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-- © GodSpeak International 1998 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

Author: Richard Lang <richard.lang@juno.com>
Editors: Teresa Seputis, Al Vesper

Prayer-School Course


Lesson Four

Luke 11, Importunity

We now begin our fourth lesson of our study on prayer.

Having followed the lead given to us by Jesus as He responds to the demand of the disciples to teach us to pray, we now press on into two parables concerned with being persistent in prayer. The first in Luke eleven follows on the heels of the Luke version of the Lord's Prayer, and has to do with importunity. The second parable also deals with our being persistent, and is found in Luke 18.

To this point in our study, we have seen that Jesus is training us to pray for a variety of needs successfully. Not only are we learning to pray for our own needs, but at the same time we are learning how to pray for the needs of others, as we intercede for them. In the following parable, Jesus continues to provide insights to God's provision through prayer.


Luke has some very fascinating instruction given to us by Jesus training us in how to pray. Two very thrilling insights are to be found in chapters 11 and 18. Chapter 11 gives to us three rich and full observations: 1. The Luke version of the Lord's prayer. 2. A parable developing the theme of persistence even to the point of importunity. 3. And finally Jesus punctuates the theme of persistence by demanding that you "continually" ask, seek and knock. Accordingly I have divided our study into three separate lessons. In each of these lessons, I have taken the liberty of augmenting and amplifying the text with such insights as I might garner for you from the Greek.

Chapter eleven's insights flow right into chapter eighteen with a further development on the topic of persistence.

The first observation, as we have noted previously, is in Luke 11:1. Here Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to Him, "Lord," [I command you] "teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."

[Note: At this point the Greek is in the command form of the verb, so that the words of the disciple ought to correspond as a command.]

This demand being made by one of the disciples of Jesus is interesting in that this man was not afraid to come to Jesus in a very demanding fashion, commanding Him to teach them how to pray. This demand by a disciple gives each of us some food for thought. Would we have the confidence to do the same thing? Each of us must contend with such a brazen straight forward approach to Jesus. Yet, this is exactly what the Greek is showing us, a courageous and fearless encounter with our Lord.

Note too that Jesus is not insulted nor offended by this very strong demand, for without hesitation He begins to teach them exactly what they have demanded to know. In this observation, are we being shown by Jesus that He will and does reply to our demands - that they are, in fact, not out of place?

This request is also interesting in so far as all Jews knew from their childhood how to pray. They had been taught prayers which had been handed down from generation to generation. Very often they used portions of the Psalms and other passages of Scripture in their praying. All of us have seen Jews praying at the wailing wall in Jerusalem. So, why is it therefore the disciples of Jesus are demanding that He teach them to pray? I began to ponder this question some years ago as a lay missionary in Japan, when my students asked me, "Will you teach us to pray?" Like Jesus I taught them the Lord's prayer.

However, only after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit did I finally begin to come to an understanding of this request. Like many people today, I believe that the disciples of Jesus had little or no success in their prayer life. Their prayer would seem to hit the ceiling and bounce back to the floor. On the other hand, they saw that Jesus never missed. Not only were His prayers answered, but they were answered with signs, wonders and miracles! And they were answered instantly. In other words, their demand to be taught sprang out of a passionate desire to have what He had. Keep in mind that they saw Him at this juncture as a man like themselves. Consequently they could have what He had, and they could do what He did.

So Jesus gave them a pattern to follow, but not a pattern to be memorized, as indeed we have done. All of us from time to time find ourselves simply mimicking the words of Jesus in the Lord's Prayer rather than learning from it. In a separate study I have gone into some detail concerning the deeper refinements of the Lord's Prayer and their meaning. For this study we are moving ahead to the topic of persistence manifested to the point of importunity.

Keep in mind that this parable is a teaching tool of Jesus training you in how to persist in prayer. He has already given his disciples some insights into praying effectively for their needs. Jesus now takes us a step closer to effectual persistent prayer in Luke 11:5-8.

  1. And He said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, [I command you to] lend me three loaves;'"

    Right from the very first, Jesus sets up a very tense situation, by setting the parable at midnight, which in the first century was in truth half way through the night. Folks went to bed at sundown in those days. Not only was this a horrible time of the night but the man is brazen enough to put a demand upon his neighbor by commanding him to provide - not just one - but three loaves of bread. We know that he is not just asking politely because in the Greek the verb tense is in the imperative command form of the verb.

    As ill-mannered as this guy is, he gives a lame-duck reason for his rudeness.

  2. "for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him';"

    Can you imagine the feelings of the friend who has come for a visit as he watches this whole thing develop? He is probably wishing he had never come when he hears the next door neighbor's reply,

  3. "and he will answer from within, `Do not bother me [continually]; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything'?"

    The neighbor gives no less than several reasons why he cannot provide bread at this hour of the night. Note too that the Greek adds the notion of not bothering him "continually." Already he is getting upset by the continual pounding. On top of that the door is shut and he wants it kept that way. He and his family are all in bed and he would have to wake up the whole family just to get out of bed and get the bread. {The entire family all slept in one big bed on the floor in those days.} By this time I would guess that everyone was awake anyway. He frankly tells him that he simply cannot give him anything, because he just is not going to make the effort to do so.

Jesus clarifies the situation by giving us two insights into the situation. In verse 8 we read, "I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs."

First of all, he tells us that in this circumstance, the neighbor is not going to give his friend anything because of friendship. Friendship at this point no longer counts. In the second place, Jesus tells us that the neighbor will, however, give him the loaves because of the importunity of the man pounding on the door. If there was ever a wrong reason for giving a friend anything, other than a black eye, this has to be it. The importunity of the friend pounding and yelling at the neighbor's door is not a good reason for anything - except perhaps to call the cops.

Just looking at the word importunity we learn the following:

The dictionary meaning of the word importunity is "to press or urge with troublesome persistence; to request or beg for urgently; to annoy, or to trouble; to beg, to urge, or to solicit persistently or troublesomely.

The thesaurus tells us that importunity has the meaning: to demand noisily, demand, complain, brawl, remonstrate, protest, clamor.

The Greek word, "anaideia," gives us the following translation: shamelessness, persistence, importunity - without regard to time, or place, or person.

This entire parable is strikingly bold in its implications. Jesus shows us that He is willing to teach on prayer even at the demand of a disciple. Even the disciple is acting with importunity as he commands Jesus to teach him about prayer.

Jesus stresses two concepts which are almost foreign to us. He emphasizes the need for persistence, as well as a need for being demanding in our prayers. Both of these concepts are given an even stronger emphasis in the use of the wordimportunity, a word that is used only once in the New Testament. I understand that pounding - as it were - on the door of Heaven and demanding food at an awkward time is not exactly the concept of prayer which I first learned some years ago. Nevertheless, this is exactly what the parable is showing us. Later in our study of Luke 18:1-8, we will encounter an even stronger emphasis upon being persistent and demanding.

Whether we like it or not, importunity implies that we are to be shamelessly persistent in our praying. We are encouraged to demand noisily, even to remonstrate with God, and to be troublesomely annoying. We are to have no regard for time, place or person. As it says in 2nd Timothy 4:2, we are to be urgent in season and out of season.

I know very well that these are very strong words; they are! They even verge on being rude. However, all I can do is to point to the deeper meaning of the parable by digging into the dictionary, thesaurus and Greek meaning of the words themselves. Please note: My study has not come from books of doctrine. And our focus must always be on what Jesus is saying. This parable along with Luke 18:1-8 will not permit us to hold the view that we are to pray one time and only one time. If you have not seen our study on Luke 18:1-8, you might like to ask {or demand} a copy from us. Through your importunity you will be heard! Of course, if you are taking this as a series of lessons, it will come to you as the next segment of this course.

Even with the harshness of this parable, the final outcome is that the friend ultimately receives the three loaves of bread in spite of his importunity. I have a hard time justifying this type of behavior as an insight to prayer. Still, this is the way that Jesus has laid it out for us as just one insight into prayer, and not just the only insight. Nevertheless, such persistent prayer does bear fruit; it does! And that I believe is what Jesus wanted us to see.

First and foremost, needs were met, "yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatsoever he needs." Note also the needs were not something all that vital or earth shattering. They were not a matter of life or death. The need here was one of hospitality, of having a midnight snack, one that could just as well have waited until morning. Still, in the mind of the friend it was something that had to be dealt with then and there, so he persisted, even becoming unpleasant in his demands.


Seizures Healed!

Learning how to pray with power and authority is often times a matter of trial and error. Very often things happen in life over which you have no control. When this happens, the Lord has given to you many advantages for total success and victory in the blood of Jesus. I would like to share with you some of our experiences during the last thirty years, which we have had to learn the hard way. Our hope and our prayer for you is that you can learn from these experiences. We want to give you - as it were - a jump start.

Of course, as we share with you, it is our sincere hope that you will share with us, that we might learn from one another. Each of the following illustrations has to do with being persistent in prayer.

About 1973, when our daughter, Kristin, was three, we were awakened in the middle of the night with horrible screams coming from her room. She was having a very strong seizure. Taking her to the doctor, he advised us to see a specialist, who gave her any number of tests, including a brain scan, and an electro-encephalogram. We praise Jesus that the brain scan showed no tumors or any other affliction. However, the electro-encephalogram showed numerous problems - none of which could be identified by the doctor, except that Kristin would be subject to many more seizures, and as she grew older, they might increase. The prognosis was not good.

On top of this, I had just lost my job and we had no medical insurance, nor did we have any savings of any sort. Our funds were very limited and our medical bills had just gone through the ceiling. The medication required by the doctor would be costly. From one point of view, nothing could be worse. However, for years I had been urging folks to trust the Lord and to live by faith. Now, Holly and I were going to learn to live by the very words that I had spoken to others.

Without a word, the doctor came to us and told us that he had contacted the hospital, and they agreed to accept - if you can believe it - $25.00 per month. He would receive whatever we could do over and above their payment. I want you to know that we never missed a payment, which took several years - thanks to the faith that we had in God that He would provide all of our needs according to his Word.

At this time the Charismatic Movement was at its height, and we began to learn very quickly to bind up the demons and the evil spirits who had come against our very precious daughter, and to command them to be bound up, and cast into the outer darkness. We began a daily ritual of praying over Kristin three times a day for about three years.

Then, there came a day, when Holly had to fill out a school paper asking about any illness. At that moment an inner feeling came to Holly not to fill in the paper but to wait, believing Kristin was healed, and to take her to the doctor for verification. Within a week we had an appointment, and the doctor ordered all the same old tests over again, except for the brain scan. When the electro-encephalogram came back, he was absolutely amazed. Every line was absolutely normal! Getting out the original record, we all stared in amazement at the radical difference. Kristin was totally healed. Praise the Lord!

The doctor ordered the medicine to be reduced and finally stopped over a period of weeks, saying that we should notify him if she ever complained of a headache. Kristin looked right at him and said, "I will never have a headache, because Jesus has healed me." He agreed, and she has had no ailments of any sort even to the present day - now age 28. In fact, car sickness was also healed in the course of things.

I know that this testimony raises some questions. However, the healing evangelists, Charles and Frances Hunter, told us years ago, "When it comes to healing you do what works." And we would have to agree that over the years we have done what works, and thereby we have seen many signs, wonders and miracles. While on the other hand, we have known folks who have gotten caught up in controversy, and have seen little or nothing.

Some folks have questioned our praying three times a day every day as being some sort of a lack of faith. Others have wondered why it took three years and not three minutes. Some folks have been concerned about demons and evil spirits, which involves countless questions.

[At this point, Jesus continues teaching with an insight into asking, seeking, and knocking. This lesson will be covered in a separate study. If this study blesses you, we thank you for your comments to the school or to us personally. You will be heard for your importunity.]

-- © GodSpeak International 1998 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

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