Persistent Prayer

I want to continue the thought I started in my God of Secrets post about Luke 11. I don’t know how most people interpret the parable of the friend at midnight, but for me, it is one of the most significant passages in the Bible about prayer.

“And [Jesus] said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” Luke 11:5-8

Now we have to backtrack a little. In verse 1, the disciples had asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Then we see the part we all know so well, the Lord’s prayer. But Jesus doesn’t take a breath between verses 4 and 5…He is still answering their question. (Please understand that the following is my interpretation/revelation on the chapter and is completely original.)

First of all you (the green guy) have a friend (the orange guy) who traveled from afar to visit you. You want to be hospitable and pour into him (i.e. give him food). So you think, “Hey! I have another friend who OWNS the bakery! He can give me bread for this friend!”

See, the friend didn’t ask anything of you (they represent whatever/whomever you are praying for), but you wanted to give what you knew you did not have (true humility – I am nothing outside of Christ). But, you know a guy (Jesus) who has what you need – and more.

So you go to your friend and knock on his door, even though it’s midnight. “Hey man, I’ve got this friend who needs food, can you give me some? ‘Cause I don’t have any.” And then your friend answers, “Don’t bother me, man! I can’t give you anything right now.”

When you pray, God always answers (“he will answer”). But what if His answer surprises you? See, you knew to go to Him, you knew He had what you needed, but even though you are His friend (you have some relationship with Him), He’s asking for something more from you:

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture…I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”   John 10:9,14

Jesus is asking you to come to a new level: yes, you are His friend, but when you don’t understand why He won’t give to you, will you take that as an invitation to ask again? It’s not favoritism for those who persist more: it’s the nature of God’s kingdom. It’s the same reason why Jesus spoke in parables – so that only the hungry would seek out what they meant. Jesus is the door and He wants you to persist, to keep knocking to find what you are looking for. See, once you’re in the door, you have access to fellowship with Him, to the knowledge of God.

It is because of your persistence that Jesus will give to you: and that’s always more than you asked Him for initially. Now, knowing the context, the following verse should make a lot of sense:

“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.”   Luke 11:9

Note: I hope you don’t feel demeaned by my childish illustrations. I wanted to make this rather confusing parable as clear as possible. And feel free to give me kudos for my amazing drawing skills too – especially my camel. (Yeah, I’m joking.)

The God of Secrets

I just read this fascinating article published by the New York Times back in June called “Mystery on Fifth Avenue”. It got me thinking. As humans, we love mysteries. I don’t think this is a character trait or quirk; I think we all love solving puzzles, riddles, enigmas – whatever you want to call them – in some form.

But why? I guess I ask that question a lot…It’s not that I love to find out how things work, I just like to know about human nature. My conclusion to the question “Why do we love mysteries?” is this: God loves mysteries. OK, that was really anti-climactic. But it’s true!

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Prov. 25:2 (ESV)

The New Testament speaks 27 times of God’s mysteries. I think that He hides on purpose. That way, only those who are hungry will look hard enough to find Him. And when I say the hungry, I don’t mean the unsaved: I mean Christians who are looking for more of God.

Now the question I have to ask myself is “Do I want to take the time to search out God and His mysteries?” It’s so much easier just to spout off what I know about Him and never go and actually get to know Him. But I think only those who are really persistent get the reward: the knowledge of God. It’s not as if when Jesus tells the story of the friend at midnight (Luke 11), the friend only had to ask him for bread once: it was only by his persistence that he received what he asked for.

This is how I want to live the rest of my Christianity: continually seeking out God and His mysteries until He answers me.

Faith Grows Exceedingly

A few weeks ago, I posted that I was asking for more faith specifically in the area of finances. God came through in many ways and I hope it’ll encourage you to hear what He’s done for me lately.

Just a couple days after I began to focus on praying for faith, I received anonymous cash in the mail. I laughed at how sneaky God is. Then a week after that, I received a generous support check from some old friends of mine who don’t even get my support letters! But the most playful thing was yet to come: I posted on my Facebook that I have been wanting a bicycle; Josiah has one and it wasn’t a need, I just wanted to be able to go riding with him. Well, the next day, we were at a party and the host came up to me and said, “So you want a bike? I have an old Schwinn that’s sitting outside; you can have it if you want it.” At the time, I didn’t even remember that I had told anyone I wanted a bike!

As we put the bike in my car I kept saying, “Oh my goodness! I can’t believe God!” It just reminds me of how much God loves to give good gifts to His children, even when it’s a want and not a need. One of my favorite sermons is Allen Hood’s Playfulness of God. I listen to that message once a year just to remind me that God has a sense of humor.

My problems or need for money didn’t decrease during that time, but my faith undoubtedly increased. I could tell you story after story of recent things that have happened to other IMs at my prayer room but instead I’ll just leave it at this: I have a God who is faithful and I have a little more faith in my own heart to believe that He’s gonna be there for me when I need Him.

A Different Kind of Faith

A couple weeks ago, my boyfriend decided to quit working at a coffee shop and be full-time staff at my prayer room. It’s cool because we will “work” at the same place and be on the same schedule (9pm-4am), but there are a lot of other factors too. When I told one of our friends that we were going to be the poorest people he knew, he responded, “You two are already the poorest people I know!”

The two of us are doing something that makes no physical sense. Relying on God for – literally – my next meal seems so irresponsible. I am in a financial position right now which looks like this: if something drastic doesn’t happen in the next month, I am either on the street or out of the prayer room. But despite that, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am in God’s will.

So what am I asking the Lord? Not for some kind of way to make a lot of money quickly, but rather for a different kind of faith. I need a level of faith that’s never been required of me before because this frightens me to death.

Last night I questioned why God makes Himself seem so distant when it comes to simple, physical things like this. Today, I’m just asking that I have the faith to rest in the fact that He is near and He wants to take care of me; for now, this is my journey into the knowledge of God.