Faith and prayer are tied together in unbreakable bonds. They are the two legs upon which the Christian journey is taken. One of the greatest illustrations of how these two virtues work together is found in the story of the friend in Luke 11:5–8:
“ ‘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.’ ”
In this parable, the man who asks for bread at midnight does so for three reasons: (1) someone is asking him for something to eat; (2) he has absolutely nothing to set before him; and (3) somehow he knows that his neighbor friend has what he needs. The self-awareness of the friend who has nothing to give must not be overlooked. If by chance this man had some small scraps of bread or a few morsels, he might be tempted to offer these to his guest. In so doing, his friend would remain hungry. However, he was aware that he had nothing to set before his surprise visitor. Faith helps us understand the severity of our condition—that we have nothing to give.
Understanding his true condition, the man goes to his friend’s house—even at an unreasonable time. When in faith we understand our true condition, our desperate need becomes our greatest plea. The story then shifts to the man sleeping inside his home with his family. His response is, “Do not trouble me” (v. 7). Here Jesus makes a forceful point: though the man will not open the door for friendship’s sake, because of persistence he will rise and give the one in need as many loaves of bread as he needs. Let’s not miss this critical conclusion: what the man will not do out of love for his friend, he will do out of love for his sleep, his convenience, himself.
“ ‘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,’ ” Jesus says (Luke 11:9). He does not say to ask once. He simply encourages us to ask (in persistence). “ ‘If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone?’ ” (v. 11). The answer is obvious. Jesus is not comparing but rather contrasting Himself with the man who hesitates in answering his friend’s request. At times, His apparent delay in answering our prayers is to test the genuineness of our petition. Persistent prayer is not intended to change the mind of God; it is intended to change the heart of human beings. And finally, if all of our petitions were answered immediately, our nature would never sense a need to commune with Him.
Jesus said, “ ‘If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ ” (v. 13). An evil tree cannot produce good fruit, and a good tree cannot produce evil fruit. It is remarkable, then, that parents, who are evil, give good gifts to their children. The appeal that Jesus makes to us is simultaneously sad and powerful: “At the very least, give Me (a good God) the same credit you would give yourself (a selfish parent). Trust Me.”