Luke 11:5
Then Jesus said to them, "Suppose one of you goes to his friend at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
Lessons on PrayerR.M. Edgar Luke 11:1-13
Bounty After DelayMarvin R. Vincent, D. D.Luke 11:5-8
Delay in Answering PrayerN. Rogers.Luke 11:5-8
Earnestness in PrayerBishop Harvey Goodwin.Luke 11:5-8
God Giving His Praying People Bread for OthersC. New.Luke 11:5-8
ImportunityT. T. Lynch.Luke 11:5-8
ImportunityJ. Thomson, D. D.Luke 11:5-8
Importunity in PrayerExpository OutlinesLuke 11:5-8
Importunity in PrayerG. R. Leavitt.Luke 11:5-8
Importunity in PrayerJames Foote, M. A.Luke 11:5-8
Importunity in PrayerD. O. Hughes, M. A.Luke 11:5-8
Interceding for OthersN. Rogers.Luke 11:5-8
LessonsVan Doren.Luke 11:5-8
Need of ImportunityBishop Jeremy Taylor.Luke 11:5-8
Perseverance in PrayerVan Doren.Luke 11:5-8
Power of EarnestnessH. R. Burton.Luke 11:5-8
Prayer is the Best Means of ProvisionN. RogersLuke 11:5-8
Prayer Made Fervent by ExpressionN. Rogers.Luke 11:5-8
Storming HeavenR. Collyer, D. D.Luke 11:5-8
Successful ImportunityT. Guthrie, D. D.Luke 11:5-8
The Friend At MidnightW. M. Taylor, D. D.Luke 11:5-8
The Midnight IntruderJ. Henry Burn, B. D.Luke 11:5-8
The Naturalness of the IllustrationA. B. Bruce, D. D.Luke 11:5-8
The Parable of the Importunate FriendMarcus Dods, D. D.Luke 11:5-8
The Setting of the ParableMarvin R. Vincent, D. D.Luke 11:5-8
The Struggle for Attainment of Spiritual GoodLuke 11:5-8
There are Three Things in ImportunityN. Rogers.Luke 11:5-8
Why We Must be Importunate in PrayerR. Collyer.Luke 11:5-8
Continuance in PrayerW. Clarkson Luke 11:5-10
These words of our Lord are not intended to present God to us as one that is reluctant to respond to our prayer, and that, consequently, has to be besought and entreated with growing energy and ardor, as Baal's prophets imagined to be the case with the deity they worshipped (1 Kings 18.). Rather should we think of him as of a Divine Father who, for our sake, delays his answer to our prayer, in order that we may be disciplined in devotion, and in order that he may give us what we ask, with a fuller blessing in the bestowal.

I. THE FACT OF UNANSWERED PRAYER. It is a fact attested by the common, if not the universal, experience of the devout, that prayer is often presented to God without any answer being presently and consciously received. And this is not only true of prayer that is not worthy of the name - of mere sacred formalities which proceed only from the sense and not from the soul; it is true of genuine, spiritual devotion. Men honestly and earnestly pray God to give them blessings, and he withholds them. The sickness is not removed, the life not spared, the burden not lightened, the son not reclaimed, the friend not reconciled, the cause not blessed, the wrong not stayed, the faithful not delivered; and the hearts of the people of God are filled with sorrow and dismay; the question that rises to their lips is, "How long, O Lord, how long dost thou not respond?"


1. It may mean that we ask for the wrong thing - for that which we think will help us, but which God knows will harm us; which (he knows) will do us much more of lasting, spiritual harm than confer on us present bodily or temporal relief.

2. It may mean that we are expecting the answer in the wrong way. Like Naaman, we may have laid down, in our own thought, the precise way in which God is to help or heal us, and it may be with us, as it was with him, that God is purposing to respond in another way altogether - perhaps by some simple means (as in his case), which we are disposed to consider unworthy of the occasion; perhaps by some way in which we shall be taught a lesson in humility or in some other grace.

3. It may mean that we are expecting the answer at the wrong time, much sooner than it would be wise for God to give it, or well for us to receive it.

III. THE REWARD OF CONTINUANCE IN PRAYER. We find, as our Lord teaches us in the parable, that while our friend wilt not always give us our request at once, yet he will grant it if we do but persevere (ver. 8). And so with our Divine Friend; he may not answer our prayer at once; he may delay long to respond to us. He may know that if we received immediately everything we desired of him, we should become unduly confident or be otherwise injuriously affected. He may know and may wish us to learn by disciplinary experience that

"His help is always sure,
His methods seldom guessed:
Delay will make our pleasure pure,
Surprise will give it zest
." But sooner or later, in one way or in another, in his own good time, God will reward our persevering prayer with his effectual blessing. We must ask, and go on asking, and we shall certainly receive; must knock, and go on knocking, at the door of his mercy and his power, and it will assuredly be opened to us. This will be found in our seeking:

1. Conscious and joyous acceptance with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

2. Our spiritual growth.

3. Our usefulness in that especial sphere in which we are engaged for him. - C.

Which of you shall have a friend.
Expository Outlines.
I. A CASE SUPPOSED. If reluctant and hard-hearted men thus yield to the influence of importunity, how much more will the blessed God, who delights in bestowing benefits upon the needy, grant the requests of those who call upon Him!


1. The true nature of prayer. It is simply a matter of asking and receiving. There are some who view prayer altogether in reference to its influence upon the minds of those who engage in it. That it has such an influence is undoubted; but over and above its soothing, elevating, purifying effects, there are direct and positive blessings to be looked for in answer to our requests. The labour of the husbandman is beneficial to him; in itself it is so; being conducive to his health and strength — to the invigoration of his powers both of body and mind. But it is not on that account that he labours. He expects an actual crop; and he goes forth and sees, first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. And so with prayer.

2. The proper spirit of prayer. Earnestness and importunity. "If the arrow of prayer is to enter heaven, we must draw it from a soul full bent."

3. The certain success of prayer.

III. A TOUCHING ARGUMENT EMPLOYED. "HOW much more?" As much more as God is higher than man; as much more as God is holier than man; as much more as God is better than man — so much more will He give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.

