Jesus taught by example, and this is particularly true in terms of prayer. Once, after He was finished praying, His disciples asked Him to show them how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). He responded by giving them an outline of what to include in a typical prayer. Then, after having taught His disciples to pray, Jesus furthers His instruction through the Parable of the Persistent Friend (verses 5-13), which pictures persistence and perseverance in prayer.
The parable includes three friends. A visiting friend had traveled for many hours to where he thought he would be offered food and shelter, but he had none, since his host's family had already eaten and retired to bed for the evening. Custom, however, dictated that the weary traveler be provided food. Not wanting to neglect his friend even though it was late, the host, a persistent friend, went to a sleeping friend's house nearby to ask for bread.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Friend
Ask means requesting something of another, often a superior. Seek means to endeavor to find a thing, to try to gain it, to strive after it with earnestness and zeal. Knock is a request for admission when the way is closed.
Jesus is telling us here that, when we are searching for an answer or a solution to a problem, we should actively expend effort to resolve the difficulty. He presents three different forms of seeking things, and each pictures different intensities of effort:
- Asking for what is wanted. This often requires humility.
- Seeking diligently for it. Sincerity and drive are key here.
- Knocking on doors to gain entrance. This means being persistent, persevering and occasionally ingenious.
This process signifies that if we want answers, we must seek them with earnestness, diligence, and perseverance, or put another way, that we seek them with a proper attitude of humility, sincerity, and persistence. It also implies that we ask for things that are consistent with God's will to give us. Such things would be those He has promised to give, that are good for us, and that bring honor and glory to Him.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Ask, Seek, Knock
The sleeping friend, awakened by his persistent friend, was irritated to be bothered so late at night. He flat out refused to give him any bread for his visiting friend, lest his sleeping wife and children be disturbed. He probably reasoned it would be better for one person to fast until morning than for his whole family to be disturbed at midnight. However, the persistent friend continued knocking, threatening to wake not only the whole family, but the whole neighborhood as well! So he got out of bed and gave his friend some bread—but not out of friendship. He gave in to persistence. A friend is a fine source of aid (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), but God the Father and Jesus Christ are our spiritual friends—our greatest friends. They give grace, mercy, and truth abundantly (Psalm 121:1-8; 86:15; Ephesians 3:20; I Timothy 1:14-16).
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Friend
This passage is devoted to one major objective: to instruct us concerning our perception of God the Father.
- He is not a reluctant stranger who can be bullied into bestowing His many gifts simply because of our many words. That is not the issue for being persistent.
- He is not a malicious tyrant who takes vicious glee in the tricks that He plays on His subjects—by giving a scorpion rather than an egg.
- He is not an indulgent grandfather who provides everything that is requested of Him. He does not spoil His children.
- He is our heavenly Father who graciously and willingly bestows good gifts when they are needed in answer to prayer.
The key is "good gifts when they are needed." God's good gifts may come a little bit at a time. Sometimes, we are not even aware that it is occurring, yet He has been supplying the very thing that we asked for. Somehow or another, we are not sharp enough spiritually to see it.
The parable clarifies one aspect of why we must be persistent in prayer, but there is another that deals with our perceptions of God's power and His purpose and how our requests fit into them. Unfortunately, we often misunderstand God's role as Creator and tend to think of Him narrowly as being our Benefactor. He is both Benefactor and Creator. However, we tend to emphasize the Benefactor aspect, while He tends to emphasize the Creator aspect. So when we feel a need, and our desire is great because we feel that the need is urgent, we want our desire filled immediately because we see it as the answer.
We may be absolutely correct that it is the answer and that what we are asking for is good in God's eyes—it is according to His will. However, there is more to our request from God's point of view. He lives in a different timeframe than we do; time does not mean the same thing to Him as it does to us. In addition, His perception of our request is different because He is looking at it from the vantage point of His purpose rather than from our limited goals, which are often to have relief, strength, a gift, or power so that we might be able to serve Him better. The request may be good and entirely justified, but God is still looking at it differently than we are.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Persistence
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Luke 11:6: