Seeing Jesus pray prompted the disciples’ request for Jesus to teach them to pray. In response, He gave them the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern for praying. Then, to encourage shameless boldness in prayer, He told a story (Luke 11:5–9).
In Jesus’ story, a householder is awakened at midnight by a neighbor who wants bread. There is no life-threatening emergency. He is simply entertaining and needs more bread. The householder replies, “Go away; come back tomorrow; we’re sleeping.” But the neighbor won’t leave. He keeps pleading. He won’t be ignored. Eventually the householder gets up and gives the neighbor bread. Jesus comments that it is because of the man’s impudence. The lesson is to be bold and shamelessly persistent in prayer.
Jesus is teaching us to “wear God out,” so to speak, with our coming. Repeat your requests. Persist. Be shamelessly assertive. That all seems counterintuitive to us. We have been taught not to be a pest or make others tire of us. Yet Jesus says that this neighbor’s persistence is the reason that the householder got up to meet his request. Luke 18 tells a similar story of a widow who pestered an unjust judge for a favorable decision. Clearly, God is not indifferent like the unjust judge; nor is He reluctant to meet our needs. The point of this story is to be bold, assertive, and indefatigable in prayer.
The key to understanding shameless boldness in prayer is adoption. In a healthy family, a child has access to his father. He can climb up on his father’s lap. She can stroke his beard or twirl his hair. Jesus reminds us (Luke 11:9–12) that good fathers do not give their children a snake when they ask for fish or a scorpion when they ask for an egg. This prompts the question, “How much more will your heavenly Father give you the Spirit?” Children are bold and relentless. An adult may say, “I don’t want to trouble you, but I was wondering . . .” But children make untimely requests. They persist, asking again and again.
By grace, we are children of God, adopted into His family. Adoption enables boldness in prayer. I am not an employee coming to the boss but a son coming to his Father, a son in whom (because of the gospel) He is well pleased. I come in confidence that the Father is inherently good. Because of Christ’s life and death, I have access to be shamelessly bold in making my requests of my Father.
Jesus, who was eternally with the Father, did something that would make us children of the Father: He took our sins to the cross. According to His humanity, Jesus “endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body” (Westminster Confession of Faith 8.4) as He bore God’s wrath against the transgressions of His people (Heb. 2:17; Heb. 5:7–10; 1 Peter 2:22–24). Because of this, God the Father can turn His face toward us as adopted children (Rom. 8:15). Jesus “fully satisfied the justice of his Father” (WCF 8.5; see Rom. 3:21–26) so that we might have access in our darkest hours to boldly approach God’s throne.
Dr. Tedd Tripp is pastor emeritus at Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pa., and president of Shepherding the Heart Ministries. He is author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart.