“And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:5-13)
It is very, very late midnight. All the lights are out. You’re in bed. All your children are sound asleep. Suddenly someone rings the doorbell and starts knocking at the door. “Friend! Could you help me? I need some bread! A friend of mine has come unexpectedly, and I have nothing in the house to feed him!” You try to ignore the unwelcome, shameless intruder. But he knocks again. “Friend! I need some help. I need bread!” Still, you ignore him. Then, he knocks again. “Friend, friend! I must have some bread!” Finally, you go to the door, trying not to wake the family. Without opening the door, you say in a rather angry, unsympathetic voice, “Go away. Leave me alone. Can’t you tell we are all asleep? I can’t help you.”
That silences the man, for a while. He stands on the stoop. Then, he turns to go home. But he can’t go home. He dare not go home. He still doesn’t have any bread to set before his friend who has dropped in on him. So, he comes back. He knocks on the door again, louder than before. “Friend! Friend! Friend!” he cries, till the dogs begin barking and the neighbors start opening their doors to see what’s happening. He puts his ear to the door. He knows you’re there. Finally, he hears you moving. Then, he sees a light come on inside. At last, the door opens and you hand him all the bread he can possibly use. All you want to do is get rid of him and go back to bed. All he wanted was some bread to satisfy his friend. — That is the story set before us in Luke 11:5-13.
Be sure you read this parable in its context. Is our Lord here teaching us that if we want something bad enough all we have to do is badger God into giving it to us, like a spoiled child badgers his parents into getting what he wants, or a nagging wife gets her husband to do what he does not want to do just to stop the nagging? – No. Is the Master here teaching us that if we really pray hard enough and believe strongly enough that we can get anything we want from God, if we really want it, if we just refuse to give up? – No.
Many faithful men and women, have pleaded with God to spare a dying loved one, as David prayed for his dying son, who soon buried the one for whom they had so earnestly prayed. Many parents have prayed for their rebel children, whose children perished still in unbelief. Many of God’s saints have prayed for God to relieve them of some heart wrenching trouble, as Paul prayed for God to remove his thorn in the flesh, who found that God would not grant them their request. You have experienced this, and I have too.
Our prayers never alter God’s purpose or change his will. Prayer is not the art of twisting the arm of omnipotence, getting God to do what we want him to do. Prayer has something to do with our compliance with God’s will. Our prayers are effectual when our prayers are in accordance with the will and purpose of God.
This parable is part of our Lord’s answer to his disciple’s request, “Teach us to pray.” In verses 2-4 he teaches us what we should pray for and how.
“And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.”
Our Lord’s instruction about prayer here is not the same as that which was given in his Sermon on the Mount. Here, our Lord ends his words of instruction by telling us to seek from God the forgiveness of sin and deliverance from all evil. Then, he illustrates his doctrine by giving us the parable of the man who knocked at midnight in verses 5-13. That is the connection; and that is the secret to interpreting this parable.
In this parable our Savior is telling us how to obtain God’s salvation, the forgiveness of sins and deliverance from all evil.
Did you ever notice how many things in the Bible took place at midnight? It was at midnight that the Lord God passed through Egypt, killed all the firstborn, and brought Israel out of the land of bondage with his mighty hand and stretched out arm (Exodus 11:4; 12:29). – That was a picture of redemption by the blood of Christ blood and by the power of his grace.
It was at midnight that Samson (Judges 16:3) took the gates of the city of Gaza, and the two posts, bar and all, put them on his broad shoulders, and carried them away up to the top of a high hill before Hebron. – That was a picture of reconciliation by Christ’s death.
It was at midnight that Ruth came into the threshing floor and laid herself at Boaz’s feet (Ruth 3:8). – That portrayed a needy sinner seeking God’s saving grace in Christ.
It was at midnight that the woman in 1 Kings 2:20 found her son gone and a dead one laid in his place. – That was a picture of life destroyed by sin and life restored by the wisdom of God our Savior in the exercise of his saving mercy.
Elihu said to Job’s three miserable friends, “the mighty shall be taken away without hand” at midnight (Job 34:20). – That portrayed the withering work of God the Holy Spirit in Conviction.
When taught to understand God’s righteous judgments, the Psalmist David said, “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:62). – That speaks of our gratitude to the just God, our Savior, by whom we are granted free justification.
At midnight the cry is made, “The Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (Matthew 25:6), because Christ Jesus our Lord is coming for his bride in grace and at the second advent.
It was at midnight that the Lord God shook the earth and broke open the prison doors at Philippi that held the Philippian Jailor (Acts 16:25).
And it was at midnight that Paul and those who traveled with him across the stormy sea drew near some country hoping for safety (Acts 27:27).
Every reference to midnight in the Word of God is connected with an event that clearly pictures God’s wondrous works of redemption and grace in Christ. It is no accident that our Lord in this parable speaks of a needy man coming to his friend at midnight. The parable is a word of instruction, telling us how sinners obtain God’s grace in Christ.
