This passage from Luke follows on the previous. Jesus shows his disciples not just what to pray, but how to pray. The key word is ‘persistence’. The disciple is expected to pray persistently, and the metaphors in this passage are all hyperbolic, that is, they emphasize a point through exaggeration.
The first metaphor is that of close friendship, where one friend makes an unwelcome demand of another. It is late at night, and the first friend knocks on the door of the second, wakes him up, and begs some bread for his own guest. Not just that, the first keeps knocking until he gets what he wants – a shameless request, as the Gospel describes it, but one only close friends can make of each other. Well, says Jesus, may your persistence in prayer be like this: shameless. And you will get what you ask for.
The second metaphor describes God’s nature, as that of a father who cares for his children. No father can turn away a child who continually asks for something. Once again, the hyperbole is outrageous: “will he give the child a snake for a fish, a scorpion for an egg, a stone for bread?” No, God knows what we need even more than we do. How much will he not bless us with his Spirit, knowing how much we stand in need of it ?
These are simple, powerful metaphors, but they tell us something important. Prayer is not a transaction, it is a relationship. Transactions are fleeting, are casual, and are meant to be. A relationship however is meant to be fostered over time. As it grows, it reveals even more about the persons in relationship than about what is prayed for.
This is what prayer is meant to be – entering into the heart of God, and becoming vulnerable to his love.