Day 6: Petition - Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools

Day 6: Petition

Then Jesus said to them, “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 11:5–8

Prayer, at its simplest and most straightforward, is asking God for help. But what are the guidelines to the “help” we can and should ask for?

Jesus teaches us to include the phrase “give us” in our prayers. Yet surely there are some requests selfish enough or impractical enough that God just laughs them off. So where does my will stop and God’s begin? How do I ask in a way that’s in line with God’s eternal perspective? What’s worth praying about, and what’s just life?

From cover to cover, the Scriptures make this comprehensive point when it comes to prayer: God wants us to ask. He wants to hear you and me say it. Why? If he knows what we need before we ask him, why does he want us to voice our request? I believe there are two primary reasons: relationship and empowerment.

Relationship is illustrated in today’s Scripture passage, a story about prayer that was surprising in its ordinariness and irreverence. This story seems too common for the mystical action of prayer, but that’s precisely the point. Jesus used something as common as bread to explain that asking is an expected component of our relationship with God, as normal as ringing the neighbor’s doorbell for a pinch off her sourdough starter or a few extra buns for a summer barbecue already underway. Talking to God is not an awkward meeting with an old, white-bearded monk where you try to think of something profound to say. Prayer is as casual as small talk. Asking is the experience of prayer at its most relational.

And our asking makes a difference. We really are empowered through our prayers of petition. Dallas Willard writes, “God’s ‘response’ to our prayers is not a charade. He does not pretend he is answering our prayer when he is only doing what he was going to do anyway. Our requests really do make a difference in what God does or does not do.”

At the end of today’s passage, as an illustration of God’s heart toward us in our asking, Jesus offers the image of a father who likes to give his kids what they need and want, “if you sinful people 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” (Luke 11:13). God is our Father. He’s got a lot going on—a whole lot more than our minds can grasp at any given moment. Yet he still loves to give us what we want.

Ask. That’s all he wants from us.

To Practice: Asking is praying at its most personal. Ask God for what you need and want, focusing specifically on the needs and wants of this single day—daily bread.

From the Book: