The interrogative parable found in Luke 11:5-71 is best interpreted not only in the assurance given in v. 8 and Jesus’ sayings about the Father’s faithfulness in answering prayers in vv. 9-13, but also by Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer in vv. 2-4. Snodgrass notes that the parable and the Lord’s Prayer are connected because in each a request for bread is made.2 The connection goes much deeper than bread. The parable is used to connect the words of Jesus’ prayer to the mode they should be prayed in.
Jesus, in response to the disciples request to teach them to pray teaches them not only what to pray in vv. 2-4, but also in vv. 9-13 the attitude they should approach prayer with. Disciples of Jesus are to pray in expectation of the Father’s response. They are to pray with the assumption that the good things they pray for will be granted.
First, Jesus make it very clear that a disciple’s prayer for bread will not go unanswered. The answer from Jesus’ original audience to his question in vv. 5-7 of who would refuse a friend – even a rude friend – of bread when asked would be, “No one.“3 So, when the disciples pray to for the Father to “give [them] each day [their] daily bread”4 Jesus makes it clear in v. 9 that “it will be given to [them].” One cannot, per Jesus, just ask the Father for bread, but one must also approach the prayer with the attitude that God will actually provide the bread.
Further applied this means that when the disciples ask the Father for forgiveness5, they can actually expect it. When they ask to be protected from temptation6 it should be under the expectation, so v. 13, that God will give them “good gifts” and the “Holy Spirit” to empower them to do just that. Here Jesus is talking about a God who gives a lot more than bread, fish, and eggs. In this light, the commands to be as merciful as God7 and as perfect as God8 should not be a disciple’s greatest hope, but an expectation of earnest prayer to the Father. They, like God’s forgiveness and protection from temptation, are actual realities.
In asking his disciples who would refuse a late-night request for bread from a friend, Jesus does much more than teach a lesson about friendship and hospitality. In this parable Jesus bridges the simple prayer of vv. 2-4 and his sayings on the disciples’ expectations for prayer in vv. 9-13. Jesus has elevated his prayer from simple words to a powerful act of God upon the disciples who seek and ask for God’s blessings.
Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2008)., pg. 437
Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2008)., pg. 440
Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2008)., pg. 442
Luke 11:3 (ESV)