The Lord’s Prayer, as it is commonly called, already seemed quite short in Matthew’s rendition. But Luke truncates it even more. Long prayers are not necessarily better prayers. When you think about it, it does seem a bit odd, in a relationship between one who knows everything and one who knows virtually nothing by comparison, that the latter would do all the talking! It seems that it would be more important that we hear from God than that He hear from us! In any case, the Lord’s Prayer helps us to order our prayers, prioritizing what is most important. Our foremost desire should be that our Father’s name be hallowed.
It is to be regretted that the New American Standard Version, as well as some other versions, translates Jesus as saying in the conclusion of the parable of the midnight visitor, “Because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” The Greek word translated “persistence” (anaideia), is derived from two other Greek words. One of those words means “shame” and the other is a negative prefix. So anaideia is better translated “shamelessness.”
Additionally, Jesus’ story doesn’t illustrate the idea of persistence, but rather of boldness. The primary character in the parable had great nerve, or faith, to disturb his friend at midnight to request three loaves of bread. Imagine doing such a thing yourself! What would restrain you from making such a request? Only fear, or lack of faith. And that is exactly why Jesus then encouraged His disciples to ask, seek and knock. The key to answered prayer is to make requests that are according to God’s will, and to ask boldly. This is certainly repeatedly illustrated in Scripture. One request we can make, certain of God’s will in the matter, is for the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus assures us our Father will give us (11:13).
Of course, the parable of the midnight visitor, like all parables, is an imperfect comparison, and so we should be cautious that we don’t ascribe to God every detail that we find in the reluctant and sleepy friend. God never sleeps (Ps. 121:4)! He is much more like the father who grants his child his exact requests (11:11-12) than a just-awakened and disheartening neighbor.
Truly, those who accused Jesus of casting out demons by Satan’s power, and those who demanded a sign from Him, revealed the hardness of their hearts. Jesus had performed plenty of “signs from heaven,” and anyone who did more than listen to gossip about Him, but observed His ministry for even a short time, knew that. Only wicked people demand proof for what has already been proven repeatedly. They won’t be persuaded. Yet Jesus patiently responded to them, provoking them to consider how foolish their accusations were.
Today we read of the world’s very first person who gave undue prominence to Jesus’ mother, Mary. Raising her voice in the crowd, she said to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed” (11:27). His correction of her should be heeded by all today whose devotion to Mary unduly supersedes devotion to Christ: “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (11:28). That is the important thing.
Jesus’ contrast of those with “clear eyes” and “bad (or evil) eyes” was not as cryptic to His contemporary followers as it is to His modern followers. In Jesus’ day, to say that someone had an evil eye was synonymous with saying that he had a greedy heart (Prov. 28:22; Matt. 20:15). So the clear eye is just the opposite of that. Jesus pointed out that greedy hearts reveal that one is full of spiritual darkness, something that is also affirmed by Paul, who wrote that no greedy person will inherit God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:3-5). Although the modern definition of greed allows people to hoard massive amounts of wealth, the unchanging truth is that the damning sin of the goats in Matthew 25:31-46 was their greed, illustrated by the fact that they did not share their God-given abundance with the poor. May our eyes be clear!