Pray Impudently

Occasionally a Bible passage strikes you a little different than it did before—in my case, Luke 11:5-10, where Jesus instructs his disciples as to how to pray.

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 impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 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. (emphasis added)

I immediately sent this passage to a friend. “We’re supposed to be impudent?” she said. “Maybe I don’t know what that word means. I thought it meant disrespectful or rude.”

So did I. And more or less, it does. According to one Lexicon, the greek word anaideia, which the ESV translates as impudent, is defined by a

"lack of sensitivity to what is proper, carelessness about the good opinion of others, shamelessness, impertinence, impudence, ignoring of convention (a fundamental cultural consideration in the Gr-Rom. world, here with focus on tradition of hospitality)..." (Arndt, William et al. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 2000 : 63. Print.)

This understanding lines up with Jesus’ parable. Who wouldn’t be inconvenienced by an unwelcome knock on the door at midnight? It would disrupt the entire household! Heck, I have to put a note on my pizza orders telling the delivery guy not to ring the doorbell lest he wake up the kids, and he’s there at my own request!

Perhaps there’s someone in your life who will contact you out of nowhere at inconvenient times, needing your help immediately. And to make matters more pressing, if you don’t help, they will be stuck in their situation, forcing you to make arrangements to help. That’s kind of how I imagine the man in Jesus’ story. He’s gotten himself into a situation and needs help fixing it and nothing is going to stop him from asking for it, no matter how awkward or inconvenient it gets for his friend.

And apparently that’s how we are to pray to God—with impudence; shamelessly pounding on the door for the hundredth time at an inappropriate hour, asking for an answer to prayer, despite the fact that we’ve asked for it a hundred times before. God is a good neighbor who remains unfazed by bold requests. He does not roll his eyes at us as we might roll ours at others. He does not allow inconvenience to get in the way of helping us. He is a good God, a good Father, and a good Neighbor. And just as He expects us to love our neighbors, so He Himself loves us.

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