For His Namesake

It was God’s good pleasure to join you to himself in such a way that His name is at stake in your destiny. – John Piper

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”

2And He said to them, “(A)When you pray, say:
[a]Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
3‘Give us (B)each day our daily bread.
4‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who (C)is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.'”

5Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves;

6for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;

7and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’

8“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet (D)because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

9“So I say to you, (E)ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

10“For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

11“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?

12“Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?

13(F)If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

This emphasis of this gospel text is not so much on the one asking as it is on the one being asked. Verse 5 is actually a question, paraphrased as “Can you imagine having a friend knocking on your door and you would have nothing set before him? Can you imagine telling him to go away; my kids is asleep?” Do we even have that imagination to refuse hospitality to someone we know or to push it further, a stranger? In Western cultures, that is possible. Big time. But not in the Middle East and most of Asia. I’ve conversed with an Iranian during my university days and he says it’s unthinkable to drive someone away when he or she comes knocking on your door. Even if he or she is a stranger. Culturally it’s impossible.

Why? The motivation is not that of guilt which is prevalent in Greek or Roman cultures. It is shamelessness, which comes from the Greek anaideia which had been replaced by word persistence in verse 8. The Greek or Roman mind can’t get their head around this idea of shamelessness, at least on a deep level. So the parable is not so much on the fact that the one who request for food was persistent in his efforts, but it is more likely that the giver’s name was at the tremendous risk of being tarnished! We Asians know it! It’s not wanting to lose face. And not wanting to damage one’s reputation. The quality of anaideian applies to the guy inside the house.

There’s something that goes deeper; something that goes beyond friendship and love and it is the avoidance of shame. The giver will get up and help the asker, EVEN IF he hates him, because he would honor his own name. He doesn’t want to be the one who is accused of leaving someone in a lurch. He has a responsibility to the whole village to care for this person.

Lord, teach us how to pray.

He showed us “The Lord’s Prayer” and then this parable. The parable is not about us who asks. It’s about the one being asked: The God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He says, “I am who I am”. I am “Yahweh” in the fullest relational sense possible. I AM the God who is everything you need.

God forbid, that EVEN IF the Father doesn’t love us, he will honor his promise because he would not dishonor his name. He simply cannot do it.

What of God do you need today?

Whatever it is, it shall be fulfilled according to His will not just because you were persistent or faithful but because He is who He is – Yahweh. And that cannot be changed.

[Reflections based on Darrell Johnson‘s sermons]

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