BECAUSE OF HIS IMPORTUNITY
By John C. Carpenter
 
The gentile Physician, Luke, wrote, And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:1-13). In these words of Luke, there are two important points to be made concerning our prayers, and God's answering those prayers. The first point, our importunity in prayer, is the usual doctrinal teaching with regards to this parable. The second point, our need which drives us to prayer, is often ignored as a doctrinal teaching in this parable, but should not be.
 
BECAUSE OF HIS IMPORTUNITY HE WILL RISE AND GIVE HIM
 
First, Luke refers to our importunity in prayer. We certainly should ask our friends for assistance when we have a need, but there can be a problem with that. What happens when our friend [earthly or Spiritual] whom we ask for help refuses to help us, when our prayers go unanswered, and our needs go unmet? In our subject parable, we know that help was initially denied: and he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee (Luke 11:7). Luke instructs us what to do when we are initially refused help: I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth (Luke 11:8). In verse 8, the word importunity means “impudence, recklessness, audacity, shamelessness”. Importunity refers to recklessness or disregard of consideration by the person making the request. It represents one who knows no restraint, no deference, one who is reckless and imprudent in his or her relationship with others. It refers to someone who, without restraint, aggressively and persistantly asks, and keeps on asking, in spite of the impression given or the consequences which may result. In the parable, the friend that we asked for help eventually helped us, not because we were a friend of his, but because we were determined, persistent, and unfailing in our asking for his help.
 
Christ gave the Pharisees (Luke 17:20) a interesting parable, a parable consistent with the idea of persistance in prayer. He said, and he spake a parable unto them to this end [for this purpose], that men ought always to pray, and not to faint [become fatigued or weak, become weary of heart and determination]; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. Andhe would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:1-8). In this parable, the judge represents Christ, and the widow represents believers in Christ who, because they have a need, petition the judge for help. Initially, the judge would not [grant her request and help] for a while, but the judge eventually said, Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her [answer her petition and help her], lest by her continual coming [persistent, determined asking] she weary [fatigue] me. Because of the widow's determination and persistance, her importunity, in asking for help, the judge finally gave in to her request. God the Father's teaching here is clear; when believers in Christ pray always [persistantly and with determination, with importunity], and faint not, He will eventually answer our prayers according to his purposes and will.
 
I HAVE NOTHING TO SET BEFORE HIM
 
The scriptures clearly teach that beievers in Christ are to be importunate, determined and persistant in our prayer, and this teaching is usually the focus when believers [and unbelievers] read our subject text. However, there is a second aspect of this parable, an aspect which we often overlook - the want or need that motivates us to pray.
 
The apostle John had taught his disciples to pray. Knowing this, one of Christ's disciples asked the Lord to teach them also to pray, as John had taught his disciples. Christ answered this request by teaching His disciples what theologians refer to as the Lord's prayer (Luke 11:2-4). Immediately after that, Christ began to tell His disciples a story, or parable, in which He addressed our need in prayer. Christ said, Which of you [represents we believers in Christ] shall have a friend [represents God the Father and Jesus Christ], and shall go unto him [God the Father and Christ] at midnight, and say unto him [God the Father and Christ], Friend, lend me three loaves [food, nourishment]; For a friend [represents a associate or neighbor that we are fond of] of mine in his journey is come to [visit] me, and I have nothing [no food or nourishment, no way to meet his need] to set before him? (Luke 11:5-6). The words “I have nothing to set before him” in verse 6 has meaning and significance which are usually overlooked, or ignored. When we read these verses, we are usually more focused on the need for and requirement of importunate prayer rather than the need which we have. Our subject verses not only address our need for importunate prayer, but also address, simply, our need. As long as we are in our earthly bodies, we shall all eventually have some type of need that drives us to prayer. Our need may be related to ourselves, those who hurt us, need for patience, strength, family, friends, enemies, anger, our job, pain, health, or financial needs. Or, we may simply have a prayerful need just to love God, or man, more.
 
