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A Friend at Midnight parable reminds me of the age-old adage, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” which has been around for centuries but its meaning still rings true in today’s society.
As the famous parable of the midnight friend illustrates, this saying encompasses more than just helping a friend in need but the act of true friendship. In this article, we’ll explore what the parable means, analyze the implications of the story, and discuss how it is relevant to today’s world.
We will also look to the story as a reminder to always be prepared to be a friend in need and understand the power of meaningful relationships. As Albert Schweitzer wisely said, “The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
The parables of Jesus are just one way that He taught us about life and our relationship with the Lord.
This brief parable is given in the form of a rhetorical question, after which Jesus supplies the obvious answer in order to drive His point home. Then He goes on to offer some application of the parable’s teaching. So, we will follow this simple order in our examination of the parable: 1) the question of the parable, 2) the answer of the parable, and 3) the application of the parable.
A Friend at Midnight Parable
I. The Question of the Parable
If a friend was in need, wouldn’t you get up in the middle of the night to help them? Jesus asks us to consider this simple thought: If we have friends who would be willing to do this for us, shouldn’t we be willing to do it for them? That’s what true friendship is all about. As Christians, we’re called to embody this serve-centered mindset in our relationships. A friend’s house should be open to us.
So that’s a clear point, but Jesus also ties the question to the preceding context when He describes the man in the story as in need of bread. Notice that Jesus has just taught the disciples how to pray by use of what has come to be known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” And in verse 3 He said that they should pray,
Jesus teaches us a valuable lesson in the parable of asking for daily bread: be persistent in your request for divine provision and don’t fear asking for help. We can always petition to the throne of grace.
As Christians, we can be confident that God will provide for our daily needs if we persist in our faith. This is a reminder of His great love for us, and to trust Him in all situations.
When we’re in need, wouldn’t it be comforting to know that our Heavenly Father is as faithful and loving as a friend who would get up in the middle of the night for us? Jesus knew this was true and wanted us to know it too.
In fact, He commanded us to ask God daily for our daily bread – and He promised to provide it. This is what He was getting at when He gave us the answer we will examine next.
II. The Answer of the Parable
The answer is found in verse 8:
Perhaps the key term for understanding the meaning of this parable is the word translated impudence in the ESV. The Greek word is anaídeia, and its meaning is strongly debated by scholars of Biblical Greek. In fact, this debate is reflected in the translation and notes of some of the modern versions.
Impudence, as described by the Greek word “anaideia”, is a lack of sensitivity to what is proper. Found only in the New Testament, the term carries extreme importance to Christians, as impudence goes against the moral code of aidōs — respect, modesty, and proper behavior.
Christians should not hesitate to approach God with any request they have, for He is more compassionate and loving than any other human. As Jesus proclaimed, even a person with an impudent nature would have the audacity to knock on their neighbor’s door and ask for what they need. If we trust that humans can be this bold, then we should have no doubt that the gracious God will answer our prayers.
Some Bible interpreters suggest that the term “anaideia” means “persistence” in this context, which is an uncommon meaning. However, this interpretation makes sense in the context of the following verses, which stress the importance of unwavering faithfulness as believers continuously seek, ask, and knock (vv. 9–10).
Thus, it is likely that these two ideas – shameless persistence and constant devotion – are the intended message of this uncommon term.
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The Greek word for “shamelessness,” “impunity,” or the “lack of sensitivity to what is proper” also conveys a sense of persistence, and Jesus himself clarified this in a profound way. His explanation attests to one of the cornerstones of the Christian faith: that enduring faith is rewarded in the end.
Let us pause for a moment to consider the type of parable Jesus was relaying: the implied “how much more” parable. This parable form draws an argument from the lesser to the greater – a powerful approach that can help Christians understand Jesus’ lessons.
Understanding the culture of the biblical world is essential in unlocking the true meaning behind Jesus’ parables. While elements within these stories may appear foreign to us, most of them are rooted in the everyday life of early first-century Israel.
