Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Luke 11:11
Having tried for years to have a child, Richard and Susan were elated when Susan became pregnant. Her health problems, however, posed a risk to the baby, and so Richard lay awake each night praying for his wife and child. One night, Richard sensed he didn’t need to pray so hard, that God had promised to take care of things. But a week later Susan miscarried. Richard was devastated. He wondered, Had they lost the baby because he hadn’t prayed hard enough?
On first reading, we might think today’s parable suggests so. In the story, a neighbor (sometimes thought to represent God) only gets out of bed to help the friend because of the friend’s annoying persistence (Luke 11:5–8). Read this way, the parable suggests that God will give us what we need only if we badger Him. And if we don’t pray hard enough, maybe God won’t help us.
But biblical commentators like Klyne Snodgrass believe this misunderstands the parable—its real point being that if neighbors might help us for selfish reasons, how much more will our unselfish Father. We can therefore ask confidently (vv. 9–10), knowing that God is greater than flawed human beings (vv. 11–13). He isn’t the neighbor in the parable, but the opposite of him.
“I don’t know why you lost your baby,” I told Richard, “but I know it wasn’t because you didn’t pray ‘hard’ enough. God isn’t like that.”
If the neighbor in the parable represents God, what does it suggest God is like? If verses 11–13 clarify the parable, what then is God like?
Father, today I bring You my needs and the needs of others, confident that You’ll hear and answer, and grateful that it’s Your goodness and not my words that count.
Read about the power of prayer at DiscoverySeries.org/Q0740.
Some believers in Christ struggle with the apparent promises of Luke 11:9–10. It seems that Jesus is offering a blank check that we present to God in prayer, assuming He must grant our requests. Christ’s words, however, may be a hyperbole—an extreme exaggeration to prove a point. Jesus clarifies the point He’s making when He describes the heart of His Father (vv. 11–13). The heavenly Father loves us deeply and desires the very best for us—which must be defined by Him and not by us. This means that when we go to God in prayer, we can be assured His responses will always be trustworthy.