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Source: (consider it) Thread: When one word is enough
GeorgeNZ
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I prayed for someone I know today about a specific issue and like so many times basically a short sentence summed it up. When finished it made me think about how often I pray and there is this sense that it was awfully brief, not full of a lot of specifics, and yet to say more seemed to be like I was telling God what he already knew and how best for Him to intervene.
That generally leads to feelings of what's the point of praying and it gets to hard and I wind myself up into a state of funk.

Now I know 'prayer' is important, if for no other reason than the number of books people have felt compelled to write about it. However that bemuses me somewhat as I don't think any of us really know how it 'works' and even that phrase grates.

Anyway it came to mind Jesus teaching on prayer (which I went and looked up) in Luke - https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2011:5-13&version=NRSV - and I wondered what that all meant.

Essentially am I meant to keep banging on Gods door, or is the one word cry for 'Help' enough, if I 'feel' that is enough?

(Hopefully as this relates to scripture I am in the right place and if not can this please be moved)

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Lamb Chopped
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As we seem to need Scripture for this discussion, I'll refer you to Peter's prayer as he sunk into the lake, "Lord, save me!" That was more than enough.

Remember that in the eyes of God you are much like a two-year-old child--fractious, unreasonable, concerned about the wrong things, and totally, unreasonably loved. [Biased] He's not going to grade you on how well you "perform" prayer. "Help" is a perfectly good and complete prayer. So is a ten-hour marathon if you feel the need.

And please don't make feelings or impressions of any sort the foundation of your faith. If you live long enough, you are virtually guaranteed to go through one of those spiritual dry spells when nothing touches you emotionally and you exist in a state of utter boredom and/or despair. It appears to be a normal stage of growing up in your faith--and when you come out the other side, it is much harder for the devil to jerk you around by your emotions.

During that desert time (which may last for months or even years), it really "feels" as if God is either not there or not listening, and all you have to hold on to are his promises. Getting to the point where you can say "I choose to believe, I will trust God, even though I feel like utter crap right now"--that seems to be the goal of the empty desert phase.

[ 07. October 2016, 23:37: Message edited by: Lamb Chopped ]

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
"Help" is a perfectly good and complete prayer.

As GeorgeNZ says, there are many, many books on prayer, but even before seeing this by Lamb Chopped, my thoughts went immediately to Anne Lamott's Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. The title sums the basic thought up pretty well.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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GeorgeNZ
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Lamb Chopped I understand what your are saying about 'feelings' in an intellectual sense but I struggle with the fact that God created us with this ability to feel. Just as I over think things and lie away pondering things that are impossible to deduce I accept (often with poor grace) that God also created me a thinking man who over analyses everywhere thing.

Still I take your point.

What then I Jesus telling/teaching us in the parable of the annoying neighbour who wont let the baker sleep?

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Lamb Chopped
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Feelings are wonderful, feelings are great. They're just not a good choice for the foundation of your faith, anymore than icecream would be a good choice for your main nutritional source.

As for persistance in prayer--

By all means, pray as long and as energetically as you like. But there's no obligation to be lengthy, nor is there any reason to think that repeated prayers might somehow "succeed" with God where a single short one wouldn't. The point of the parable is that God is far MORE willing to respond to us than the sleepy cranky neighbor, and even that guy eventually got up to help. So we should continue to trust God's goodness even when he seems to be taking his own sweet time and not go away in despair because we have so little faith in his character that we can't cope with anything but an immediate obvious Yes. And if we continue to bug God in prayer while we wait, well, that's natural, isn't it? Every normal toddler bugs the heck out of his mother in the grocery store with "Mommy Mommy Mommy PLEEEEEAASSSE can I have a treat?" repeated a million times, not because the repeated asking is likely to change her mind but rather because the kid can't focus on anything else. And she does not abandon him in a heap of organic bananas in the produce aisle howevef tempting that might be, because she loves him. And his repetition is if anything a compliment-- it shows that he believes her to both gracious and giving (and incredibly patient as well).

Our persistence with God says that we, too, believe him to be gracious and giving, despite how things may appear at the monent. And that we trust him not to abandon us in a heap of bananas either, however much we may deserve it.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Nigel M
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The parable in Lk. 11 is an interesting one to look at from the point of view of a covenant world view if we want to get at how it likely would have been understood. Here’s what it looks like in the English Standard Version (ESV):
quote:
And he [Jesus] said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
OK, so the ESV does get rather pedantic over literal translations of pronouns, but hopefully with the strategic use of a slide rule one can understand which ‘he’ is in view at any given point in the parable.

Compare the parable with the likes of the “How long...?!” psalms, such as Psalm 13:
quote:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

When applying the covenant world view to this, the result is to see this as a justifiable rant from a loyal subject of God to God, about God not being loyal in return. The speaker has every right to expect God to protect him and is a bit peeved that God seems to be deliberately ignoring him in spite of there being a ‘steadfast love’ relationship in force.

So with the parable. There is a least a social bond and expectation between the friends in the story. One person comes visiting on a journey and his friend honours the expectation that he will put him up (just go with the ESV pronouns here). He in turn goes to a neighbouring friend to ask for assistance, but in stead of the expected assistance he gets blanked. He adopts the “How long...?! approach, berating the neighbour (bother, I should have used a pronoun there) until said neighbour attends to his social duties.

The point is that persistence is not being advocated. Quite the opposite. The expectation would have been that there should have no delay in response. The neighbour should not have hidden his face, turned over in his bed and pulled the proverbial duvet over his head. A prompt attention to social duty was required; even more so with a covenant arrangement of loyalty.

It’s also worth noting that this parable comes hard on the heels of the Luke’s version of the disciples prayer, with all its brevity – yet also comprehensiveness:
quote:
Father, may your name be honored;
may your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And do not lead us into temptation.”


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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
The parable in Lk. 11 is an interesting one to look at from the point of view of a covenant world view if we want to get at how it likely would have been understood.

...When applying the covenant world view to this, the result is to see this as a justifiable rant from a loyal subject of God to God, about God not being loyal in return. The speaker has every right to expect God to protect him and is a bit peeved that God seems to be deliberately ignoring him in spite of there being a ‘steadfast love’ relationship in force.

So with the parable. There is a least a social bond and expectation between the friends in the story...

The point is that persistence is not being advocated. Quite the opposite. The expectation would have been that there should have no delay in response. The neighbour should not have hidden his face, turned over in his bed and pulled the proverbial duvet over his head. A prompt attention to social duty was required; even more so with a covenant arrangement of loyalty.

[/QUOTE]

hmmm... that fits, of course, with some of the lament the Psalms as you note-- but doesn't seem to me to fit at all where Jesus is going with the parable. Jesus' parables are generally telling us something about the Kingdom of God-- not scolding God for not being responsive enough. Again, you see that in lament psalms, but that just doesn't seem to be the direction of the conversation in a parable, and really doesn't seem to me to fit the context. The 1st social conventions of hospitality-keeping are helpful context for the parable, of course, but the literary context really doesn't seem to fit with your interpretation, imho.

I'm guessing by "covenant worldview" you mean "covenant theology". I'm not a fan, so that may be coloring my view.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Nigel M
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The covenant worldview idea is different from assorted covenant theologies that have gone before in Christianity. It picks up on the work done on world-views in recent decades that show how human thought (represented by artefacts such as the biblical writings) has been controlled by particular fundamental – and often therefore unconscious – framework(s) for making sense of the world in which humans live. This worldview varies from place to place and time to time. It determines how a human communicates, the questions he or she asks and the answers he or she gives.

Given that all our views are coloured by a worldview, it makes sense to take that into account when interpreting biblical texts, to see how those texts have themselves been coloured by the worldview(s) held by the authors. God has not overridden human communication techniques – the diversity of idiolects (the distinctive use of language that is peculiar to each individual) in the bible makes that clear – and so we readers need to read with those views in mind if we are to understand the author’s intention. An author may hold more than one worldview in mind, but studies show that these are hold in hierarchy of importance, it is too difficult for a human to hold two contradictory worldviews in equal tension without having another view on top to try and make sense of the dichotomy.

As far as I can see there is one worldview held across the ancient near east (ANE) that trumps the rest. I haven’t one to beat this: Covenant. This is the hierarchical arrangement of humans in society where juniors hold loyalty to a senior and the senior holds a reciprocal loyalty (or duty of care) to the juniors. The juniors owed support to the senior by way of levée in the military or civil duties, tax, etc., the senior owed support to the juniors by way of protection, justice, peace, etc. This duty of loyalty ran all the way up from the local Father’s House to Emperor (and further up to national god).

I have not found another concept that trumps this one. Not yet, anyway. It works well for interpreting the texts, not just of the OT, but the NT as well, as the latter was written by authors imbued with the OT texts and way of seeing things.

Worldview also means that we modern readers are equally controlled by ways of seeing and understanding the world. Again, these ways are often unconscious; we grow up with them and share them with our peer groups and society. Often the only way to find out that we look at the world through tinted spectacles is to undergo the challenge that comes when we encounter another who holds a different worldview. That forces us to consider just how applicable our view is and whether or not we need to adapt.

So our worldviews colour our interpretations. There is a risk that when we read the bible we import our unconsciously held framework onto the texts and assume it must mean this or that.

For the text here in Luke 11, I agree that Jesus used parables to teach the Kingdom of God, but I would also say that he got his meaning across in parables using a shock technique. He relied on his hearers assuming a particular way of living, such as a social convention shared by the group, and then he twisted the story to challenge their view.

I guess the question for this parable would probably be: If Jesus was urging persistence in prayer, why does he present God (presumably God then must be the sleeping friend in story for this interpretation to work) in such a poor light? A God who wants to pull the duvet over his head and who finds it all too inconvenient? Is that the way the Kingdom of God really works?

Without needing that question, though, I think Jesus is playing here on his audience’s expectation that the neighbour must surely get out of bed immediately and see to his friend’s needs, just as the friend was seeing to the needs of another friend who had arrived late to the village. They would expect Jesus to say, “The sleeping friend quickly got up and provided bread to his neighbour.” They may also have expected Jesus to add, “And he provided not just bread, he gave butter, antipasti, calamari... (well...) just so the audience could wallow in their anticipated understanding of the world, go home feeling content with the sense that, yes, this is how the world should be. However Jesus uses the shock element to draw his audience into the story more. He draws out opprobrium associated with the shameful response of the sleepy neighbour.

As with the disciples’ prayer just before, there is no sense of ‘knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door’ here. Now I suspect that many Christians reading this would have been brought up – as I was – hearing this parable and “Ask, Seek, Knock” bit that follows with the teaching that we should ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking, partly because the grammar appears to permit this, but mainly because teachers read the parable as an invitation by Jesus to persist in prayer. One reading colours the other. I would ask (and keep on asking?!), though, whether this is not a result of our reading the text through our own worldview lenses, rather than those of the author. We think tepid prayers are not valuable commodities and we therefore assume that persistence demonstrates true desire, something God will latch on to. We respond with guilt, perhaps, rather than opprobrium.

The imperative use in the Ask-Seek-Knock triad can just as reasonably – more so I think – be a command to ask just the once and then it’s done. God hears his loyal followers and doesn’t need to be badgered. After all, one does not order someone to “Open that door - and keep on opening it!”

Now it is a different question about the tension between prayer not answered and God being always ready to give. Obviously the writers of some of the psalms and other texts knew clearly that praying a request for assistance to God did not automatically result in the requested assistance – against all the expectations of a covenant worldview. How that is resolved is not the topic of Jesus’ parable, so I can safely leave it out here!

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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It might be enough to offer some form of praise.

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Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.
\_(ツ)_/

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
... because teachers read the parable as an invitation by Jesus to persist in prayer. One reading colours the other. I would ask (and keep on asking?!), though, whether this is not a result of our reading the text through our own worldview lenses, rather than those of the author.

Just a quickie...

luke did hold that view, if chapter 18 (another parable, that of the widow and the unjust judge) is anything to go by:


quote:
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
So it's not unreasonable for people to see a similar emphasis in this earlier parable.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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mark_in_manchester

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This thread got me thinking about the persistent widow, but LC you got there first! [Smile]

quote:
However Jesus uses the shock element to draw his audience into the story more. He draws out opprobrium associated with the shameful response of the sleepy neighbour.

So...can I try a paraphrase?

"This sweet old lady comes up before the judge to ask him to sort out some bother she was going through. And you know what - the lazy old bastard didn't want to know! He told her to f*ck off because he had an important afternoon's golf to attend to. She wasn't having that, so she came back again, and again, and again, until even that lazy old f*cker came to realise it was just less hassle to sort her out quick - so he did.

Now if that old girl would persevere with such a malign old twat, why won't you persevere with your good, loving, heavenly father who's itching to help you with your shit?"

Is that the kind of thing? It would help reduce my instinctive identification of God and the judge.

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"We are punished by our sins, not for them" - Elbert Hubbard
(so good, I wanted to see it after my posts and not only after those of shipmate JBohn from whom I stole it)

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Lamb Chopped
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Love the paraphrase and think you got it right on the head.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Nigel M
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It’s a good crack at a modern paraphrase! It would wake the Baptists up...

We are still left with the problem, though, that if God is really itching to give us the things we need, then why a delay? Why the need to persevere? Would Luke really be setting up a tension in his work between the Good-God-Who-Delays-Not-In-Giving-Good-Things and The-Strange-Case-Of-A-God-Who-Delays-Unless-Badgered? Either God is the lazy Judge/Neighbour who gives only when badgered, or he is the good God who answers prayer in contrast to the examples in the parables.

The parable in Luke 18 could also be taken to mean that the loyal follower should make prayer for assistance a common feature of life – in the sense of not giving up on such prayer as an activity – rather than persisting in that kind of prayer in respect of one situation. It’s probably worth noting also that the parable is about pleas for justice / deliverance and comes hard on the heels of the passage about the ‘Son of Man’ figure returning suddenly. The parable itself ends with the question: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” This implies the parable is somehow connected with the suddenness of God’s justice under persecution of an end-of-time nature.

I haven’t thought that aspect through, but I do see that the parable includes the rhetorical question near the end: “Will God delay to his loyal ones?” This is followed by the answer: “I tell you, he will give them justice speedily.”

That does sound as though Luke wanted to emphasise God as a quick giver of justice in contrast to the judge and sleepy neighbour.

Again – Luke is talking about an extreme case here. It seems to be the deliverance from enemies when persecution crowds in. It isn’t a call to present one’s Bucket List to God, so expectations need to be managed...

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mark_in_manchester

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quote:
It isn’t a call to present one’s Bucket List to God, so expectations need to be managed...
Yes, I agree, and it's helpful to be reminded of that. On reflection I suppose I have been thinking of prayer like my (rather patchy, I can't say 'daily' like I ought) times of bible-study and contemplation. Not really much going on in the way of specific requests, but definite time spent with God. And certainly an area where the two passages we have been discussing accuse me, rightly.

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"We are punished by our sins, not for them" - Elbert Hubbard
(so good, I wanted to see it after my posts and not only after those of shipmate JBohn from whom I stole it)

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
It’s a good crack at a modern paraphrase! It would wake the Baptists up...

We are still left with the problem, though, that if God is really itching to give us the things we need, then why a delay? Why the need to persevere? Would Luke really be setting up a tension in his work between the Good-God-Who-Delays-Not-In-Giving-Good-Things and The-Strange-Case-Of-A-God-Who-Delays-Unless-Badgered? Either God is the lazy Judge/Neighbour who gives only when badgered, or he is the good God who answers prayer in contrast to the examples in the parables.

I think maybe you are misreading the kind of comparison Jesus is making. This is "If X, how much more Y" in format--"if even a complete jerk of a judge can be brought to respond this way, how much more the non-jerk-ish God!" Which pretty much rules out any need to badger him.

That said, there is another side to this, which is our own personal need to "badger" God. As I mentioned with the toddler example up thread, God may (does) only need to hear it once, but there's something in our nature that needs to say it again and again--the same thing that drives the hungry toddler drives the desperate Christian. Perhaps this is an example of weak faith, or just an example of lack of self control. Whatever, Jesus seems to welcome it--probably because the only real alternative for us broken people is to give up in truth. Either we badger God (however ridiculously) which demonstrates our hope in him--or we stop altogether, which demonstrates our giving up on him. Basically nobody has the capacity to pray once in desperation and then just wait. Expecting that of us is unrealistic, and God is a realist.

There's also the fact that when we are desperate, the thing we are desperate about fills our thoughts to the point where we can hardly talk about anything else. To forbid people to pray repeatedly for desperate need X is essentially to forbid them to pray at all, in such a mindset. God doesn't do that to us. He knows we must "give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'erfraught heart and bids it break." Or to descend to the laughably banal, I never told my toddler to shut up when he kept complaining he needed to pee while we were trekking to the bathroom. He had enough to do controlling his bladder; controlling his mouth would have been utterly beyond him, and cruel of me.

[ 10. October 2016, 21:52: Message edited by: Lamb Chopped ]

--------------------
Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Nigel M
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Is that the Rabbinic lesser-to-greater rule? I guess it could work, though I would have thought that for it to work in interpreting this parable it would have required a similarity in the point of comparison, rather than a contrast. So for example, in the same way Proverbs 11:31 works: “If the righteous are repaid on earth, how much more the wicked sinner?” The similarity focuses on the repayment there. In the parable the focus is on God answering prayer, but I think we all agree that the judge character (and the sleepy neighbour in the other parable) is not in comparison-by-similarity mode with God, they are in contrast. It feels to me as though if the lesser-to-greater rule were applied, we would end up with “If a corrupt judge needs plenty of badgering to overcome his corruption, how much more God needs badgering!”

Anyway, I think there are valid pastoral reasons for working with the idea of bringing repeated petitions to God, I’m sure you are right about the impact on Christians of this, where it can be of positive help. I’m just not sure Luke’s parables are addressing those circumstances. Perhaps the point Luke wanted to stress was more limited: he was drawing on Jesus’ teaching about the coming of the Kingdom, where Jesus was trying to divert people from focussing on cosmic signs and also encouraging them not to lose heart in the face of persecution. This doesn’t mean that Luke was forbidding people to pray continuously about the same thing; I’m not sure that he ever addresses that question (did Jesus even?), he simply seems to be stressing a point about God’s quick response to a loyal member of his House when the walls are crashing in.

We do have instances in Luke where Jesus is said to spend lengthy periods in prayer. Luke 6:12, for example: “ Now it was during this time that Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he spent all night in prayer to God.” Luke doesn’t tell us the content of the prayer here, so we can’t tell whether Jesus was praying about a single issue, or had a petition the length of several arms to bring. It was just before he chose the 12 apostles from his disciples, so perhaps this was a post-interview selection panel.

One thing Luke did warn about was the manner of praying. If Jesus had ever been asked if it was OK to talk to God about one thing on a regular basis, Luke might have recorded the answer: “If you do, do it humbly (Luke 18:10-14) and don’t make a big deal of long prayers (20:45-47).

I know we haven't really addressed the issue of that tension between the principle of God answering quickly in extreme circumstances and the practical problem of delay - the tension that caused some of the psalmists to get edgy. I can't remember off the top of my head whether Luke ever addresses that in any depth. Not part of his aim, perhaps.

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Lamb Chopped
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# 5528

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Nigel, IMHO the point of comparison between God and the unjust judge (or the unwilling neighbor) is that both are being importuned, and both eventually respond. To be sure, the response from the judge/neighbor is grudging and barely adequate, whereas God's is generous and overflowing; but that is the "how much more" bit. I don't know about rabbinic rules, but this kind of comparison is a well-known rhetorical strategy in plenty of cultures.

My very simpleminded point with regards to the parable of the unjust judge was mostly in the first verse: "Jesus told this parable to show that people ought always to pray and not give up." And then of course the widow carries this out by repeating the same plea again and again. The implication is that repeated same prayer is quite all right.

To be sure, he doesn't want empty-hearted or automated prayers, done for mere repetition's value. But that's not the norm for desperate people, that's an abuse, a temptation, a distortion. As such it does not negate the proper use of prayer-with-the-heart, even if repetitious.

As for "how long, O Lord?" I don't at the moment recall anything in Luke that addresses that specifically, except of course for the fact that the poor widow had to be thinking that way, and then there are the apocalyptic bits where Jesus warns them it's going to get mighty uncomfortable and they will need to stand fast in the face of lengthy persecution. It's strongly implied there. But there's maybe no need to go into more detail, since the Psalms etc. handle this so well, and those were readily available to the early church.

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W Hyatt
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# 14250

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
We are still left with the problem, though, that if God is really itching to give us the things we need, then why a delay? Why the need to persevere? Would Luke really be setting up a tension in his work between the Good-God-Who-Delays-Not-In-Giving-Good-Things and The-Strange-Case-Of-A-God-Who-Delays-Unless-Badgered? Either God is the lazy Judge/Neighbour who gives only when badgered, or he is the good God who answers prayer in contrast to the examples in the parables.

