And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give 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!”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Personally, I don’t want a rash of unprepared neighbors beating on my door at midnight asking for something that could wait until morning. “Hey, sorry to bother you while you sleep, but I was wondering if I could borrow your lawn edger.” No. That’s a terrible idea, and I don’t think Jesus is advocating for that. In today’s Gospel, the unprepared neighbor has a little more at stake than my thoughtless neighbor doing lawn work at 1am. The neighbor in the Gospel is put into the position of living up to a strict code of hospitality. Unprepared to meet this societal obligation, he asks his friend for aid, likely ashamed because he knows it’s unreasonable, but persists because of the need’s importance. The friend in the parable is also understandable in his reluctance to open the door but still meets his obligation as devoted friend and one who respects the norms of the culture.
Jesus, as he often does to us, switches our lens on his proposition: what if we are not the awakened neighbor, but the one unexpectedly in need? Should we fear asking for something important or deeply desired? What if we’re not asking a fallible human neighbor but our infinitely merciful God for help? Can God be annoyed? Will God tell us to go away? Jesus assures us God would not. We absolutely should ask for what we desire. God may not answer us in the way we expect, but God will answer and likely with something much more appropriate. If we ask God for a lawn edger, we should be confident we will not be sent away with a monkey wrench. But we may need to be prepared for God to send us home with something even more useful.
Jesus, please help me to really know my deepest desires, the desires I know you have for me as well. Guide me with the words to ask the Father for those desires. Give me a deeper understanding of myself and the grace of God’s patience as I fumble to express what I truly want and need.
—Jim Broderick KingPlease share the Good Word with your friends!