(Expository Outlines.)

IMPORTUNITY WANTS SOMETHING. We have literally nothing in the house. Our only resource is to ask our friend to supply us, and, through us, our needy guest. God is our friend. Asking is prayer.

II. IMPORTUNITY GOES TO GOD. Pray when you feel want. Do not put off. It would not answer for the host to wait until morning. It was midnight, true. But the traveller had come at midnight, at this unseasonable hour stood famished in the hall, might die before morning. He must go to-night. He must make haste.

III. IMPORTUNITY CANNOT BE PUT OFF. At first it may seem to fail to get God's ear. But it calls still, until He answers. And having done this, it may seem to be rebuffed, as by a voice from within, "Trouble me not .... I cannot rise and give thee," so that it will be tempted to retire without its answer. But if it has an earnest, pressing case, it will not retire. The subject of delay in answers to prayer may not be fully understood by the wisest. By some it is most imperfectly apprehended. We have misconceptions of God. These may lead Him to delay. Such a misconception is seen in the form of the prayer in our parable, "Lend me three loaves." God does not lend, He gives. His is not a stingy heart, grudging its bounty; He gives freely. As it would wound a mother to have a child say, "Mother, lend me some bread," and she would, if she truly and wisely loved the child, devise some way to teach him that a mother's is not a lending but a giving love; so it must be with God. Again, though there is true want in our hearts, it may not be as heartily expressed and as confiding as God wishes. Ask heartily.

IV. IMPORTUNITY IS SPECIFIC. How specific this man is in stating his case! He wastes no words. "A friend of mine, out of his way, is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him." It is well to pray for all mankind, for all the Church, for large and comprehensive objects, but pray specifically for "a friend of mine." He stands at your door. The petition here was as definite as the statement of the case. "Friend, lend me three loaves." It was a large supply. "One for the friend," says a quaint writer, "one for himself, and one to spare.' He meant to ask for enough. Fix the request at a large amount, but make it definite. If bread is what you want, ask for bread; if you want three loaves, pray for three; if you mean them for your friend out of the way, put in his name, tell who he is, and God will be pleased, if it is not lightly done, an irreverent smartness in prayer, but the fervent simplicity of an agonizing desire.

V. IMPORTUNITY IS EXPECTANT. "Believe that ye receive, and ye shall have." This simple-hearted man knocking at his friend's door, has not admitted the idea into his mind of going home without the bread. Foster the high trust, which ever lives in expectation from God. Such faith He honours. A very worldly man was an object of prayer With his wife. Their little daughter became a Christian; at once she entered into her mother's desires, and joined her in the prayer that her father might be con. verted. Her faith was remarkably simple. She read the direction to us to believe that when we ask for the Holy Spirit we shall receive. She believed; she said to her mother, "Father will be converted." One evening he did not return home at his usual hour. An hour passed, two hours. His wife became anxious, then alarmed. The little girl said, "Why, mother, he's going to come home a Christian to-night. I prayed that he might." The mother smiled sadly at what she looked upon as the child's ignorant simplicity. The hour grew late, still he came not. The mother said, "I must sit up for him." The child replied, "Why, he's all safe, mother; we ought to trust God and go to bed." She went to bed. When the father, at midnight, came, and told his wife how he had found Christ, and, later, they stood in tearful joy looking upon the sleeping face of their little daughter, the child waked and seeing them, before either could speak, with a glad cry exclaimed, "There, mamma, didn't he come home a Christian?" Oh, for the spirit in us all of that praying child!

VI. FINALLY, IMPORTUNITY PREVAILS. All true prayer is answered. The Bible has but one teaching on this subject, experience but one trustworthy lesson. Thirty-four special prayers are given in the Scriptures; every one was answered. It is not promised that the answer will come at once; the tenor of Scripture is to the contrary conclusion. The answer is speedy from God's point of view; with Him one day is as a thousand years. But we are taught to wait upon God, to wait patiently for Him, to be importunate.

(G. R. Leavitt.)


1. The reasonableness and incumbency of importunity in prayer appear from the majesty and holiness of that Being whom we address, contrasted with our own weakness and sinfulness. The depth of feeling and anxiety for success with which we approach to ask a favour of a fellow creature, bear a proportion to his dignity and worth: what reverence, then, what fervour, what earnestness and perseverence of supplication, become us in drawing near to the King of kings, and Lord of lords!

2. The reasonableness and incumbency of such importunity will further appear, if we consider the great value of the deliverances and positive blessings we implore. I speak here, of course, chiefly of spiritual deliverances and blessings. What more reasonable than that our anxiety and perseverance of pursuit should be regulated by the value of the objects we have in view? We should, unquestionably, grudge that earnestness and continuance of application to avert a trifling evil, or to obtain a trifling advantage, which we should yet think well spent to save our life, or to gain a kingdom. But, let us only think of the importance of the spiritual deliverances for which we pray to God — deliverance from destructive ignorance, error, unbelief, guilt, and pollution — deliverance from the curse of God now, and from the wrath to come — deliverance from everlasting misery — and then let us ask ourselves with what importunity we ought to pray for such deliverances. How will the man cry for help who perceives the surrounding tide approaching to overwhelm him! but how much more should we cry to God to save us from being drowned in eternal destruction and perdition?


1. It tends to prepare the mind for the blessings asked, and even is often the actual enjoyment of them. The Lord "prevents," that is, anticipates, "us with the blessings of goodness"; and while we are praying, as well as when we are musing, the fire of devotion burns.

2. Again, such prayer has the promise of being answered. The general command to pray implies a general promise of a favourable answer. But there are many particular and express promises of this kind, especially to those who pray with earnestness and perseverance (see ver. 9).

3. Consider, too, for your further encouragement, some of the many scriptural examples of the success of importunate prayer. Suffer me now, in conclusion, solemnly to ask, Are you given to such importunity in prayer?

(James Foote, M. A.)


1. The appeal.

(1)To whom made. To a "friend."

(2)When made. "At midnight."

(3)How made. Definitely. "Lend me three loaves."

2. The argument.

(1)The fact of need.

(2)The relationship implied. You are my "friend."

3. The response.(1) Most discouraging.

(a)The attitude of the respondent discouraging. "He from within."

(b)The spirit of the respondent discouraging. "Trouble me not."

(c)The argument of the respondent discouraging. "The door is now shut," &c.

4. The appellant's success.(1) Negatively.

(a)Not on the ground of friendly relationship.

(b)Not on the ground of his need.(2) Positively. On the ground of his importunity.


1. To every disciple. "And I say unto you."

2. To the essential conditions of success in prayer.

(1)Prayer itself essential.

(2)To pray for what we need is essential.

(a)Bread or fish are among the necessaries of life.

(b)To ask these when needed is implied.(3) Importunity in prayer.

3. To the perfect assurance of success to those who thus pray.

(1)"Every one" that thus "asketh."

(2)This success is guaranteed on two grounds to the importunate pleader.

(a)Our relationship. "Your heavenly Father."

(b)God's infinite graciousness. "How much more?"Lessons:

1. The contrast in the parable heightens the believer's encouragement.

(1)Our heavenly Father never answers "from within."

(2)Our heavenly Father never says "Trouble Me not."

(3)To the heavenly Father it is never "midnight."

2. Prayer as a Divine condition of blessing one of the most gracious evidences of the Divine love.

3. Importunity the only true evidence of the sincerity of our prayer, and the reality of our felt need, and actuality of our faith.

(D. O. Hughes, M. A.)

I think the meaning is, that Jesus would teach us in this way what we are learning in many other ways — that the best things in the Divine life, as in the natural, will not come to us merely for the asking; that true prayer is the whole strength of the whole man going out after his needs, and the real secret of getting what you want in heaven, as on earth, lies in the fact that you give your whole heart for it, or you cannot adequately value it when you get it. So, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you," means — "Put out all your energies, as if you had to waken heaven out of a midnight slumber, or an indifference like that of the unjust judge."

(R. Collyer.)

Why does the Lord fix upon "midnight" as the time when this transaction took place?

1. Because He would assure us that God is ready to hear us at any and every time of life, even the most unseasonable.

2. Because He would warn us of the obstacles in the way of a late application. The midnight intruder represents the sinner who only turns to God when overtaken by old ago or severe sickness, Repentance long delayed is not easy work.

(J. Henry Burn, B. D.)

1. Our petitions never unseasonable.

2. No time unsuitable.

3. No spiritual mercy too great to ask.

4. No needed blessing exceeds God's power.

5. God never disinclined to hear.

6. God never unwilling to bless.

7. God is ready to answer.

8. God is able to grant.

9. God is willing to bestow.

10. God is waiting to be gracious.

(Van Doren.)

God for a time withholds the answer to prayer. But the blessing is sweeter, when obtained. It is the Christian's duty to ask in faith, and to wait in hope. Perseverance in prayer effects no change in God, but effects a change in the petitioner. Miracles have ceased, wonders have not; perseverance in faith and prayer will accomplish wonders. Diligence, perseverance, and importunity are honourable terms applied to prayer. They offend not God, but are enjoined by command, and taught by example. God is urgent with us, to make us urgent with Him.

(Van Doren.)

Because the word "importunity" occurs here, the parable is sometimes read as enforcing persevering prayer. Its lesson, however, seems not so much to be perseverance as intercession. So the subject is, God giving His people bread for others in answer to prayer.

I. Here, first of all, we have, GOD'S FRIEND CALLED TO GIVE BREAD TO THE HUNGRY. Indeed it is more than the hungry. The traveller in the parable has lost his way ("out of the way," it is in the margin). That represents the call which, except he be sunk in deep spiritual indifference, the Christian hears, More urgent than any plea for the bread that perisheth is that for the bread that endureth unto everlasting life. Whilst he rests in the mercies which the gospel brings, outside are some who in darkness and sadness have lost their way, and pine for bread in the strength of which they shall press on to the light and home. The man of God hears their knock at his door, and their cry beneath his window, and in these a summons from a higher source to rise and give.

2. We hear it in the Divine pity wrought within us. For the desire to save a soul from death is "from above"; it is the spirit that led the Son of God to become incarnate and die. If He has made us pity the hungry wanderers in the dark, that pity is a Divine summons (it were criminal to refuse) to give.

3. And we hear it in the Divine direction of the hungry soul to us. For how often we can say "A friend of mine, out of the way, is come to me!" God makes some our special care: the children He has given us, the ungodly, the unconcerned, and the uncared-for. And they do ask; their look asks if not their speech. But why do they come to us? For the reason that Cornelius in his need sent to Simon in Joppa — because heaven told them to God who creates the hunger, does not leave them to satisfy it as they can, but tells them where to go for bread, and points to us, and that is why they come.

4. And we hear this summons in the method of the Divine working. Be sure it is of no use simply praying for our neighbours, nor for our friends and children; God is ready to answer prayer, but it is His plan to answer it through us; "Give ye them to eat," He says. If we lie self-indulgent in our spiritual repose, afraid to rise because of the cold and the tiredness, and only idly pray for the perishing without, the prayer will be of no use. God's very method is the solemn call to us to rise and give.

II. But we have here next, GOD'S FRIEND WITH NO POWER TO FULFIL THIS CALL. We hear the call and desire to obey it, we rise and look into our storeroom, but — there is nothing! "A friend of mine in his journey is come to me," we say, and alas, "I have nothing to set before him." Now that tends to the idea that God does not mean the supply to come through us; He cannot, we think, expect us, who manifestly have nothing, to dispense something; it must be a mistake for the hungry to come to our door; at least, as we have no bread we may as well lie still, and leave others to do what we cannot. That reasoning makes idle, miserable Christians. Whilst their brethren work their life away in feeding the perishing, many Christians are useless, not always because they have no heart, but because they persuade themselves that they have no gift, and therefore no responsibility. Friends, have we not learnt that our responsibility is not measured by what we have, but by what we can get! We are sure to come to that if we try to obey God's call, for this conscious impotence is Divine preparation for the work. It is God preparing him who has nothing to receive something. One of the best signs when we know we are called to Christian service is the conviction of personal inability. But then we have here, GOD'S FRIEND TURNING TO GOD IN HIS HELPLESSNESS. From the thought that he has no bread he turns to remember a friend who has bread, and he goes to him: "Friend, a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him, lend me three loaves." Let this be the first thought of the helpless helper of others: God can give me what I need the right truth, the right words, the right manner, and (far more than these) through them, unseen by me, He can impart Christ. God can do this. But the next thought is, God will; with confidence we can turn to Him for "loaves" when we call Him, as in the parable, "Friend." And we prove that He and we are friends when, self-forgetting, we make another's wants our own. Never can we be more sure that God will show Himself our friend than when we are anxious about the necessities of our fellows, for He can look on nothing with greater friendliness. To plead for others is to please Him more than to plead for self. Oh, we cannot doubt, when we think thus, that God, who can give the bread we need for the traveller, will. Then the needy worker goes and asks Him.


1. This, then, is a call to prayer. God awakes to give when we awake to ask.

2. And our prayer is answered as we obey.

3. Then see what the praying friend of God may do! The limit to God's giving is "as many as He needeth."

(C. New.)

Like all such utterances of Christ, this draws its material from the ordinary life and incidents of the time. The deep stillness which settles upon an Eastern city soon after nightfall, is broken by the urgent call of a man under a neighbour's window. "Friend! friend!! lend me three loaves! a guest has arrived at my house." Not a strange occurrence in the East, where so many travel in the night to avoid the burning heat of the day. "Friend, lend me three loaves. My guest has taken me unawares. He is a hungry traveller. My larder is empty. I have nothing to set before him." And the answer is that of a man who cares chiefly for his own comfort; a churlish answer enough: "Trouble me not. My door is shut and bolted. The household have gone to rest. I cannot rise and give thee." But the applicant is not so easily disposed of. The ungracious neighbour is not to be left so comfortably to his rest. Hardly has he settled himself on his couch when the knock at the door comes again, and the call is repeated; and again and again; until, for very peace's sake, he is constrained to rise and give his persistent neighbour what he wants.

(Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)

The curiosa felicitas of the parable will best be made apparent by entering into a little detail, first in reference to the situation, and next in reference to the means by which importunity makes itself master of the situation. And in order to show how discouraging the situation is, it will not be necessary to lay stress on the hour of the night at which the petitioner for bread finds himself called on to provide for his unseasonable visitor. Travelling in the night is common in the East, and it may be said to belong simply to the natural realism of the parable that the incident related is represented as happening at midnight. One cannot but remark, however, in passing, that it belongs to the felicity of the parable to suggest what it does not expressly teach, viz., that the comfort it is designed to convey to tried faith is available to those who find themselves in the very darkest hour of their spiritual perplexities. But passing from this, we note the discouraging circumstances in which the man in need finds himself on arriving at his neighbour's door. The difficulty which confronts him is not a physical one; that, viz., of finding his neighbour so profoundly asleep that it is impossible by any amount of knocking, however loud, to awaken him. His discouragement is, as the nature of the argument required it to be, a moral one; that, viz., of finding his neighbour, after he has succeeded in arousing him to consciousness, in a state of mind the reverse of obliging, utterly unwilling to take the trouble necessary to comply with his request. The mood of the man in bed is most graphically depicted. It is the mood of a man made heartless and selfish by comfort. Comfortable people, we know, are apt to be hard-hearted, and comfortable circumstances make even kind people selfish for the moment. Jesus holds up to our view an illustrative example. And the picture is so sketched to the life that we cannot repress a smile at the humour of the scene, while fully alive to the deep pity and pathos out of which the whole representation springs. The man is made to describe himself, and to show out of his own mouth, what an utterly selfish creature he is. First, an ominous omission is observable in his reply. There is no response to the appeal to his generous feelings contained in the appellation "Friend" addressed to him by his neighbour. How true is this touch to human nature as it shows itself in every age! The rich, who need nothing, have many friends, but the poor is hated even of his own neighbour. The first words uttered by the man in bed are a rude, abrupt, surly, "Don't bother me." For, so undoubtedly, ought they to be rendered. It would be out of keeping with the whole situation to put a dignified speech into the mouth of a man irritated by unseasonable disturbance of his nightly repose. Next comes a comically serious detailed description of the difficulties which stand in the way of complying with the needy neighbour's request: "The door is already barred, and my children are with me in bed!" Poor man, he is to be pitied! If it were only the mere matter of getting out of bed, it would be no great affair, now that he is awake. But the unbarring of the door is a troublesome business, not so easily performed as the turning of a key-handle, which is all we Europeans and moderns have to do in similar circumstances. And then the dear children are in bed asleep; what if one were to waken them; what a trouble to get them all hushed to rest again. Really the thing is out of the question. And so he ends with a peevish, drawling "I can't rise to give thee." His "I can't" means "I won't." The circumstances which hinder, after the most has been made of them, are utterly frivolous excuses, and it is simply contemptible to refer to them seriously as reasons for not helping a friend in need. But the very fact that he does this only shows how utterly unwilling he is, how completely comfort and sleep have deadened every generous feeling in his heart. But comfortable selfishness for once finds itself over-matched by importunate want. The situation is desperate indeed when the person solicited for aid finds it in his heart to refuse it on such paltry grounds. But the petitioner has the matter in his own hands; he can make the unwilling one fain to give him whatever he wishes, be it three loaves or thirty; not for friendship's sake certainly, for of that there can be little hope after that contemptible "I can't rise and give thee"; but for very selfishness' sake, to get rid of the annoyance and be free to relapse into slumber. How then? What are the means by which need is able to make itself master of the situation? One word answers the question. It is shamelessness. Shamelessness, not in knocking at the door of a neighbour at such an hour, for that may be excused by necessity, and at all events it has failed. The shamelessness meant is that which consists in continuing to knock on after receiving a decided and apparently final refusal.

(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

In the interpretation and application of this parable, too much stress seems generally to have been laid upon one of the two persons presented to notice, and too little upon the other. To picture God as unwilling to hear and answer prayer, is wholly foreign to the spirit of our Lord's teaching and life; but to emphasize the necessity of our acting as if the answer to prayer were not a thing to be easily obtained, is thoroughly in keeping therewith. The Master had just supplied His disciples with a most lofty and comprehensive form of prayer — a form embracing petitions which from their very nature could only be granted on condition of the petitioners themselves heartily co-operating with God; and now He utters this parable to enforce the truth that there are many obstacles in the way, and that we shall not succeed unless we prove ourselves to be very much in earnest, seeking as well as merely asking, and knocking in addition to both. Who that knows his own heart ever so little, can doubt that between prayer and its answer there are indeed many and serious obstacles? First of all, there is the old man within — the traitor in the very heart of the citadel — urging us to give up the struggle and to swim with the stream. Then, there is all around us a cold and hostile world, ever tempting us to court its smile by the sacrifice of principle and (what so dear to us?) the indulgence of self. And, finally, the Evil One is always on the watch for an opportunity of blinding us to our own true interests, and keeping from us any suspicion of our danger until it is too late to turn back. Such are a few of the obstacles that confront the Christian when, rising from his knees, be day by day goes forth to contribute his share to the hallowing of God's name, the doing of God's will, and the advancement of God's kingdom. Nothing, surely, can be more certain than this; that, so far as he himself is concerned, his petitions for those three primary blessings will go unanswered, unless he strive with might and main, with all the energy of which he is possessed, to bring about, first in his own heart, and then in the hearts of others, that complete surrender to God which is the absolute condition of all acceptable prayer. Then he may look for an answer, but not before.

This parable is meant to afford us effectual encouragement in prayer. Those who first faint in prayer, and then cease to pray, commonly do so from some kind of latent feeling that God does not regard them. Well, says our Lord, even supposing He does not regard you, do not give up asking, for even in the most unpromising circumstances persevering" and importunate entreaty gets what it seeks. Take the most sluggish and selfish nature, the man who won't so much as get out of bed to do a friend a good turn, you can make him do what you want by the very simple device of going on knocking till you cause it to dawn on his slumbering brain that the only way to get the sleep he so much desires is first of all to satisfy you.

(Marcus Dods, D. D.)

This story is merely an illustration on which an argument is founded; and it is of immense importance that we have a correct idea of what that argument really is.

I. LET US HAVE THE CASE SUPPOSED CLEARLY BEFORE US. The story. Our Lord's comment upon it: "I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity" — or rather, as it ought to be rendered, "shamelessness," or more strongly still, "impudence" — "he will rise and give him as many as he needeth." Then the Lord proceeds to give the Magna Charta of prayer, in the familiar words, "Ask and it shall be given you," etc. To this He appends a comparison between an earthly father's dealings with his children and those of our heavenly Father with His. These last verses, as I believe, furnish the key to the argument in the parable. Like them, it reasons from the less to the greater, or rather, from the worse to the better. It does not mean to represent God as gruff and disobliging, like the neighbour newly roused out of his earliest sleep; neither does it recommend the suppliant to use with God such shamelessness or impudence as his friend employed with him. But the suggested inference is this: If the impudence of that midnight knocker prevailed even with an angry and annoyed man so much that he arose and gave what was requested, how much more will the humble, reverent, believing, and persevering prayer of a true child of God prevail with the infinitely kind and loving Father to whom he makes petition? Over against the irritated and reluctant man, only half awake, He places the calm, loving, heavenly Father, "who slumbers not, neither sleepeth"; while, in contrast with the impudence of his troublesome neighbour, He suggests such earnest pleading with a Father as that which they had just seen in Himself, or as He had recommended in the form which He had given them. And the conclusion which He draws is: If the appeal in the former case was ultimately successful, how much more is it likely to be so in the latter! He is far from encouraging us to trust in boldness or irreverence or impudence in prayer, as so many misunderstand His words. We shall not be heard for our frequent speaking, any more than for our much speaking. He would not have us trust in prayer at all, but in the loving, Fatherly heart of Him to whom we pray. "Wait on the Lord" — that is the lesson. But some may say, "We have tried thus to wait on Him, and though we have waited long our prayers are still unanswered." What answer can we give to these troubled spirits? The answer will take us —


1. The success of prayer is conditioned by the character of the suppliant.(a) That which men desire for the gratification of malice, or the pampering of appetite, or the satisfying of ambition, or the aggrandizing of selfishness, God has nowhere promised to bestow.(b) The wish that simply flits across the soul, as the shadow of the cloud glides over the summer-grass, is no true prayer. It must take hold of the spirit, and gather into itself all the energy and earnestness of the man.(c) No one can long persist in such prayer without faith; and so at this point the Saviour's qualifying word, "believing ye shall receive," is appropriate.(d) But more important than any of these conditions in the character of the suppliant is that laid down by Jesus, when He says, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." We must not take the first part of that declaration and divorce it from the second.

2. A second class of conditions connect themselves with the nature of the thing requested. That which we ask must be in accordance with God's will. Beneath every genuine supplication there is the spirit of resignation.

3. This condition, connecting itself with the nature of the thing asked, is nearly akin to the third class of conditions which spring out of the purpose and prerogative of God Himself. This is a view of the case which has not been sufficiently attended to by Christians. "The hearer of prayer" is not the only relation in which God stands to His people. He is their Father as well; and He is, besides, the moral Governor of the intelligent universe. Therefore He uses His prerogative in answering prayer, for moral purposes; and the action which He takes on the petitions of His children is a portion of that discipline to which He subjects them. Or, it may be that the kind of answers which He gives is determined by the influence which the suppliant's example may have on others.


1. How impossible it is for us to discover the results of prayer by any merely human test.

2. To be successful suppliants we must be holy men.

3. How necessary it is that prayer should be characterized by entire submission to the will of God.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Because of his importunity.
Why does our Lord connect the importunity needful to arouse the feeble affections of sleepy man with prayer to our Father in heaven, who sleepeth not, and who is love itself? The disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray," and He taught them. He gave them a simple but sevenfold prayer. Each petition was as clear as the light of heaven. Together the petitions were like seven burning lamps of the spirit of prayer which remain ever before God's throne. But if they would pray well, they must be fervent — not faint. God goes, indeed, give bread of heaven more willingly to His children than earthly parents give to theirs the bread of this world. But earthly parents do not get bread without husbandry, nor fish without tempestuous encounters with the weather, nor eggs without patient care for the fowls. And though God's Spirit is like the liberal air, the affluent sunshine, the multitudinous raindrops, yet as there must be seed in the ground for the rain to take effect, and lapse of days for the sunshine to mature the growth, and air, constant but changeful in its operation, that the living corn may abide and gain its sweetness, so only by patient working can God's spiritual gifts effect man's spiritual good. In our work God can only answer our effort through our patience prolonged; and after, in our prayers, He can only answer us by giving us work. You do not know the importunate effort your prayer implies. God is willing to give, and give at once; but He cannot give all things at once.

(T. T. Lynch.)

The effects here ascribed to importunity are remarkable. Nothing is attributed to friendship or good neighbourhood, to the reasonableness of the request, the ease with which it could be granted, the benefit to be conferred, or what the necessity of the case required. The success is represented as owing to the nature and strength, and frequency of the importunity, or to troublesome, teazing, vexatious efforts long continued, and to the impatience and irritation which such conduct never ceases to produce. But is it possible to believe, that by such behaviour we can influence our Maker, that His patience can be exhausted, and that He can be induced to yield to clamour or unceasing repetition? No, certainly. But we are to consider what is common between the nature of the importunity described in the text, and that which is incumbent in a true Christian, when addressing his heavenly Father. Now, two things are requisite:

1. We ought to know what is declared in the Scriptures to be agreeable to the will of God; and, consequently, what is proper for us to ask of God in prayer.

2. We ought to be as earnest in our petitions, and as incessant in making them, as the person here proposed for our example.

(J. Thomson, D. D.)

Easiness of desire is a great enemy to the success of a good man's prayers. It must be an intent, busy, operative prayer. For consider what a huge indecency it is that a man should speak to God for a thing that he values not! Our prayers upbraid our spirits when we beg tamely for those things for which we ought to die, which are more precious than imperial sceptres, richer than the spoils of the sea, or the treasures of Indian hills.

(Bishop Jeremy Taylor.)

1. Fervency. This consists not in the loudness of the voice, albeit it be many times expressed by loud crying; the peacock hath a louder voice than the nightingale. Nor in long praying, for God doth not measure prayer by the length, albeit long prayers may be fervent prayers, but in the crying of the heart.

2. There must be frequency in it. We give not over at the first denial, no, nor at the second, if we be importunate. "One thing I have desired of the Lord, and I will seek after it" (Psalm 27:4); that is, I have sought it, and will seek again and again. So Psalm 69:3 and Isaiah 62:1.

3. As our suit is to be renewed, so we must persevere in it. So Jacob did not only wrestle, but continued all night and morning too. He gave not over till he had what he sought for. This is enjoined (Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:27). And that parable propounded for that very end that we should pray, and not faint (Luke 18:1). If importunate prayer be prevailing prayer, never marvel that so many of us pray and yet prevail not. The prayers of most are but lip labour, and lip labour is lost labour. Never think to be heard of God in mercy, or to obtain any blessing at the hands of God, by thy cold, careless, and customary prayer. David compares his prayers to incense, and no incense was offered without fire: it was that that made the smoke of it to ascend. But doth not this pass good manners to importune the God of heaven? Will it not be imputed impudence in the creature to press the great Creator to condescend to our requests. Princes love it not, mean men affect it not, and will God suffer it? But God's ways are not as man's. With Him he is magis importunus qui importunat minus — most troublesome, that is least troublesome, saith Gregory. But Austin speaks of some who pray, nimis ardenter, too earnestly. So that it seems to be a fault to be too importunate. There is a double importunity, one arising from an inordinate desire of that we crave, having no respect to the will and promise of God. This was in Israel desiring of a king. And there is another kind of importunity, joined with a subjection to the will of God, and this was in Christ (Matthew 26:39, 42). But say we desire what is lawful, may we pray alike earnestly and importunately for one thing as for another, for small things as well as great, for earthly things as for heavenly? Our prayers are to be earnest as well for small things as for great, for things temporal as well as for things eternal, but yet not with the like degree of earnestness. The incense must smoke, and the pot boil; this cannot be without fire, yet we make not the like fire to roast an egg as to roast an ox. Other things are more common and transitory, being but mean and worthless in comparison of the other, scarce worth the naming, concerning which God is not well pleased that we should spend the heat of our zeal. It is worthy of your notice that our blessed Saviour, in that platform of prayer which He hath given us, puts daily bread before forgiveness of sins; not for that it is to be preferred, but for that it may sooner be despatched and more time spent about the other which concerns the salvation of our souls (there being two petitions of this nature for one of the other). For as it is in pouring out of some liquors that which is thinnest will first come forth and the thickest last, so is it oftentimes in pouring forth the soul to God. And thence it is that the faithful are usually more earnest and importunate with the Lord towards the end of their prayers (as it was with Daniel and David). This we often find. Albeit our earnestness is not to be alike in degree for small things as for great, yet our faith must be the same, let the thing be what it will be that we pray for, if lawful, small or great, temporal or eternal. It may yet be demanded, If it be not a fault to hasten God in the performance of His promises, are we not to wait His leisure? How then are we to importune Him, and be earnest with Him about them? Patiently to attend God's time, and yet earnestly to solicit the hastening of them, may well enough consist. Drexelius tells us of a vision that a religious man had at his prayers in the congregation. He saw a several angel at the elbow of every one present, ready to write down his petitions. Those who prayed heartily their angels wrote down their suits in gold; those that prayed but coldly and carelessly, their angels wrote too, but it was with water; those that prayed customarily, only from the teeth outward, had their angels by them, who seemed to write, but it was with a dry pen, no ink in it; such as slept had their angels by them, but they laid their pens by; such as had worldly thoughts, their angels wrote in the dust; and such as had envious and malicious spirits, their angels wrote with gall. If this be so, I fear few angels have wrote this day in golden letters; but the pens of the others have gone very fast. Have a care how thou prayest if thou wouldest have them written with the golden pen.

