And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.
Here we have a parable about praying and I’d like to reflect on a few questions.
How do we view God?
When do we pray?
What do we pray for?
Who do we pray for?
- How do we view God?
In the parable, Jesus compares praying to going to a friend. We often see God as our father, but do we also see Him as our friend? Some are close friends of God, i.e. holy men and women who keep His commandments. God will often hear and answer the prayers of His friends immediately. But even if we are far from God, if we live in sin, if we don’t really know Him, if we hardly have a relationship with Him, so long as we are persistent, He will respond to our prayers.
When it comes to receiving phone calls, I follow a basic principle. If I know the person or number calling me, then I answer my phone. However, if the person calling me isn’t saved in my contacts, I ignore the call, and if the call is important enough, whoever is calling typically leaves a voicemail and I’ll get back to them. When it comes to phone calls, we typically respond to people we know, but we don’t respond to people that we don’t know. Yet if we are persistent in calling, the person on the receiving end will often pick up. When I make a call to someone who I know doesn’t recognize my phone number, I repeatedly call the person, peppering them with six or seven phone calls in a row until they answer. It’s remarkable how often the person on the other end picks up, I probably have a 90% success rate with this strategy. “I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”
- When do we pray?
In the parable, the man goes to his friend at midnight during a time of crises. When things are going well in our lives, we often forget God. But in moments of poverty and suffering we turn to him. Job never had a more intimate conversation with God than when he was suffering. So often when we turn to God in prayer, it is during moments of crises, it is when we feel that we are in the dark, it is in the midnight hour so to speak. Our friend is just as happy to assist us in the darkest hour as he is at noonday.
- What do we pray for?
The man in the parable asks for bread, a basic need, and he doesn’t demand an excessive amount, he asks only for three loaves. When we pray, do we pray for what we want, or do we ask God to give us what He knows that we need? When we pray the Our Father we say, “give us this day our daily bread,” we pray for a basic necessity, not for a Lamborghini. We pray for enough bread for one day, we don’t pray for enough bread for the rest of the year.
- Who do we pray for?
The man in the parable is not asking for bread for himself, but for his friend. It never ceases to amaze me how often we pray for other people as Catholics.
In the Our Father we pray,
“give us” our daily bread,
“forgive us” our trespasses,
“lead us” not into temptation,
“deliver us” from evil.
In the Hail Mary we ask for Mary’s intercession saying, “pray for us sinners.”
In the Fatima Prayer we ask Jesus to, “save us” from the fires of hell and lead “all souls” to heaven, especially those in most need of his mercy.
There is hardly anything selfish about these most prominent prayers in our Catholic tradition, they contain no I, me, or my. Through the parable, Jesus encourages us to pray for others. And in as much as we ask for something for ourselves, we ask of it for the benefit of others.