An emerging leader and Porterbrook Omaha student met with me recently to share some of the things God had been teaching him over the summer about prayer. I asked him to write about it so that others could benefit. Below is what he sent me.
This past summer, the preaching at Coram Deo focused on the theme of prayer. This theme matched God’s quiet work in my own heart. Theologically I understood how to pray, but somehow my prayer life felt dry. It lacked zeal and life. So I started asking questions about prayer and why we pray. And even more importantly, I started asking God to teach me to pray.
To my astonishment, God answered! In doing so, he has blessed my prayer life tremendously. I would like to share with you what he showed me through meditation on Luke chapter 11.
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, 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!”
In this passage, Luke gives us a detailed account of Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray. Jesus first gives them a model – the Lord’s Prayer. Next, he tells them a story to illustrate what a prayerful heart should be like. And the story itself is making a point, as all of Jesus’ stories do.
The ESV translation uses the word impudence in verse 8, where most versions use words like boldness or persistence. What does impudence mean? Impudence is defined as indecency or shamelessness. And this definition fits this story far better than boldness or persistence. The neighbor was not persistent, nor was he bold. He was rude.
Impudence seems to best describe this man’s actions, but how are we supposed to be impudent before God? Are we supposed to ‘bother’ him in the middle of the night? Or perhaps we should pray in the nude? This story seems only to raise questions. Jesus goes on to teach that if you seek you will find, knock and the door will be opened, ask and you shall receive. But I spent ten years asking God for very specific things – things in line with his will – and he didn’t give me any of those things. Why not?
As I reflected on this passage patiently and prayerfully, God began to connect the dots for me. Impudence is the key to understanding prayer. The rude neighbor in the story was impudent for the sake of his friend, not himself. He cared so much for his friend that he was willing to be shamed and indecent to provide for his friend.
This is our model for prayer. The point of prayer is to forget about myself so that I might love others through prayer. This idea of loving others in prayer truly rejuvenates prayer. Prayer becomes exciting and worthwhile. We get to act as Christ did everyday by caring more about others than ourselves.
The idea of impudence applies to asking, seeking, and knocking, too. In the past, I’ve asked, sought, and knocked for my own sake, not for the sake of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. I’ve been guilty of James 4:3: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” I have asked for freedom from sin so that I might have my own righteousness, so that I might spend righteousness on myself. How might impudence change this? Impudence would move me to ask for Jesus’ righteousness so that I might bring glory to his name and serve his Kingdom.
But the most beautiful observation about this passage is that Jesus is foreshadowing himself. He was the most impudent man of all. He let himself be stripped and beaten, thus becoming indecent. He did this because of his love for us, so that we would not have to be made indecent. Jesus was shamed on the cross, bearing our sin like a criminal so that we would not have to. Jesus was impudent to the point of death because of his love for us.
Impudence, as Jesus taught, is rooted in love and it is only available to us if we let the love of Christ into our hearts. Furthermore, it should be an evidence of Christ’s love dwelling in our hearts. Let us, then, be more impudent – more shameless and indecent – in our prayers!