Shameless Audacity

αναιδειαν  is the Greek word we are focusing on today, its usually transliterated as anaideia and pronounced an-ah’ee-die-ah.  Thayer and the the NIV translate it as shamelessness or impudence, or even shameless impudence or audacity.

Americans today know about shamelessness, audacity and impudence.  We see it in our politicians who lie to our faces; who say one thing and do another.  In athletes who’s on field heroics are exceeded only by their lack of discipline off the field.  In our entertainers who live lives of immorality that beggars the imagination and then have the temerity to lecture us on how we should live.  Oh yes, we of all people should be able to recognize shamelessness when we see it.

So when Jesus tells us it should be our practice to act with shameless audacity, how do we respond?  I think we are caught aback and, mostly, don’t know what to do.

We are looking at Luke 11:1-13.  These are wildly famous verses, many of them well know in the culture at large and not just among Christians and they contain the heart of Jesus’ teaching on prayer.  In context the verses start with Jesus praying and his disciples asking him to teach them to pray.

Implicit in that request, at least to me, is the request for Jesus to teach the disciples to pray as he does and with the results he gets.  In response he gives us what is usually called the Lord’s prayer.  I like Luke’s version.  Its short, its emphatic, it is not quiet and imploring, it is intimate and familiar.

It is also focused not on little things, but on big things.  It says:

  • Make your name revered and respected in all the world.
  • Bring about your rule and reign in the hearts of men.
  • Give all of us what we need to live day by day.
  • Forgive our sins just like we forgive those who sin against us.
  • Do not bring us to the “time of trial”.

That’s it.  When asked to teach on prayer those are all the things Jesus thought worthwhile to mention.  Except for one more thing he thought very important.

In verses 5-8 Jesus tell a story.  It’s a guy story.  It’s a funny story.  Its about a guy who has a friend who is traveling and shows up at his house at midnight.  Tradition and custom require the guy to feed his guest, but as luck would have it he’s got nothing in the house.  So he goes to his neighbor’s house, bangs on the door and and asks to be lent some bread.

Imagine if you will that this is a Honeymooner’s episode and Art Carney is banging on Jackie Gleason’s door.  Or, to make it more modern, Cramer is banging on the door of Seinfeld.  Or more modern yet, Sheldon has crossed the hall to Penny’s apartment:  Knock, Knock, “Penny”.  Knock, Knock, “Penny”.  Knock, Knock, “Penny”.  Imagine the hilarity that will ensue.

We understand this is a humorous story because the words translated “Suppose” can also be read “Imagine”.  Jesus is inviting them to see the possibilities, not some dry contemplation, but a Guy story, that Guys listen to and at least chuckle.  (You do see the implicit possibilities for a humorous conclusion here don’t you?)  One commentary says that this is a story about two guys yelling at each other through a closed door at midnight.

So the guy outside knocks and asks for bread.  The one inside says to go away because he is asleep, and his children as well, so he cannot help.  Yet the guy outside persists in asking and finally, either because he wants his neighbor to go away, or as one commentary says, to maintain his honor, he gives his friend what he is asking for.

Now here is our word,  αναιδειαν.  Jesus says that because the man at the door asks with αναιδειαν, with shameless audacity, not caring what his other neighbors think of him raising a ruckus in the middle of the night, ignoring the excuses of the one he his asking, asking for things he had no right to, he got what he needed.

Jesus has two more things to add about prayer.  In verses 9 and 10 he says prayer is work and characterizes this work by three words asking, seeking, knocking.  Prayer is not passive, we may be waiting on a response from God but waiting does not mean we are not to continue the work of active prayer.

And lastly he give the reason God can be counted on to answer our prayers.  It’s the word he started the answer with, the Hebrew abba, daddy.  God is our father and what father, even among those who do not fear God, does not want good things for his children.  How much more does a righteous God who loves us completely and wholly want good things for us?

The thing that fascinates me today though, is the idea of praying with shameless audacity.  I think that this idea is wound all through this section.  We approach God asking for big things, things to which we have no claim on our own.  We ask actively and audaciously because that’s how children ask their father.  Did your child ever beg from you (mine seldom did)?  Had they earned what they were asking for?  Did they only ask you once or did they ask repeatedly?  How did you wish to respond to their requests?  When did they not get what they desired?

How then should we pray?