Yes, we are still left with that problem, but we are also faced with the reality that even when we pray for someone else's benefit and for a clearly worth-while goal, our prayers are not always answered without delay.

Rather than assuming that the lesser-to-greater rule would apply to this parable as "if your lazy neighbor needs badgering, God needs even more badgering" (which goes against the grain, so to speak), why can it not be more along the lines of "if you don't give up on your lazy neighbor, why would you give up on God?" The focus need not be on the need for badgering, it could simply be about hanging on to hope in spite of God's apparent lack of cooperation.

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A new church and a new earth, with Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life.

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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I think the question here is: What suffices in prayer? What is enough? My interest is in looking at the passages quoted to see to what extent they provide guidance. I would want to take each text on its own merits first, ensuring the author’s intention is understood, before drawing on it to support an application to situations today. Not to do so would be to run the risk of importing our own wishes or modern feelings onto the text, making it bear more than it was meant to bear, which in turn risks wrong applications.

So in looking at the two parables we’ve seen thus far I can see that both work on the basis of the expectation of duty. The sleepy neighbour and the corrupt judge both had a duty under the social expectations of the time (informed by that covenant worldview) to act quickly in response to a request for help. Both refused. It took persistence to break down the abnormal behaviour.

So far so good, but then it does seem a difficult ask to move from that to say the point of the parables was that persistence on a subject works with God, because the analogy works only if God is being compared in parallel to the corrupt judge and sleepy neighbour. But if the expectation is that God responds quickly, then there is no need for persistence to be the moral of the tale. Something else must be going on.

The expectation that God will (or at least should be expected to) respond quickly comes I think with seeing that the response to the opening of the judge parable “...they should always pray and not lose heart” is in the closing remark from Jesus: “Will he delay long to help them? I tell you, he will give them justice speedily.” This explanation by Jesus seems to work best when seen in contrast to the judge’s reaction rather than taking it as an example – God does indeed come galloping over the hill, Marines in tow, when a plea for assistance is uttered in the face of attack, and that eftsoons and right speedily. So the opening is a plea not to give up on praying to God as a general principle (not losing heart or faith), rather than a plea to be repetitious in prayer as such. The reason is that God is not corrupt and does not find your request inconvenient (the sleepy neighbour). That would seem to be the extent of Luke’s intention.

Hopefully this explains why I don't think Luke (or Jesus before him) was advocating hanging on in hope in the face of God’s apparent uncooperative attitude. Hanging on to hope in prayer as a general valid activity, yes, but not because God is expected to delay.

I can see two approaches to reading these parables is in the Who we focus on. My focus, I guess driven by the covenant worldview and expectations, has been on the judge and the sleepy neighbour. But what if the focus is on the widow and the obligated friend? This I can see is where many Christians focus today – I certainly grew up with that as the normal reading. The logical thought process runs like this, I think:
  • We know God is on our side and is a good God
  • However we also know from experience that this good God does not always respond to our prayers
  • That leaves us in a tension between our theology and our experience. So should we give up on prayer?
  • Answer: No, that can’t be right
  • So what do we do? We look for resolution in the biblical text and find these two parables where we see examples of persistence
  • That seems to answer our problem. When God doesn’t answer our prayers, his word is to keep on trying. We are to be like the persistent widow and neighbour.

I understand the need to work out an answer to the dilemma, but I fear that we may be pulling at a text in a way it was never intended to go if we look to those two actors as being the point of the parables. Rather they were devices to lure the audience in before the shock; the hearers would be thinking, “Ah yes, a widow; the Law demands we do not neglect them and that is quite right.” In the other parable it is, “Ah yes, a friend with social obligations when a friend arrives on a journey unexpectedly, someone we should always help.” Then Jesus throws in the shock. The judge does not behave appropriately, and neither does the sleepy neighbour. Jesus then draws on the state of shock to ask, “Is that your view of how God responds?” Answer, “No!” Response, “Then why treat him as though it was?”

Thinking about this a bit further, if Luke was being quite restrictive in the application of these parables, perhaps the example of the disciples’ prayer would work like this:

The disciples came to Jesus and asked him to give them a model for praying, just like other teachers provided models for their followers. So Jesus trotted out the shortest prayer in history that covered all the bases. There was a pause, a shuffling of feet, then the disciples said, “What? That’s it?!” So Jesus explained to them in a parable that that was simply It.