However, each parable contains one message or element that goes beyond realism, providing a symbolic meaning that is integral to understanding the parable. Christians can use this knowledge to deepen their understanding of the parables and relate them to their own life experiences.
In the parable of the friend at midnight (Luke chapter 11:5–8), Jesus Christ offers a timeless lesson in hospitality. In today’s world, it’s hard to appreciate the challenge of being visited unannounced in the middle of the night—especially without modern forms of communication or the ability to accurately estimate travel time.
Yet, Lord Jesus’s story still demonstrates the importance of welcoming a guest into one’s home without hesitation. Christians everywhere can benefit from this reminder to open their doors and hearts to those in need.
During hot times of year, a person might deliberately travel in the cool of the evening. Whether or not the traveler had eaten supper, hospitality dictated that one offer him something to eat at the end of his journey. Poor families may not have had leftovers, but neighbors regularly shared with each other, so the new host’s request even at midnight is not unusual.
Faced with the reality of his neighbor’s need, the man faced an arduous task. With only one room and your friend’s door barred shut with metal bolt and padlock, the man set out to provide three small, fist-sized loaves. Such a gesture is familiar to Christians, who seek to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and follow his instructions from God’s Word to “love thy neighbor.” This truism reminds us of the responsibility we have to care for those around us in need and do so with compassion and generosity.
The man’s neighbor showed a remarkable display of “anaideia”—translated as more than mere persistence or boldness, but a kind of impudence, or chutzpah. The New International Version (NIV) text note suggests the sleeping man may have been motivated in part by the desire not to lose face, although this idea is less supported by the grammar. Regardless of the reason, the man’s neighbor was commended for their boldness in asking for help. Christians can find encouragement in this example, learning to approach God with audacity, faith, and humility.
Jesus’ parable of the neighbor in Luke 11 wasn’t about preparing a surprise for a guest, but rather a lesson about prayer. The reason he used this parable is to illustrate “how much more” God will answer our prayers than a reluctant neighbor.
So, although it may seem awkward to be shamelessly bold in praying to God, that should not stop us – God can handle it. We can approach Him in any way we choose, as He is not particular about our speech, tone, or style. Our loving Father is eager to answer our prayers for the good of His people.
The Passion of the Praying Person
In Luke 11, Jesus reveals the importance of prayer by first modeling it in His own prayer life and then responding to His disciple’s request for a deeper understanding. By praying, Jesus selected the “better” approach and showed us the vital role prayer plays in our Christian faith.
Inspired by the devout prayer of Jesus, his disciple was so moved to ask Him for further insight into prayer. Jesus was pleased to hear this, as not all who approached Him did so with spiritual matters in mind.
Christians can glean six lessons from today’s parables. The first two are persistence and passion in prayer. Both traits are essential for the faithful to make their petitions heard. While persistence is necessary to persevere in asking for God’s favor, passion and fervor can go a long way in increasing the chances of having one’s prayers answered.
Three words from Jesus in verse 9 reveal a sense of profound passion: ask, seek, and knock. Asking simply involves expressing a request. Seeking implies a heightened desire to attain the desired object. Knocking requires committed actions to find the place where the goal can be reached. To Christians, this passage serves as a powerful reminder to trust in the Lord and engage in actions that reflect faith and dedication.
Prayer is more than just asking God for things – it’s a time for us to foster deeper connections with Him and ourselves. Jesus is prominent in His teachings on prayer, emphasizing a relationship rather than a ‘shopping list’ approach.
As Christians, prayer can be an opportunity to reflect on our lives and build relationships with the Divine. By understanding ourselves and our Father, we can develop a meaningful connection with Him that goes beyond the logistics of what to ask for.
