This passage deals with the topic of prayer. It is an assembling of some of Jesus’ teaching on this important topic.
Graham Ward in his book Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice calls prayer the “between place.” It is the place between the church gathered in worship and the church scattered into the world in obedience and mission. It is the place between the breaking of break and the distribution of bread to the world. It is worship and intercession, confession and petition, doxology and yearning for the coming kingdom (p. 59). Prayer connects heaven and earth. In this between place, we encounter God in midst of our burdens and joys of our everyday life. This is a place of relationship. So much more than any formula, prayer is about meeting with and relating to God. Ultimately, prayer is matter of surrender.
Prayer is a difficult subject. When we are hurting or afraid, we in the church turn to God in prayer. In this action, we sometimes, too often, maybe, make prayer into a form of magic. We try to wake up the sleeping God, hoping that this God will hear and respond to our prayers the way we desire. Sometimes we treat prayer like a cosmic slot machine. If we just keep offering the prayer, and get others to offer the prayer as well, then the indifferent God will hear and will respond. One more nickel, just one more nickel, and we will hit the answered-prayer jackpot.
It is easy to fall into this trap. One of my kids has gone through some tough health issues of the past few years. I have made prayer a form of magic. When desperate and hurting for your child, we do anything and everything. We want good news; we want situations to turn around. Please God, listen, respond, act, now!
Jesus presents a different view of prayer. Jesus’ foundation for prayer is a proper understand of God. Jesus says that God is our Father, who desires to give good gifts to his children. God is good. All the time. God is good. God is not indifferent or uncaring. He is present and loving.
The story of the persistent host in the middle of the night asking for bread emerges from the Middle Eastern concept of hospitality that demands that one person helps another with a request. Jesus is saying, how much more, abundantly more, will God our Father respond to our cares and burdens.
The lesson in this story is one of persistence. For those people and issues that we care about, we persist in prayer. We ask, seek and knock. This is not a matter of magic. Ultimately is it a matter of surrender. We turn our lives and situations over to God. This was the lesson I had to learn, and still have to learn. It is not easy. I try to live out Psalm 42. I must simply be still and silent and resting in God my Father. My God loves my child and me more than I can ever know. And so I simply trust.
The prayer that Jesus teaches his disciples is a prayer for the kingdom journey. In this prayer Jesus highlights what is to be most important as we live in this between place. Followers of Jesus are those who long for the kingdom, praying and working for that kingdom to become reality in the power of the Spirit. This kingdom is made manifest in our actions. Along the way, the Father cares for the needs of his children in everyday lifel N.T. Wright says that this prayer is an extension of the mission of Jesus. This is a mission that Jesus now gives to the church (see John 20:21) (Luke for Everyone, p. 135).
When we pray this prayer, we recognize the goodness and the hospitality of God our Father. And we commit anew to be the followers of Jesus who bless the world in his name.