Unanswered Prayer: Be more Impudent!

Kids have a knack for wearing their parents down.  Generally if I ask for something and the answer is “No!”, I don’t keep asking.   That’s my answer.  But my kids never had that trouble (and I’ve never seen anyone else’s kids have that problem either).  They ask, and they keep on asking, until they get the answer they want (or whatever punishment you choose to mete out).  We call this nagging.  Persistent, impudent requests until the desired outcome is achieved.

We’ve been considering unanswered prayer, and that from many different angles.  Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?  Well sometimes God hasn’t answered a prayer yet, but he will answer it.  We’re supposed to keep on asking.

Jesus teaches this in Luke’s gospel.  After teaching the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:1-4, he tells this a question in the form of a parable:

5 … “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 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’? 8 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. (Lk. 11:5-8 ESV)

You need bread to be a good host (in this culture!), so you go and you keep on knocking on your neighbor’s door, requesting he give you what you need.  He refuses, is quite tired and grumpy, and is just generally disagreeable in response to your request.  The one thing he doesn’t do is give you the bread for which you ask.

What will you do?  You could quit, give up and go home.  But, no, you keep on knocking and you keep on asking.  You don’t take “No!” for an answer.  You knock louder and you demand more fervently.  And your neighbor will open the door and give you the bread you want.  He’ll do this not because he’s necessarily a great fella, but because he desperately wants to go back to sleep, to have his wife not be annoyed, to have his little ones not wailing and crying at this ungodly hour.  The persistence and impudence will be rewarded; you will get that for which you ask.

This is a classic “how much more” type teaching.  Jesus loves these kinds of lessons.  Your neighbor isn’t necessarily well disposed toward you (he might even be kind of a jerkface), but he’ll give you what you want based on your sheer impudence.  But our asking God in prayer isn’t like this.  If our neighbor will give us what we seek, how much more will God (who is, after all, a benevolent Father!) give us what we seek?  If persistence pays off with those who are grumpy and hostile, how much more with one who is gracious and well-disposed?

You should not give up in prayer, Jesus says.  Not seeing that answer you seek?  Don’t take no for an answer.  Keep on knocking, seeking, asking.  Sometimes God is delaying his answer and will reward your further impudent knocking.

Why would God do this?  Why would God delay giving an answer?  Why wouldn’t he just answer the first time we ask by giving what we seek?  Because we need to learn patience, dependence, faith.  Because we need to learn to rely upon him, trust him.  It’s good for us to persist in prayer.  It’s good for us to learn to relate to a God who is a benevolent Father rather than a genie at our beck and call.