Again, as in other parables, Christ uses an example in the natural world to make His point about the spiritual world. From a worldly viewpoint, for example, we may have a personal friend who decides to take a journey and visit us at our home. After the friend arrives, we realize that they are hungry, and we are unable to feed him or her. Our cupboards are empty, our refrigerator contains no food whatsoever, we have no money in our pockets or credit cards, our wife has money but she is out of town, our telephone has gone out due to a storm so we can't call out for pizza, our garden has wilted, and our car battery died yesterday and will not start. We do have other friends, but they live miles away, and it would take hours to walk to their house to ask for assistance. To put it bluntly, we are in a fix. We are totally anxious, desperate, helpless, and powerless to meet our own desire and need to provide something for our friend. We literally have absolutely nothing to offer our friend who has come to visit us, and we feel embarassed and ashamed.
 
From a spiritual viewpoint, in verse 5 of our subject verses, the friend who we ask to lend us three loaves of bread represents God the Father, or Jesus Christ. Christ refers often to believers in Christ as his friends. Speaking to His disciples who were believers in Christ, Christ said, And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do (Luke 12:4). Referring to His own crucifixion and death, Christ said, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you (John 15:13-14). Speaking to His disciples, Christ referred to Lazarus as our friend (John 11:11). Believing in God is synonymous with friendship with God: And the scripture was fulfilled which saith,Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God (James 2:23). The second friend mentioned in verse 6 of our subject verses represents another human being, an associate or neighbor that we are very fond of, and whom we refer to as a friend, who has come to visit us. One point of the parable is that in the natural realm, when we have a close friend who has a specific need which we cannot meet, we may ask another friend of ours in the natural realm for his or her help. Likewise, in the spiritual realm, when we have a friend who has a specific need which we cannot meet, we are to ask our spiritual friend, Jesus Christ, or our Heavenly Father, for His help, and ask importunately, persistantly, with determination, and without growing weary. Luke taught that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1). Paul instructs us to Pray without ceasing (1Thess 5:17) and to pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Eph 6:18). Paul adds And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Gal 6:9).
 
God the Father not only responds to our importunate prayer, but He also, according to His own will, answers our importunate prayer in two ways: He meets the quantity of our need, as well as meets the type of our need.
 
With regards to meeting the quantity of our need, Luke teaches us I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth (Luke 11:8). God promises to give us as many [as much as, as great as] we needeth [be in want or need of]. We are also reassured that if we ask, it will be given to us, and that if we seek, we shall find, and that if we knock, it will be opened to us (Luke 11:9-10). With regards to meeting the quality of our need, Christ Himself teaches us in His own words that If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone [something that will not meet our need]? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent [something that will not meet our need]? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion [something that will not meet our need]? (Luke 11:11-12). Christ summarizes His point with this promise:If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give [good gifts, especially] the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:11-12). However, when praying, we must always remember that selfish prayers may not be answered: Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:3). Scriptures instuct us to be anxious for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be made known unto God (Philippians 4:6). God the Father promises, Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him (Psa 91:14-15). Paul and Timotheus wrote the saints in Philippi, my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever (Php 4:19-20).
 
Christ also promises that if we abide in Him, and His words abide in us, we shall ask, and it shall be done for us (John 15:7) and, ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you (Joh 15:16). The apostle James wrote the twelve tribes, Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not (James 4:2). God, through the prophet Isaiah, says, And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear [already know and understand their need] (Isa 65:24). The psalmist instructs us regarding prayer: ...Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer (Psa 4:1), yet promises that the LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth (Psa 145:18). The psalmist also comforts us that God hears and responds to our prayers of need: In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even [specifically] into his ears (Psa 18:6), and set me in a large [open space, i.e., liberty and comforting] place (Psa 118:5). We are encouraged to, Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth (1 Chron 16:10-12). Luke summarizes with simplicity: If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13). AMEN.




 
 
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
 
"For as yet
they knew not
the scripture,
that he must rise
again from
the dead"
(John 20:9)



 
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