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 shameless audacity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. [emphasis mine] 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!”
The Heart Posture of Prayer
When the Disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he not only taught them a model prayer, he also taught them the proper heart posture of prayer. The heart posture of shameless audacity and persistance.
Audacity, shamelessness, insolence, impudence, boldness to the point of being rude, indecency, immodesty – all this and more is bound up in the greek word anaideia which Jesus uses to describe the man asking his friend for bread in the middle of the night. That is the word, that is the heart posture, that Jesus instructs us to have in prayer.
I find that so fascinating. This isn’t a conference on prayer where the disciples come together to talk about what “works.” No human in their right mind would approach the Almighty Creator of the Universe in that way. We would choose awe, reverence, fear. Yet Jesus teaches us that effective prayer is like a man banging on his friend’s door, shouting for the whole neighborhood to hear or like a widow who nags to death the judge ruling on her case.
Now, God is not an unjust judge or a reluctant and lazy friend – those two characters are clearly contrasts to God’s generosity and extravagence. But that is how God wants us to approach Him. God wants us to wear Him out asking for the things we want, He wants us to come before Him with boldness, even rudeness, He wants us to make a scene.
I think of Hannah praying for a son and the priest, Eli, thinking she was drunk. I think of Phineas stalking through the Israelite camp to kill the man having sex with a foreign woman. I think of Elijah stretching himself out over the widow’s son and crying out to God for Him to raise the dead. There are obviously other stories as well, but those particular stories represent to me the extreme lengths people go to in order to get an answer to their prayers.
It occurs to me that we are too polite when we pray. Certainly, the kind of praying Jesus talks about here is uncomfortable and embarrassing to my Midwestern sensibilities. It also occurs to me that Jesus doesn’t give a rip. I am now a citizen of his Kingdom – I need to embrace the culture of that Kingdom, not live in it as a foreigner.
To bring this down to a practical level, let’s talk about praying for healing.
Praying for Healing
In the past, my prayers have often been along the lines of: “God, would you please heal __________. Let your Holy Spirit come, set wrong things right and heal their body. Amen.” My prayer is often a little more extended than that, but along the same lines.
Do you see how impotent that is? Would you… please…let your Spirit come… The whole posture of that prayer assumes God is reluctant, that He only doles out healing and Holy Spirit to those who ask most nicely, or grovel most effectively. Does Jesus pray anything like that in the Bible? No! The exception being “let this cup pass from me” and guess what? That prayer wasn’t answered either.
As I’ve been meditating on this passage and trying to internalize Jesus’s teaching I’ve been trying out different language. This past Sunday, praying for a man with a sore hip I said, “God, heal this hip! Spirit manifest Yourself in power. Your Kingdom is here and in your Kingdom there is no sickness or disease, so pain, leave now!” And guess what… nothing happened.
The man I was praying for didn’t walk away with any relief, but I am absolutely convinced that my prayer was more in line with Jesus’s teaching than ever before. Coming before God with anaideia is coming before God with the assumption, even presumption, that His Spirit is waiting to obey our command. Do we have any right to command God’s Spirit? Absolutely not! But Jesus’s death and resurrection secured for us an everlasting love.
Shameless Audacity is only possible because of the Cross
I think that Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in this way because it is only possible to embrace this heart posture if we really believe in the potency of the Cross. If we don’t believe God loves us like He loves Jesus, we will never pray with impudence, we’ll be too afraid. If we only see ourselves as servants, we will never issue commands.
Prayer was a battle of persistence even for Jesus. How much more so for us? If Jesus taught his disciples not just once, but twice, how important persistent and shameless audacity was in prayer then I think it is something we should pay attention to. It isn’t easy, it goes against everything I know, but it is what Jesus taught.
I want to learn how to pray the way that Jesus did. I want his level of intimacy, I want his level of breakthrough. Truth be told – I want more than what he had. There is an old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” I’ll adjust that to say, “When in the Kingdom, pray like the King.” That is what proves our citizenship. That is what marks us as heirs. To do otherwise is not a sign of devotion, but of defection. We must allow ourselves to be governed by what God says, not by what we think is best.
Shameless audacity is not something that happens overnight. It takes time for us to adjust. But if we want to grow in prayer, if we want to be co-creators with God, people who release and advance God’s Kingdom, then it is absolutely essential.