Friday, December 10, 2010

Niggly Verse

A verse from our leadership team Bible study this week has been annoying me. It has been following me around since last Tuesday, pulling at my coat and saying, 'You don't get me do you?' It's this:

'I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.' (NIV Luke 11:8 - Jesus speaking)

Jesus' disciples have asked him to teach them to pray, '...just as John taught his disciples.' We don't know anything about how John taught his disciples to pray.

Jesus then taught the prayer we now know as the Lord's Prayer. Many have wondered over the years, and books have been written, as to whether Jesus intended to teach a prayer for repetition or a pattern as aide-memoire. It's another 'don't know' I'm afraid. We use it in both ways.

Then, according to Luke, Jesus says this:

'Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.'
Luke 11:5-9 (New International Version, ©2010)

Notice the new translation in the excellent NIV 2010. But it still seems as if, if we decide who is who in this parable, God will tell supplicants to bog off because he is sleeping. Surely not?

I think, after a week's ponder, that those of us who occasionally ask God to do things for us, are being told that we have a special relationship. Although most people will not be gladly disturbed after midnight when the light is out for the night our friends will be OK with this. Tired? Yes. Irritated? Possibly? But aware that friendship carries responsibilities that other relationships do not? Exactly.

We can approach God as a friend. 'Hey God - it's me, your mate St. Could you...?'

Well I thought that on Thursday but it's not what the passage says. In effect the passage says your friendship counts for nothing. That won't get God out of bed. It is your boldness, your shameless audacity that has him put his trousers back on and raid the larder. He had already told his friend to go away (presumably the friend didn't but stood nagging).

What on earth are you doing God? Get up. I need the bread now.

Next time it falls to me to lead a prayer time we are going to have a go at shameless audacity.


Anonymous said...

Ok ... look forward to it.
PS how do you know God wears trousers?

RuthJ said...

I would assume the trousers are probably intended metaphorically. It's a vivid phrase which communicates rather more strongly in the 21st century than 'gird up his loins'.

I like 'shameless audacity' - much better than 'boldness' - but neither to my mind lives up to the KJV 'because of his importunity' which I've always understood as 'because he's a b****y nuisance'. Suggests to me that we are being encouraged to be more real and less polite in our praying.