(N. Rogers.)

Words add more force to our inward devotion; they stir up and increase the affection of the heart. As the beams of the sun wax hotter by reflection, so do the desires of the heart (saith one) by expression.

(N. Rogers.)

If you desire to know the reasons of this delaying and putting off before He answers, they may be these.

1. God hath an eye herein to His own glory, which is exceedingly advanced hereby.

2. God doth thus delay us to quicken our appetites, inflame our desires, and make us the more earnest and fervent in prayer, dealing herein as the fisher doth in drawing back his bait to make the fish more eager of it.

3. God doth this for the trial and discovery of those graces that are in us, and to inure us to patience and obedience and submission of our wills to His.

4. Hereby the mercy is better prepared for us, for it becomes the greater and the sweeter; by delaying and putting off our suit we are brought to value the thing sued for the more, when things easily had are lightly esteemed: lightly come, lightly go.

(N. Rogers.)

It is the surest coursethat can be taken to supply our wants. The best remedy in the day of our calamity. It must needs be so.

1. Because it is sanctified by God, and established by Divine wisdom for obtaining of all things needful that concern this life and the life to come (Psalm 50:15; Isaiah 19:20, 21; Philippians 4:6; Hebrews 4:6). Now God having prescribed this (who is the Fountain of all blessing and Author of all help), it must needs follow that it is the best means that can be used.

2. This hath to do above. It comes to the throne of grace, lays hold on God's name (from whom alone all our help cometh), when as all other means and helps have to do below on earth, and with earthly things, and can go no further than men's counsels persons, or purses can reach.

3. This is a true catholicon, a general remedy for every malady (it is like the Indian stone that remedieth all diseases), as appears, 1 Kings 8. Whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness or other misery doth befall us, prayer will remedy it. No such universal and general help in all extremities as this is. Physicians for divers diseases have divers remedies, but the Christian hath this one which is better than all — prayer.

4. It is the readiest remedy, evermore at hand; in what place soever you are you may help yourselves and others by it (1 Timothy 2:8). Jeremiah prays in the dungeon, Jonah in the whale's belly, Peter in the prison, Paul in the stocks. In the fields, on the leads, in the chamber, in the closet, in caves and dens of the earth, it may be taken and used.

5. It is the speediest remedy. No sooner are our prayers out of our mouths — nay, in our hearts, but they are in heaven, and no sooner are they in heaven but we shall find the benefit of them (Daniel 9:21, 22, 23; Genesis 24:15; Acts 4:31).

6. It is an approved remedy. It hath its probatum est upon constant experience of God's saints, who have ever found it to be the best lever at a dead-lift (2 Samuel 22:4, 7; Psalm 118:5).

(N. Rogers)

They who love Christ love every member of Christ, to the lowest. Oh the happiness of a Christian who hath a stock going in every part of the Christian world. He is like some rich merchant, who hath his factors in all countries. Some in Spain, others in France, and where not where God hath a Church? The prayers of the saints are for the common good of the whole body, and the poorest member of that body is a sharer in all the prayers that are put up to heaven in the behalf of the Church. As when several ships go to sea, some traffic in one thing and some in another; some bring gold, others spices, and others other commodities; but all that is brought is for the common good of the country. So the prayers of the godly are like these ships that go to sea. Some request this of God, others that, but all that they bring home is for the good of the whole Church, whereof thou, being a member, shalt certainly be a sharer. If one Elijah can procure plenty, and prevail for a whole country, if one Isaac by prayer can make Rebekah fruitful, if the prayer of one righteous man can so prevail with God, what will so many eyes and hands reared up to heaven do. Single prayers are like Sampson's single hairs, every one hath the strength of a man; but the prayers of many are like his whole bush, or head of hair, able to overcome the whole host of heaven, and to bind the hands of God Himself, as appears by the passage betwixt God and Moses. And if men should fail me, yet Christ still loves me, and loving me, He will not be wanting in making intercession to His Father on my behalf.

(N. Rogers.)

