As parents and grandparents many of us have all too often been the victims of methodical pestering. At some point in utero or after their launch into the cold harsh world of need our babies learn that fine skill. It goes something like: “mom can I have…?” And is followed by “no honey, not now.” But that is far from the end of it. At the appropriate moment daddy is accosted with a “daddy, can I have…?” The unsuspecting or inexperienced daddy may well give in easily and the child steals away satisfied and successful! The game may not be over, however, especially if daddy has learned from grim experience to ask “what did mommy say?” But the canny child has more tricks up his or her little sleeve if grandparents are in play! And we know how easily a grandfather can fall prey to this little ambush. The strategy is not honourable, of course, and should be exposed and terminated for the sake of family peace and the development of little tyrants’ self discipline 🙂
Can you imagine, then, the ripple in the crowd that Jesus’ story about the bothersome neighbour caused? A man had unexpected out of town guests who arrived at midnight and he had no food ready for them – a hospitality faux pas. So he went to his neighbour’s gate, which was closed and locked for the night, and called out (perhaps softly at first) to waken is neighbour and ask him to borrow some loaves. The neighbour was annoyed as the house was closed up for the night and he, his wife and children had finally settled in for a good night’s sleep. Jesus makes an astonishing statement. He says that the neighbour gets up and gives his pestering friend the bread not because of their friendship but because of his annoying persistence. The word used is never used in a good sense – it has at heart the idea of persistence, bothering, troubling, shamelessness, impudence, audacity, importunity.. you get the idea!
Is God exasperated by our persistence and repetition in prayer as even the best of human does? Not according to His Son. So ask away. So bother on. So persist. He’s fine with that.