Our Loving Father Provides for Us
Christians know all too well the power of prayer and the love and generosity of their Father who hears them. In the Bible, Verses 11–13 remind us of God’s desire to grant the requests of His children. Although He may not be able to provide everything asked for, His love for them will never lead them astray or make them think they are getting something good when it will truly be harmful.
Jesus taught us that God is a compassionate Father, ready to provide us with the Holy Spirit when we ask. Through prayer, we offer ourselves up to what God desires for us instead of relying on it as a way to give us what we want.
The word “passion” speaks to the intensity of God’s love for us, for he generously seeks to provide us with all that we need. Unfortunately, we often differ from Him in our passions; focusing on worldly desires, we overlook the grandeur of our infinite potential.
To successfuly align with God’s will, we must strive to look at life through an eternal lens.
When we prioritize what’s important to God, aligning our passions to His for the world and ourselves, we can become an example for others in prayer. By uniting our wills with His, we can become more effective in our petitions and praises. As Christians, we don’t just pray – we become model “pray-ers” for others.
Jesus urged His disciples to ask for the things they needed, assuring them that God would provide. In His words, He implored them to never stop asking when something was essential. As Christians, this is advice we should heed: ask and persist when you need something, and trust that God will provide.
Jesus provides us with guidance for asking God for our deepest desires in the Bible: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). This order also happens to spell out the word ASK – an easy way to keep this passage in our hearts. For Christians, this is a reminder of our abundant access to God’s love and provision.
Let’s take a look at the remaining 4 Life Lessons from the Friend at Midnight parable
1. Ask, Seek, and Knock
The Parable of the Friend at Midnight and the Parable of the Persistent Widow both emphasize a similar message: When we earnestly seek God’s grace, He will answer us with a resounding ‘yes.’ The Scriptures illustrate this important truth through their parables – if we ask, He will give; if we knock, the door will open; and if we seek, we will find Him. As Christians, let us embrace the power of prayer and trust in God’s immeasurable grace and love.
Matthew 7:7-12 is a familiar verse about ‘asking, seeking, and knocking’. It says:
God desires that we draw closer to Him and experience the joy of His abundant blessings.
As we actively seek Him, He rewards us with the richness of His presence and lavishes us with His goodness. It is a joyous blessing to seek out and commune with our Heavenly Father.
Picture this: You’re a human parent with children who don’t seem to care about you. You never hear from them, they don’t visit, and their Christmas and birthday gifts feel more like an obligation than a gesture of love. Sound familiar?
This same kind of ambivalence is how many Christians feel when it comes to their relationship with God.
As Christians, we know the power of relationships in our lives. When we have a child who seeks us out, it’s only natural to take joy in that connection and respond with enthusiasm and delight.
Each call, visit, and conversation is an opportunity for us to give gifts, build bonds, and develop meaningful relationships. It’s a blessing to be so connected with our children.
Do you love others less if you prioritize your relationship with God? Absolutely not! The Lord still showers His blessings on everyone, however, He takes the greatest delight in those who actively seek Him out and knock on His door.
Seeking after Him and asking God for answers makes Him very happy and brings us nearer to His will. We just have to knock on God’s door.
2. Don’t worry about being a pest
Rather than seeing God as a genie in a bottle granting a finite number of wishes, Christians understand that God is a loving Father who cares deeply about every detail of our lives.
We understand that we can come to Him with our biggest worries and our smallest requests – He is not “bothered” by either.
A Friend at Midnight parable teaches us that God never tires of hearing our requests — no matter how often we turn to Him. We can never exhaust His grace, love, and mercy. This reality is contrary to the popular idea of “genie in a bottle”, where each wish is limited. For followers of Christ, the truth is that our behests always find favor in the eyes of our Lord and Savior.
Turning to God is not only beneficial to us, but it delights Him too! He loves hearing from His children and takes great pleasure in answering our prayers and blessing us abundantly.
Whether we’re asking for guidance, offering praise, or simply reaching out, our heavenly Father loves being in a relationship with His beloved children – after all, that’s what He desires most.