When the time of love has come, when the appointed time of mercy has arrived, when the time has come for God to save a chosen sinner, he graciously brings the object of his love into utter desperation. He creates midnight in the soul.
Is that the case with you? Are you a poor, needy sinner sitting in darkness? Once you thought you had light. Once everything was fine. Once you thought you had everything you needed. Once you presumed that you knew everything. Now, you are utterly engulfed in thick darkness. The darkness in your soul is so thick it hurts. Is that your condition? If so, this parable is especially for you.
The Lord Jesus Christ
Our Savior was often like this importunate poor man, out at midnight, knocking for bread. Often, after a long day of labor for the souls of men, struggles with his adversaries, warfare with Satan, and heartfelt trouble, our Master went at midnight to the gate of heaven and knocked again and again, until he got as much as he needed. These things are recorded by divine inspiration in the Gospel narratives, written without emotion or exclamation. They are things at which our hearts stand still, when we suddenly come upon them. — “He went up into a mountain to pray: and when the morning was come he was there alone.” — Again, “He departed into a mountain himself alone.” And again, “It came to pass in those days that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”
He continued all night. Do you see Him? Do you hear Him? Can you make out what he is asking? He stands up. He kneels down. He falls on his face. He knocks in the thick darkness that lays heavy on his holy soul. All night he prays, and refuses to faint, till the sun rises, and he goes down to his disciples like a strong man to run a race.
Yonder, in Gethsemane as he anticipated being made sin for us, the Lord Jesus knocked, and knocked, and knocked again, until his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground! Indeed, we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Rather, our Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest in heaven, is One, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, and was heard in that he feared.” Like us, he “learned obedience through the things that he suffered.” — “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”
However, in this passage the clear, primary thing set before us is the experience of grace in conversion. A friend of ours (God’s holy law) comes to us in his journey; and we have nothing to set before him. Oh, yes, the law of God is our true friend. It is a schoolmaster unto Christ. It is our friend, because it shuts us up to and forces us to flee to him, who is our souls’ Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s law comes and says to us, “Be ye holy.” – “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” It demands of us perfect righteousness and complete satisfaction. We are all death and sin; but the law comes, and demands life and righteousness. Immediately, we set out to do what we are told from God to do; but we find that we have nothing to set before it. The law says, “This do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:25-37). But we cannot do what the law requires. We cannot make ourselves clean (Isaiah 1:16-18).
And then, in our famine of life, and peace, and strength, we think of God in Christ. How unwelcome is the thought! He has all that we need. If we ask it of him, he will give us all we need! There is no question about that fact. Yet, if we could make any other shift we would make it.
The holy Lord God might very well and very rightly say to us, “I do not know you. Get some of your own friends to help you.” Indeed, we expect far worse from him. How we dread the thought of seeing him, worse yet, of him seeing us!
We turn back. We simply cannot go to God. But the intolerable pangs of hell are in our souls. Darkness is in our hearts. The fire of hell burns in our consciences. Famine in our souls has us bent to the ground in weakness. We have nothing. We must go on to God. No one else can help.
This horrid sinking goes on until hell itself is at the door. Then, we say like the four lepers at the entering in of the gate of Samaria: — “Why sit we here until we die? Now, therefore, come and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live: and if they kill us, we shall but die.”
I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away, I know,
I must forever die.
I grant this is not the best frame of mind in which to come to God. We ought to come to him full of confidence, full of assurance, doubting nothing. But I never knew a sinner in my life who did.
This is not a very becoming frame of mind in which to arise and go to our Father. But every father knows that a father does not http://www.ccel.org/php/disp.php3?authorID=whyte&bookID=pray&page=173&view=pngstand upon points with his son who was dead, and is alive again, who was lost, and is found.
Is there midnight in your soul? Has the law of God come demanding what you know you must give, but what you cannot give? Come, then, come now to the throne of grace.
“For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalms 107:9-15)
If today your friend, God’s holy law, has come to you, and you have nothing to set before him — If, in our Savior’s words, you have http://www.ccel.org/php/disp.php3?authorID=whyte&bookID=pray&page=174&view=pngcome to yourself today — If it is midnight in your soul — If you are now weighed in the balances and found wanting — Amid your fear, or your want, or whatever form your awakening may take, hear this word of grace and promise: — “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
Do it, as if the books were to be opened before sunrise tomorrow. Do it, as if already the thief were at your window. Go through this parable. Go through it on your knees, if not on your face. Read it; see it. This is instruction given by the Son of God himself to sinners. He is telling us how to obtain forgiveness, how to be delivered from all evil.
See the man at midnight. Imitate that man. Act out the parable in your soul’s lone midnight. Leave nothing out. Look at this poor soul in his straits. Hear his knocks sounding in the silence of the night. Hear his loud cry, and cry it after him. He needed three loaves. Do you not need three vital loaves? Do you not need life from Christ? Do you not need atonement by Christ? Do you not need the righteousness of Christ? Go to the throne of grace and tell the God of all grace what you need. — “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But conversion is not a one time thing. It is a lifelong turning to God, a lifelong coming to Christ, a lifelong struggle of soul. I have repented. I am repenting. And I shall repent. I have come to Christ. I am coming to Christ. And I shall come to Christ (1 Peter 2:1-4).
