“Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying to that friend, loan me three loaves of bread because another friend of mine on a journey has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” Luke 11:5
Our reflection on Jesus’ teachings on prayer continues…
So not only have we already discussed how Jesus calls his followers to be the answer to their own prayers for others by offering midnight bread to their friends in need, but we have also discussed how this call – to be the offerers of midnight bread actually is more costly for us. Instead of simply offering a prayer, we are called to offer prayers on behalf of our friends and to also ask God how we might be the people God uses to answer those prayers.
As I continue to reflect on Jesus’ instructions on prayer in this passage, something else strikes me that seems relevant to our prayer lives and that is, inherent in our call to be people who not only pray for our friends in need, but people who also are called to be the answer to our friends in need, is the reality that there’s a good chance that in order to be God’s answered prayer for our friends we ourselves will need to be stretched beyond our comfort zone.
We see in the passage from Luke 11:5 that owner of the home is stretched beyond his own capacity to feed his midnight-friend. When his journeying friend arrives in the middle of the night, the journeying-friend asks the homeowner for something the homeowner doesn’t have. So, the homeowner is stretched beyond his current limits in order to meet the needs of his friend.
I don’t know about you, but there have been countless times in my own life when I have felt completely and totally stretched beyond my own limits, abilities, and even comfort-levels when I’ve encountered those midnight-friends who have come to me in need. There have been so many times in my own life when I’ve frankly been like the homeowner and simply not had the “bread” to provide for my friends. I’m thinking about this in a spiritual or emotional sense. Sometimes people come to me in such pain, or experiencing such trauma that I simply don’t have the experience, the depth, or the emotional or spiritual reserves to help. Sometimes people come to me and have asked for advice or counsel and I have just not felt like I have had the wisdom. But I actually think this is Jesus’ point… Jesus calls his disciples to be his faithful servants in situations that far exceed our own capacities…that require us to be fervent in prayer because without the filling and equipping of God’s Holy Spirit we simply wouldn’t be up for the task.
I think Jesus tells us that 1) we’re called to pray for our friends, 2) we’re called to be the answer to our prayers for our friends, 3) we don’t have the capacity or strength in and of ourselves to be the answer to our prayers for others… so 4) we need to include in our prayers for others prayers for ourselves and for God’s Spirit to strengthen, anoint, and equip us to be the way God answers prayers.
I am also coming to understand that when God uses us to be an answer to our prayers for others…God equips us in two different ways: 1) God equips us in immediacy by providing for us in that moment the things we need to love, serve, and care for those in need; and 2) God calls us to lean into God’s equipping for a season, so we can journey with our friends in need as long as they require…this often means we’re called to seek out new ways of being, new skills, new practices that allow us to be an answer to our prayers for our friends…but more on this next week…