Torch, Spring-Summer 1999

• willingness to hear and answer prayer: Then He said to them, "Suppose one ofyou has a.fiend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a .fiend ofmine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his.fiend, yet because ofthe man's boldness he will get up andgive him as much as he needs" (NIV). Understanding the cultural context of this story will help make its true significance more clear to us . First of all, in Middle Eastern cultures, hospitality was and is considered a very important personal responsibility. The would– be host's need for bread was 8 Torch We can ask for deliverance from a problem or healing from an illness, but by doing so we may miss a greater blessing God has in store. perfectly normal since, in that time, bread was baked and consumed daily. Furthermore, in a typical one-room peasant home, a family would normally make their bed together on a floor mat. And finally, in a small peasant village with houses built close together, any commotion in one house would be quickly known by one and all, thus causing the requirements for hospitality in the one home to become a concern for the whole village.5 Another key for understanding this story, according to Bible scholar Joel Green, is the meaning of the Greek word anaideia, translated as "boldness" or "persistence." A better translation for this term would be "avoidance of shame," or positively, "maintenance of honor. "6 In this story, the friend will indeed arise and help his neighbor because to fail to do so would be to act dishonorably toward his neighbor. And the would-be host can boldly ask for help from his friend, based on the honor inherent in the relationship with him. As Jesus' listeners would have understood it, the opening ofJesus' story ("Suppose one of you... ") could be paraphrased as the hypothetical question "Can you imagine.. .?", for which the implied answer is "Of course not!" Specifically, in this case, the hypothetical question is "Can you imagine a friend who refuses to assist you in undertaking to provide hospitality at the arrival of an unexpected friend?" Jesus' listeners would understand that for a neighbor to refuse to help a friend would be a ridiculous notion. Therefore, this story is not meant to equate God with a neighbor who grudgingly gets up to help his friend. Quite the contrary: in a much greater degree than that illustrated by the people in Jesus' story, God is disposed to respond to our prayers for the sake of His honor. At the same time, we can approach Him boldly because