Jesus invites us to ‘bug’ him
“Please, God,” a man prayed, “you know me. I’m always praying to you, yet I have had nothing but bad fortune, misery and despair in my life. Look at the butcher next door. He’s never lifted up a single prayer, and he has nothing but prosperity, health and joy. How come a believer like myself is always struggling while he is always doing well?”
A voice from heaven boomed, “Because the butcher doesn’t bug me! That’s why!”
I must confess that for some time that was close to my perspective. I imagined that God had more important things to pay attention to than to my prayers. I assumed that if I prayed for something too often I was bothering God. Why would the One who holds together the universe and who watches over the affairs of nations take an interest in my piddly requests?
But when I read Jesus’ parables and analogies in Luke 11:5-13, I am encouraged to adopt a different perspective: Jesus tells a parable about one of us needing three loaves of bread late one night. We wake up a friend who lives nearby, looking for help, but our friend tells us not to bother him (as I assumed God would say to me). However, in the parable, if we keep asking, the friend will eventually give us the loaves we are asking for. The aim of the parable is not to paint a picture of God as a grumpy neighbor who has to be bugged into granting our requests. The point of the parable is that God invites us to make our requests to God as frequently as we wish. The message Jesus wants to get across to us here is that God does not get tired of our prayers.
Many Scriptures make this point clearly. For example: “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6); “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17); “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
If you still find yourself suspecting that God might get tired of our prayers and of us, consider what Jesus says in Luke 11:11-13: “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
The point Jesus makes here is that we, who are not 100% good and loving, still do our best to give what is good to our children, so we can be certain that our heavenly Father—who is 100% good and loving—can be counted on to give his good to us. Most significantly, God can be counted on to give himself to us.
E. Stanley Jones remarks, “The first thing in prayer is to get God. If you get him, everything else follows. Allow God to get at you, to invade you, to take possession of you. He then pours his very prayers through you. They are his prayers—God-inspired, and hence, God answered. Prayer’s like the fastening of the cup to the wounded side of a pine tree to allow the resin to pour into it. You are now nestling up into the side of God—the wounded side, if you will—and you allow his grace to fill you up. You are taking in the very life of God.”
The primary reason why Jesus wants us to keep praying–to ‘bug’ him with our prayers–is because God wants to keep pouring himself into us.