had a guest breeze in from out of town without notice, late in the evening, wanting to stay the night with you? You were planning to run to the Kroger in the morning to pick up some groceries, but tonight, the cupboard and fridge are bare, and the stores are already closed.
Proper hospitality dictates you have some refreshment to offer your guest. What to do?
Then you think of your next-door neighbor, who always keeps his pantry full. (I know some people who do, who have extra everything it seems.) Surely, he won’t mind sharing some of his stock until you can get to the store.
So, you trudge over in the dark and knock. You wait a while, because there are no lights on and there are no sounds from inside. You ring the bell, and knock again, a bit louder.
Finally, your friend opens his upstairs bedroom window and looks down to find you there on the stoop. Obviously, you’ve awakened him. When you ask him if he can spare some bread and eggs, he looks at you like you’re nuts and asks you to go away. He finds your behavior appalling. The nerve!
“Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.” (Lk. 11:7)
But you are not willing to walk back home empty-handed. You simply must have some sustenance to give to your guest. To not do so would be equally appalling to you.
So you persist, and you refuse to budge until finally, as Jesus insists, your neighbor harrumphs, but proceeds to round up some provisions for you. He understands that you’re not going to leave him alone until he does.
Several chapters later, Jesus presents another hypothetical scenario parallel to this one. He speaks of a widow who needs the local magistrate to provide justice in the case of an enemy who has abused her in some way.
This judge is not a kind or even just person (he probably should seek a different line of work). But he says,
“Even though I don’t fear God or respect people, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so that she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming!” (Lk. 18:4-5).
Jesus doesn’t leave us guessing as to the application of his parable.
“Will not God grant justice to his elect who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay helping them? I tell you that he will swiftly grant them justice.” (v. 7-8)
These two parables make abundantly clear that Christ-followers are not quitters, whether it concerns getting needs met or seeking God’s justice on an issue.
We have permission—no, we are commanded—to have shameless boldness in asking for things that are in line with the will of God.
This is the attitude we are to practice in our prayer life. Like children who depend on their father to provide, we trust that God’s will is to provide for us, in big and small ways.
This is especially true when it comes to our spiritual requests. God listens, and he does respond. Jesus says,
“If you…who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Lk. 11:13).
And in Romans 8:32, Paul teaches,
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
I love the Apostle John’s unconditional statement of this reality.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. “(1 John 5:14-15).
How do we apply this?
Are you praying for the salvation of a loved one or the return of a prodigal in your life? Ask—are these requests in alignment with his will? Then,
Pray shamelessly and boldly for the salvation and restoration of your loved ones.
Are you praying for the healing of your marriage, recovery from addiction, deliverance from mental torment? Ask—does God want you to have a healthy marriage, body, and mind? Then,
Pray shamelessly and boldly for your marriage, and your physical and mental health.
Are you praying for a return to godliness, integrity, and wisdom in our government and culture? Ask—does God want people to walk in righteousness and lead others with integrity? Then,
Pray shamelessly and boldly for our nation, her leaders, and her citizens to walk in reverence for the Lord, crying out that all will “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly” before God (Micah 6:8).
In both of Jesus’s parables, the seeker did not get the answer immediately, but had to press the matter.
I don’t think Jesus is saying that God is churlish or self-centered like the neighbor or hard-hearted like the judge. I think he’s showing us that if these folks, whom he portrayed as ungodly and unwilling, eventually respond to persistent requests, how much more will our loving, generous Father respond to us?
This way of living requires us to understand God’s will, so we may pray in agreement with him. He is committed to care for us, provide for us, and give us supernatural, unexplainable peace in the midst of trials. He is committed to executing justice, now and later.
But as James wrote, we often don’t receive because we don’t ask, or we are misguided and ask for the wrong things. God is not going to answer a prayer with something that will harm us rather than help us.
It is so important that we learn how to pray, and that we pray with shameless boldness when we are asking for things that are in accordance with his will.