Again, none of this takes away from the pastoral context of prayer in the Christian community. There are good reasons for encouraging prayer in a range of ways as one disciples people to the point where they are able to stand on their own two feet in the faith and engage in the community’s mission to the world. We just probably need to look elsewhere in the bible for support on the persistence point. Having said that, there may turn out that there is no direct support for it, but that of course does not mean it is thereby banned.

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BroJames
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# 9636

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
I think the question here is: What suffices in prayer? What is enough? <snip>

I don't want to dismiss the rest of the useful and helpful thinking in your post, but these opening sentences 'snagged', and I found myself wondering whether this really is what the parable is answering. I haven't fully formulated an alternative question yet, so I may be way off beam.
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mark_in_manchester

not waving, but...
# 15978

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Thanks folks - I'm finding this very useful.

I don't know if my experience in prayer here is relevant, but I know that the act of asking in prayer changes me-the-prayer (quickly, something like reliably, but sadly rather temporarily) in ways which, in my context, are certainly in line with the kind of prayer outcome I am hoping for.

That is, the prayer changes me, but not for very long, which means I have to do it again and again. Prayer which changes me seems to need a lot of repetition - perhaps I'm just obdurate. Prayer to change someone else - I don't know. I'm not even sure it works like that.

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"We are punished by our sins, not for them" - Elbert Hubbard
(so good, I wanted to see it after my posts and not only after those of shipmate JBohn from whom I stole it)

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
I think the question here is: What suffices in prayer? What is enough? <snip>

I don't want to dismiss the rest of the useful and helpful thinking in your post, but these opening sentences 'snagged', and I found myself wondering whether this really is what the parable is answering. I haven't fully formulated an alternative question yet, so I may be way off beam.
I may have set a hare running here, sorry. That first sentence was meant to refer to the OP - i.e., the question the OP is asking and we are trying to answer is...

Despite that, the issue about what the parable is trying to address is the useful next question, so please do formulate away!

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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quote:
Originally posted by mark_in_manchester:
... Prayer to change someone else - I don't know. ...

I've been trying to think of a passage in the NT that talks about bearing with one another - or praying for others. I can't put my finger on it yet, but there is the passage in 2 Cor. 1:3-7 (here from ESV):
quote:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Not quite on the button, but offers a sense of commonality in communality, what works for one works for all.
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Martin60
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# 368

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I'm afflicted with intrusive thinking, I ruminate over every shameful event since I was 18. It used to be 12, but although I still cringe over early-mid adolescent behaviour, it's brief. One surfaced today that hadn't for a long time. The only progress I have made is by being cognitive with God about it, with the aim of owning it without shame, without condemnation. Even then hours can go by where I'm a rabbit trapped in the looping headlights. Where I will curse myself rotten in the foulest terms.

And yes I cry out 'LORD!'. I've started recently to ask Him to join me at my lowest. For years the classic intrusion was any and every profane blasphemy. I hated it. It terrified me (The unforgivable sin? The demonic?), bored me, depressed me, exhausted me. I would try and repress it, distract myself, pray, pray, pray something else.

Now I just bring God's attention to it, in other words I get cognitive, mindful - aware and compassionate of and with myself - with Him about it. It happens rarely now.

My cursing myself over intrusive recollection feels daily at least. I need to practice mindfulness with and WITHOUT God about it. It seems particularly resistant.

Yesterday I heard that my position, from which I was pressured to leave due to failure to perform under pressure after eight years of mediocrity (and saving two companies), in June, had been filled. That caught me out. I cried out loud for the first time about it. At 62 I'm now my mother's primary carer. My career is over. In failure.

And that's OK. No, it's REALLY OK. I realised this this morning praying in the bathroom mirror. This world and its utterly unchristian ways is a joke. The trouble is I have unchristian ways. I'm of the world. I'm found wanting. Particularly as my mother's carer ...

About which I HAVE to be cognitive with God about. I find that very difficult. Admitting I feel cold, hard, impatient, disgusted. As it happens.

But I must, I will.

Prayer is the ONLY answer. Is its own answer. For there certainly will be no magic.

I must keep knocking on the evil judge's door. I live there. The evil judge is me. My Dad AND my Big Brother are behind me.

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Love wins

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