This midnight intruder represents God’s elect throughout the days of their lives in this world. So long as we live in this body of flesh, we will need to be just like this poor soul:— ever knocking at heaven’s door, ever asking, ever seeking, because we are always in great need of grace.
Let Zion’s watchmen give him no rest, until he establishes his kingdom in its fulness and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62:6-7). Let us ever put God in remembrance of his covenant and plead for his grace (Isaiah 43:25-26).
Our great, gracious God would have us come to him in shameless desperation. — We have nothing to bring!
How often we feel ashamed to come to the throne of grace. How embarrassed we are that we seem only to seek him when we are in utter desperation. Yet, in this parable our Savior teaches us to come in just that condition. If we did not need grace, we would not need to seek it. So he tells us plainly to come in our desperation, to come shamelessly, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
“I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Luke 11:8-10)
The word “importunity” does not adequately express our Lord’s intent. In fact, the word ought to be translated, “shamelessness!” — This was what our Lord really said: “I say unto you,” he said, “though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessness he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.”
“What shamelessness!” the man cried out, who was in bed, with his door shut. “What shamelessness!” the disturbed neighbors cried out. “What shamelessness!” the late passers-by said. “Hold your peace,” they said, “and let honest men’s doors alone at this time of night.”
“Never mind,” says our Lord on the other hand. “Never mind them. They have bread enough at home. It is easy for them to cry shame to a starving man. Never mind them. Knock on. Knock on. The man must rise if you go on knocking. Give him no rest. Well done! Knock again!”
Yes, shamelessness! “What a shameless wretch I am!” you will say about yourself, “to ask such things, to have to ask such things at my age, to knock so loud after the way I have rebelled against God, despised his grace, and trampled under my feet the blood of his dear Son!”
“At my age!” You now number your days and will blush with shame. http://www.ccel.org/php/disp.php3?authorID=whyte&bookID=pray&page=176&view=png“At my age, and only beginning to pray in any earnest! How many nights have I had no time to give to God! And, now, to expect that when I lift up my finger, and go down five minutes on my carpeted knees, God Almighty is to hasten and set everything aside to hear me!”
Yes. Repentance requires shameless humiliation, the very shamelessness with which Ruth went to Boaz at midnight on the threshing floor. As Christ says here, it takes “shamelessness” in us for proud rebels like you and me to come to the throne of grace in our souls’ midnight and sue for mercy. — There is much to aggravate our shamelessness.
It kills us to have to say such things even with our doors shut. But it is infinitely better to say all these things in closets than have them all proclaimed from the housetops in the Day of Judgment!
Knock, man! Knock! For the love of your soul, knock! Knock as Noah’s neighbors knocked once the door was shut and the rains began to fall! Knock as they knock to get into heaven after the door is shut! Knock, as they knock to get out of hell! For Christ’s sake, knock! Knock until the door opens and you have obtained the blessing. Like Jacob, cry out to the Son of God, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me!”
The Blessing Sought
The thing we need, the thing we must have, the thing God alone can give is the blessed gift of eternal life, grace and salvation by his Holy Spirit.
“If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13)
This gift of the Spirit includes the whole experience of God’s salvation, all the blessedness of God’s covenant promised to his elect before the world began, flowing to every redeemed sinner by the merit, power, and efficacy of Christ’s atoning blood (Galatians 3:13-14).
Just before he ends his sermon on prayer, our Lord in one word gets to the heart of his doctrine. This shameless desperation in prayer is for the Holy Spirit. It is for God’s salvation. It is no longer a prayer for bread, or for a fish, or for an egg. It is not a prayer for long life, or for riches, or for good health. It is not what shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed?
This is shameless importunity for life, eternal life! Our Lord would hear us saying at the end of his sermon: “One thing do I desire, and that will l seek after.” We have wrestled at midnight when we saw Esau coming to meet us with his armed men. We have made our couches swim with tears when our sin found us out. We have fallen on our faces when death approached. But this one thing we must have. We must have Christ. We must have God’s salvation. We must have the Holy Spirit.
It is God the Holy Spirit who weds the soul to Christ. It is God the Holy Spirit who gives dead sinners life. It is God the Holy Spirit who gives us faith. It is God the Holy Spirit who sprinkles our hearts with the blood of the Lamb. It is God the Holy Spirit who speaks peace and pardon to our souls. It is God the Holy Spirit who puts on us the garments of salvation.
The Blessing Obtained
Our Lord here promises that all who do, in the shameless desperation of faith, look to God for grace, salvation and eternal life shall obtain the blessing they seek. — “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you….If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (vv. 9, 13; Hebrews 11:6; Jeremiah 29:10-15). When your midnight is no longer, when the Holy Spirit has finished his midnight work in you, then, (Oh blessed blessedness!) after grace, he will give glory, too!
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9-17)
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