This morning, persistence and perseverance to see a good thing through to the end is more of a rarity than the norm. In days gone by, people were more determined to finish what they started, but sadly, the crumbling culture has made the days of the here and now a lot of starts with very few finishes. Scripture abounds to encourage and exhort the disciple of Christ to see paths of righteousness to fitting and proper conclusions. Paul – in illustrating the point by pointing to gardening with sowing and reaping – encourages people not to faint and become weary in well doing. (Galatians 6:9) To persist in upright things, we need to take courage and strength that the Lord will be with us and supply all our need to do those things that are pleasing to Him.
Our study verse comes in the midst of a discussion on prayer, and Christ is in the midst of illustrating points He made in the opening verses in laying out the model prayer. After giving the foundation points of what prayer should entail and include, Christ analyzes the points to show forth the touching nature of our God in heaven. Our verse is in an illustration that starts in verse 5 continuing through verse 8. The story illustrates the prayer point in verse 3 of requesting our daily bread and natural needs.
The essence of the story is that if someone needs something and asks a friend, how will the friend respond? What if the circumstance and timing of the request is non-ideal? If a man asks his friend for help in the middle of the night, it is possible that even a friend will tell him to come back at some other time. If it is midnight, the house closed up, and the children in the bed, the friend could respond unfavorably and not fulfill the request of his friend needing 3 loaves of bread. The illustrative story concludes by Christ saying that if a man was persistent enough in asking, the person would rise and give his friend what he needs: not because of their friendship but just to get rid of him. If someone you knew was knocking on your door at midnight asking for something, you might not initially rise up, but if they kept knocking and knocking, you would then give them what they were asking just to be able to get back to sleep and leave you alone.
What does this illustrate for us in prayer and tell us of God's mercy? Though we are commanded to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17) and pray always not fainting (Luke 18:1), does God require of us to do such before He will finally answer? Does it take 17 attempts at a minimum before God will finally rise up and give us what we need? What is His present circumstance and situation when we make the request? If we can find the answers to these 2 questions, I believe we will find some of the most touching concepts that deal with our Heavenly Father's interactions with us here in this world.
To answer the first question, we need not go far to find the answer. God does not require multiple attempts before even considering granting our request. Now, we should be ready always to ask and repeat our request, but consider verses 9-10 of this same chapter. Christ said that if we ask, knock, and seek, then we shall receive, be opened, and find respectively. The succeeding verses after that starting in verse 11 show the touching nature of a natural father with his children. If his son asks him for something that is good, he will not in turn give him something that is evil. Rather, the natural father will give his natural son what he needs. Christ then puts it in perspective: how much more shall our Heavenly Father do for us? Notice in this lesson that it only speaks of knocking, seeking, and asking in a singular sense. Though it does us good to request often (it reinforces our dependence and reliance upon God), it is not the bulk of asking that affects an answer. In James 5:16, we are told that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. How many men? One. How many prayers? One. One prayer from one man (of good, upright character) is all that is necessary to bring about a very positive outcome.
Knowing that our Father is so merciful that we do not have to worry about Him behaving like the friend in the story that might not initially arise to give us, what about the answer to the 2nd question: what is His present circumstance and situation when we make the request? The answer to that question is found in our study verse, and I freely admit that this thought has deeply affected me recently to consider the magnitude and weight of its implications. Christ said in the story that the man who is being sought is in bed with his children at the midnight hour with the doors now shut. Many times, our needs and distresses come in the midnight hours (most inopportune moments and darkest periods). Though we should be careful to implore our Father for guidance during the day hours (periods of better times), our highest times of need come in dark stretches. Though the midnight has profoundly affected us in our pilgrimage, where is He? What is He doing?
There is no way that I could possibly summon the will to define what percentage of God's family is still in this world or yet to come into this world versus the percentage that is now already with Him in heaven. I simply have no idea. However, after close to 7,000 years of human history, combined with all that Scripture declares, it is easily seen that there is already a sea of multitudes there with Him now. These heirs of grace sing unto Him right now in the heavenly portal. Their praise is perfect, matchless, and without end. Combined with these dearly bought souls, our Father has the abiding presence of His only Begotten Son on His right hand and the bands of celestial servants – angels, cherubims, and seraphims. This collection of beings resides with the Father in a place that knows no defilement. Perfect and spotless in every way.
How easy is it for a friend today to have a pleasant circumstance and not initially rise up to help another? Even though his pleasant environs do not come close to matching the beauty and majesty of heaven, it is easy to see someone behaving in such a manner. Consider God. He has many children in the bed with Him right now. Their environment is pleasant without measure: boundless seas of peace, love, and harmony. It is a place that knows no midnight like our lives do now. However, though surrounded by all that perfection with countless children in the bed with Him, He still rises to give us those things that we stand in need of.
One of the most humbling things to consider that should elicit the highest thanks we can muster is that our prayers – lowly though they seem – find their way into a place of perfect praise and endless majesty. A survey of the heavenly portal that John saw in Revelation 5 shows a collection of all the beings that we have previously mentioned. However, in addition to that, John saw golden vials that contained the precious odors of the prayers of the saints. Friends, though midnights come, consider how merciful He is. He rises from ultimate peace in a place of perfection to assist us daily in those things that we need daily. He does not do so because we "just won't leave Him alone." He does it because He loves us beyond comprehension. Does this make you want to call upon Him more and thank Him more often? It does for me. However, let us call upon Him often not thinking we will see greater effects but because we realize just how much we need Him and know how merciful He has been to us.