We can see this principle at work, if we will, first in nature. It fills the whole distance between the paradise of the first pair and this common earth as we find it to-day. In that old Eden there was no barrier between the longing and its answer, and no effort needed to bring the answer, except the longing. The kindly, easy, effortless life went on, we suppose, as life might have gone on in the Sandwich Islands before Cook discovered them, had their inhabitants possessed the secret of how to live, in addition to their perfect climate, and the daily bread that came almost without the asking. In this life of ours, however, there is no such answer to our natural cry for what we need. The need may be, in its way, Divine, and the longing as Divine as the need; but before they can come to their full fruition, barriers have to be broken down that seem to have been put there by Heaven itself. We touch this principle again in a more personal way when we observe this striving in the experiences of men. Not to mention at this moment what is most purely spiritual in these conflicts, there is deep instruction in watching how some man is moved to do some thing that is to bless the world in a new and wonderful way when it is done; but between the conception and the conclusion there are mighty barriers, that only the uttermost might of what is indeed a Divine persistence can finally overcome. It flashes on the soul with something of the nature of a revelation when it is done. Men say he must have been inspired to do it. Its blessing is so clear that we can almost see the shining track on which it has come from God to man. It would be natural to think then the way must be clear between the conception and execution of such a thing, not only because of the nobility of the thing itself, but of the urgent need of it among men. They knocked more than two hundred years for the locomotive before the door was opened, and if you have read this history of Mr. Goodyear, you will remember how at last the full revelation of the secret came in a flash, as when the diamond seeker watches for the sudden sheen of his treasure between the sand and the sun. Bat it was the eye that had been seeking patiently, persistently, and steadily through these long years that found the treasure, as when the apple fell; if we had been there, we should have seen an apple fall where Newton saw the whole order of the sun and stars, because he had been wearying heaven night and day for years to open her doors to his beseeching about that matter. A true prayer must be the deepest and most painful thing a man can possibly do; may be so costly that he will give up, without a murmur, his very life, before he will give up that which his prayer has wrested, as it were, out of the heart of the heavens; and it may be so protracted, that twenty years shall not suffice to see it. For prayer, in its purest reality, is first the cry of the soul to God for His gift, and then it is the effort of the soul to make as sure of what it longs for, as if it were to come by its own winding. It is something in which the words we say are often of the smallest possible consequence, and only our unconquerable persistence under God is omnipotent. I went once to see the cathedral at Cologne. It is the most wonderful blossoming of Gothic art on the planet. Hundreds of years ago some man, now forgotten, found it all in his heart, and longed to make it visible in stone. But because it was so great and good, when the man died his work was still unfinished; it was still unfinished when his name was forgotten; at last, even the design of it was lost, and it seemed as if there was no hope that the cathedral would ever be done. But when Napoleon went storming through Europe, his marshals lighted on the old design, hidden in some dusty corner of s monastery; so it got back again to Cologne, and when I was there, all Germany was interested in finishing the noble idea. Now, since that church was begun, thousands of churches have risen and fallen in Germany, and no trace of them is left; but because the Dome Kirche is the grandest thing in its way that was ever done in stone, or ever conceived in a soul, two things follow: there must be a mighty span between the conception and the consummation, a striving through dark days and fearful hindrances to build it, and, at the same time, an indestructible vitality in the idea, like that which has attended it. It is but a shadow of this great fact concerning our spiritual life. The very worth of what we ask for from the heavens, because it is so worthy, is the deepest reason there is why the blessing cannot come until the full time — until it has had its own time.

(R. Collyer, D. D.)

I have heard it said, and I fear it is true, that the worst performed work that we do in the day is our prayers: I fear that many of us, perhaps most of us, must confess this to be true. We are earnest in other things, our merchandise, our work, our studies; but how few of us are diligent in prayer, how few of us look upon this as our daily bread, how few of us live a life in any distant degree resembling that of our Saviour Christ. I fear the same thing is spoiling our communion with God which spoilt Adam's, a feeling of enmity to God, a consciousness of our wills not being wholly like His, of our having tastes which He does not approve, of our hearts being set upon the world.

(Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)

How often have I seen a little child throw its arms around its father's neck, and win, by kisses, and importunities, and tears, what had been refused? Who has not yielded to importunity, even when a dumb animal looked up with suppliant eyes in our face for food? Is God less pitiful than we?

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

When the householder is once roused by the importunity of his neighbour, he not only gives him the three loaves, for which perhaps he asked out of delicacy as the very least that would suffice, but "as many as he needeth"; enough to spread a bounteous repast. And when God delays giving, it is not only to encourage faith to press for that particular gift, but to introduce it to a larger range of gifts: to bring it to a better acquaintance with Himself, in whom are all gifts. A praying soul, in such circumstances, is like a thirsty man following up the windings of a clear, cold stream, but unable to get down to the water's edge because the banks are so steep. He walks mile after mile along the precipitous shores, and the sun is hot, and he is faint, and his thirst is aggravated by the sparkling water below; but by and by he finds himself among the springs, at the source of the stream, high up where the fountains are sheltered, and clear and exhaustless, and he bows down and drinks his fill. God is better than all His gifts, and the object of prayer is to make us acquainted with Himself. Your boy comes to you and asks you to buy him a fishing-rod; and he says, "I saw one to-day in a window, on such a street, which was just what I want. Can't I go down now and buy it?" And you say, "No, not to-day. Wait a little. You shall have your rod." And doubtless the lad is disappointed, perhaps a little sullen for the time, and a week passes and he hears nothing about his rod, and he begins to say to himself: "I wonder if father has not forgotten all about it." Then, just at the end of the week, you put into his hands a better rod than he has ever seen before, and with it a complete outfit for his sport, and the boy is overwhelmed with surprise and pleasure. And yet the main thing in all this is not that your son has received what he wanted. You meant he should have that; but the gift won, through delay, has given him a new view of his father's wisdom, and a new confidence in his affection, which makes him say, "Hereafter, when I want anything of this kind, I will leave it all to father." That is the main point gained. And so the main thing which a man gains when God at last answers his prayer with the gift which he asked, is not the gift, but the clearer consciousness that God is better than His gifts, that he has all things ill God.

(Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)

When a person told a story in a heartless way, Demosthenes said,'" I don't believe you." But when the person then repeated the assertion with great fervour, Demosthenes replied, "Now I do believe you." Sincerity and earnestness are ever urgent. The prophetess at Delphos would not go into the temple once when Alexander wished to consult the oracle. He then forced her to go, when she said, "My son, thou art invincible"; a remark which led him to believe he should always conquer in war. Luther was so earnest in his prayers that it used to be said, "He will not be denied." When Scotland was in danger of becoming Popish, John Knox prayed most mightily for its preservation in the true faith. "Give me Scotland," he pleaded, "or I die"; and his prayers have been answered. Epaphras "laboured fervently in prayer." Christ "being in an agony, prayed the more fervently"; and now, "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." God has pleasure in holy importunity. "Ye shall seek Me, and find Me when ye seek Me with all your heart." We get fervour as we "continue instant in prayer," and our earnestness sends up our petitions to God through Christ, and brings down the blessings which God gives in His own time and way. Fervent and persevering prayer fits us to receive the blessings which God gives. Importunate prayer has divided seas, stopped the mouths of lions, raised the dead to life, and has secured all kinds of blessings. Cecil says of those who pray as they ought, "God denies them nothing, but with the design to give them a greater good." If our spirit "break with much longing," then "before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear."

(H. R. Burton.)

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