In another parable Jesus tells of a friend who comes to another friend at midnight with a request. The friend who disturbs the other has no regard for himself, i.e. how he might appear to his friend, and he has little or no regard for his neighbor’s comfort (Luke 11:5-8). What seems to be all important is that he has a guest in his home, but he has nothing to set before him to express his hospitality. On the other hand the friend in bed has absolutely no desire to get out of bed. He has no interest in helping his friend. He just wants him to go away.
The meaning of this parable is disputed. Some scholars will say it is about persistence in prayer. That is, the friend on the outside keeps knocking, and his friend inside the house will get up and give him all he needs, just to get rid of him, so he can get back to sleep, or so his family won’t be disturbed further. The problem is that this idea doesn’t seem to fit the context that the Father is very willing to answer our prayer (cf. Luke 11:13). The initial idea expressed in Luke 11:1 is that the disciples don’t know how to pray, and, perhaps, they think Jesus would teach them how to be effective in prayer—i.e. get what they desire from an unwilling God. I think Jesus wishes to correct this idea. Therefore, I don’t believe Jesus’ point is that the friend in the house simply wants to get rid of the friend who is disturbing him.
Other scholars will emphasize that the shamelessness of the friend knocking is the key to Jesus’ point. He shows us that he doesn’t care what he has to do or how he appears to his neighbor, he simply admits that he has nothing to set before a guest, so he is asking for his friend’s mercy, requesting only what he knows he has.
No doubt there is truth in this idea, and, perhaps, an example of what this would look like is found in the example of the Syro-Phoenician woman recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. She came to Jesus asking him to heal her daughter, but Jesus ignored her for awhile. Yet, she continued to ask for mercy. When Jesus turned to her to say it wasn’t fitting to give the children’s food to the dogs. She simply replied, yet the dogs eat what falls from the children’s table. Jesus praised her faith and said her daughter was healed (Matthew 15:22-28). Shamelessly asking displays a hope of an expected reply. But, is this really Jesus’ point? I’m not so sure.
I think a better meaning of the parable is the heart of the friend inside the house. Think about the friend on the outside for a moment. He too was disturbed by a fellow knocking on his door at midnight, and he got up to show his unexpected visitor the expected hospitality of a good meal. Nevertheless, he had nothing to set before him. Now the other friend on the inside of his home, with his door shut receives a knock. Will he not be ashamed, if he doesn’t respond favorably to his friend, not because he is his friend, but because of the shame he in the house would have to endure, if he didn’t give the friend what the man knows he has in a culture that expects this kind of hospitality?
Jesus’ point seems to be, if a man in the ancient Jewish culture was so concerned over his own name that he would reluctantly give his friend whatever he asks, wouldn’t God who cares about his own good Name give his children all they ask, when they tell him they have nothing to set before a guest who has come to them wanting to know about the Kingdom of God?