Does God WANT To Answer Prayer?
We may wonder, sometimes, if God wants to answer, if He ever answers, if He even hears our prayers.
The Widow, Not The Judge
Jesus says in Luke 18
“In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.'”
We sometimes think that story is meant to apply to God.
We think this because we don’t read the verses immediately before or immediately after this story.
Before, Luke records Jesus telling His disciples about the last days and their difficulties. Luke then says:
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.
After the story, Jesus says:
“Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
This story is not about persevering until God finally relents. That’s slanderous on God’s character, equating Him to “the unrighteous judge”.
This is Jesus saying, ‘It’s going to be extremely tough. Here’s what you do: be like the widow and persist in believing in the character and position of God.’
God is the One who is just. God is the One who will render judgment. It may seem like a long time, but God is not ambivalent or acting selfishly. Don’t doubt Who He is or what He says He’ll do. Believing God about what He says He’ll do… that’s faith.
Persistence vs. Shamelessness
Jesus says in Luke 11
“Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are 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, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs…
The problem of this passage comes down to repeated pronouns impacting how we translate one word. There are a whole lot of “he” “him” “his” in here. So when we get to the word “persistence” we think it belongs to the guy who’s knocking on the door.
My Bible has a footnote that says that word is literally “shamelessness”, not persistence.
Still, as westerners, we think this means the guy persists to the point of having no shame. That’s because we want to earn everything and don’t have the cultural reference for shame that Jesus and His disciples had.
What if we substitute in the literal translation and a couple of names?
“Suppose one of you has a friend (Bob), and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Bob, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside Bob answers and says, ‘Do not bother me, Jack; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’
I tell you, even though Bob will not get up and give Jack anything because Bob is Jack’s friend, yet because of Bob’s shamelessness Bob will get up and give Jack as much as Jack needs…
Doesn’t that last sentence read better logically?
Even though the request has been made based upon friendship, it’s not friendship that will get Bob to move. It’s that Bob won’t be put to shame.
If Bob ignores Jack… it’ll get around. Jack will be shamed because he couldn’t supply for his guest. But Bob’s name will be shamed because he could have supplied for Jack’s guest and chose not to. Bob won’t let that happen. He’ll keep his good reputation first.
Moses to God, (loosely quoted):
“God, if You snuff these people out right now, it’ll get around that You weren’t able to deliver on Your own promises.”
God does not wipe out Israel in the desert. For the sake of His name.
It’s Not About Us
When we come to God, it’s not about us.
First, Jesus starts in Luke 11:2
“‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread…
Second, Jesus teaches about prayer by telling a story about a guy asking for bread for the next day. Note that we’re supposed to be tracking that the prayer and the story are related.
Third, Jesus says
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened…
Finally, Jesus then goes on to compare our goodness with the goodness of God.
“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
All of this is Jesus’ teaching on prayer.
God’s name is holy, and we are to pray that it is kept holy: “…hallowed be Thy name.”
God will answer us not based upon who we are to Him, but because He will not be put to shame.
God invites us to ask, seek, knock so that it will be given to us, we will find, doors will be opened.
And THEN, in case we thought we were in tight with God because we were friends with Him, we’re corrected on that thought, brought back to Jesus’ opening prayer, and told even better: God is our Father, and He’ll give us good gifts because He is good. “…how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Does God WANT to answer prayer?
We have no idea how much God wants to answer our prayers.
Are times tough? Don’t give up. God is not ambivalent. He will answer.
God, we come to You because of Who You are. You are the world’s Judge, our God, and our Father. You cannot be worn out with our requests because You tell us to come. You tell us to ask, to seek, to knock, to search out answers to prayer expecting to receive, find, and have ways made open. You will render justice because You are righteous, not unrighteous. You will answer us because we depend upon You and You will not allow Your name to be put to shame. You are so much better than the best of us, we cannot imagine how much You are willing to give us–even of Yourself! So we bring to You all our desperate situations, all our needs… and we expect You to answer! Thank You, Amen.