3. Go to God with Shameless Audacity
The Friend at Midnight parable states, “yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”
In his teachings, Jesus showed us that when it comes to our relationship with God, being audacious and unashamed is key.
As seen in one of Jesus’ parables, the power of having audacity and faith in God is strong enough to attract His attention and ask — and receive — all sorts of favors. So when it comes to our relationship with God, having the courage to take big risks can make all the difference.
Shamelessness and audacity are two valuable qualities for Christians. The former speaks to our willingness to stand firm in our beliefs and convictions regardless of how others may perceive us.
The latter calls for boldness in our faith, but always with respect and courtesy towards others.
God longs for us to come to Him with confident prayer. He promises to listen and answer our cries, inviting us to bring our deepest longings and trust Him to provide.
Unashamedly and fearlessly, we can approach Him with faith and assurance of His unconditional love.
God answers our prayers because He loves us and desires to uphold His holiness and goodness. Take courage and approach Him with bold assurance — He will never turn away a sincere heart.
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4. I Asked, Seeked, and Knocked – but the Lord said ‘No!’
Have you ever come across Bible verses that promise to give you what you ask for — that if you seek, you shall find, and if you knock the door shall open — and felt like they weren’t true?
We’ve been there. But what if God really does want to give us what we ask for and show us the answers to our prayers? The Bible shows us that, when we pray in faith, God is more than able to answer.
It’s time to trust that God will show up and do what He says He will when we call out to Him. So don’t be discouraged! Ask for what you need, keep seeking, and keep knocking, and God will open the door. It may not be an unanswered prayer. It may be a “not yet” answer.
The power of prayer is a deeply personal journey. You prayed and trusted in God, and yet, you were delivered heartache. You sought good health for your mother, a loving partner, and a meaningful career for yourself, but none of these were granted to you.
This spiteful reality can leave you feeling robbed of hope and faith in the Lord. Though it may seem difficult, remember that even in the deepest suffering, God loves you and is with you. After all, Romans 8:28 tells us that “all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”. Hold onto that truth and never lose faith.
As Christians, we often face challenging moments when we question why God is saying ‘no’ to us. Rest assured, He always has a perfect plan – even when we don’t understand it. More often than not, what we perceive as ‘no’ is actually a ‘not yet’.
When we pray for healing on this side of eternity, our intentions may not always be realized. We often desire for the ailing to be restored to health and remain with us, yet the reality of death often intercedes. Although it may not appear to be the answer to our prayers, we can take comfort knowing that our loved one is healed in heaven – throughout eternity.
Waiting is an unavoidable part of the Christian journey. We can look to the Bible for many examples of God’s timing, as seen in His promises that take centuries to come to fruition.
This truth reminds us that we can trust in the Lord’s plan, even if we must wait for it to unfold in its own time. God knows when we are in a time of need.
God is our protector, not only from the external world but from ourselves too.
He understands what is best for us, and when we may want something that is not good, He will not let us venture down that harmful path. He loves us and is dedicated to keeping us safe, even from ourselves.
When we entrust our lives to God, we strive to enact His will. Through faith, we prioritize His plan for us, believing it to be greater than what we could ever imagine for ourselves. As a result, we turn to prayer, asking that His will be done, not ours.
The spirit of God is faithful to answer our prayers, although it may not happen when we expect it or in the way we think it should. He always hears and responds, even when the timing or outcome may be different than what we envision.
Trust that God is always with you, and His desire is to bless you and provide the best for you. When we come to Him in prayer, He hears us and responds to our needs. He opens the door when we knock, and meets us with His presence when we seek Him out.
You may enjoy this simple cartoon of a friend at midnight parable.
Or one of these recommended resources:
Parables for Living: by Reverend Daniel Kerr
Parables: The Greatest Stories Ever Told (LifeGuide Bible Studies) by John White
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”