The tired friend. The good father. The unjust judge.
Jesus knew that persistent prayer takes grit. It wears down our give-it-to-me-now mentality. It raises hard questions. It takes an ever-growing faith.
So he gave us some poignant pictures to keep us going. In all three of his parables on prayer, Jesus reminds us—keep asking, even when the waiting grows long and wearisome.
Here are three lessons we can learn from Jesus’ parables:
Pray with fearless abandon. When Jesus’ disciples asked for a lesson on prayer, he gave them a pattern to follow. Then he gave them two vivid pictures. In so doing he encouraged more that rote iterations. He wants our whole hearts involved.
Jesus told the story of two friends (Luke 11:5-8). One man is tucked in bed at midnight, warmly snuggled next to his children. His friend comes knocking at his door in need of bread. Unwilling to get up, he talks through the door, telling his friend to come back later. It doesn’t work. The man in need of bread just keeps knocking all the more.
Jesus concluded that because of his imprudence — his shamelessness in asking, his knocking like he had nothing to lose — his request would be granted.
For those of us who know Jesus, we have nothing to lose. God has called us a friend. So keep knocking on the door, trust our good God to open it up and give us what we need.
Pray remembering God’s generous character. We know that God answers prayer. We’ve seen it happen. But when the waiting gets long, we start asking hard questions.
I know God is able, but is he willing? Is a God who makes me wait this long truly good? How do I make sense of the times when he says no to good things?
So Jesus gave us another parable to remind us of God’s generous character (Luke 11:11-13). No good parent would give their child something harmful, he said. When our son or daughter asks us for a snack or lunch, we would never give them a snake or scorpion.
If imperfect parents like us know how to care for our children, and give them what they need, how much more will our perfect heavenly Father care for us.
Afterall he has already given us His Spirit—who is the sign and seal of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14) and the one who helps us pray (Romans 8:26-27).
So as we wait, wrestle, and pray, do so knowing that our good Father—and perfect parent—will give us what we need.
Pray relentlessly, believing the answer is coming soon. When the wait gets long, our hearts grow weary. We pray less. Or we consider giving up.
So Jesus told a story about a widow who wouldn’t give in to her circumstances (Luke 18:1-8). Instead she kept coming to a cold and heartless judge, who didn’t care about her or her case, until he gave her justice. She wore him down and wore him out, and though she herself was likely tired, she received a favorable verdict.
Our God is neither careless nor unjust. He knows us by name, has chosen us as his own, and delights to answer our prayers. But he wants to know—do we really believe?
Waiting often shows us the frailness of our own faith. It tests what we believe about God and ourselves. It puts us in the courtroom, asks us the hard questions, and then puts us face to face before God’s grace.
Ultimately, we learn that the answer to our prayers isn’t just in the end result. It’s in the waiting. God is getting us ready—opening our white-knuckled hands, softening our frustrated hearts, stretching our short-sided faith.
When we finally hold the thing we’ve asked for, we see it for what it is. A gift. Given by a good and gracious Father, who knows just what we need, even before we start to pray.
Today will you join me in praying long, trusting God to use the waiting, believing that he will answer with his very best gifts?