revjoaquinwillisweb.gifImagine this scenario: An old friend shows up at your door at midnight seeking food and shelter and you have nothing on hand to feed him or her. You go to a neighbor and knock on his door and he answers from his bed, “Don’t bother me, my door is locked and my children are asleep and I can’t get up to give you anything.” What would you do? Would you keep on knocking?


In the parable of The Midnight Caller (Luke 11:5-8), Jesus uses an example of a friend and neighbor’s house-call at midnight asking for bread and the neighbor

doesn’t get up to teach us about prayer. Daily, through prayer, we, too, knock on God’s door. Often it seems He doesn’t answer. The question is: Do you keep knocking?

One of the biggest struggles many of us have in life is how we view prayer. “Do you see prayer as a life-saving instrument, or something vital to life itself?” Gary Inrig asks in his book, The Parables: Understanding what Jesus Meant. He compares prayer to a plane’s oxygen mask.

During pre-flight preparation, flight attendants routinely tell us how to use the oxygen mask in case of an emergency and we watch them, taking the instructions for granted. Often, we think to ourselves, “In previous flights, we haven’t had to use it and we probably won’t need it this time. Further, if an emergency does happen, we’ll use common sense and figure it out.”  Inrig’s point is prayer is not an oxygen mask; it is oxygen itself.

Christ teaches in the parable the importance of the principle of persistence in prayer. While the principle is presented in the present tense, He indicates a need for the present perfect tense of continual prayer, stressing, “Even if your friend won’t get up, if you keep knocking because of your persistence the neighbor will eventually get up and will give you what you need.” Christ says keep asking and you will receive, keep seeking and you will find, keep knocking and the door will open.

When we keep asking, it implies a faith that makes  requests and isn’t afraid to keep asking. When we keep seeking, it indicates a sincerity that is more than casual, that has a sense of urgency to it. When we keep knocking, it shows whatever barriers are blocking us we don’t see God’s first response as a refusal.

Does this mean if we persist we will get everything we pray for? Absolutely not! Some things we pray for, when we look back in retrospect, are foolish and even harmful. Most of the time we don’t really want God to give us what we pray for. In hindsight, had we been wise, we would have trusted God, in the first place, to give us what we really needed.

Inrig says most of us, “are spiritual asthmatics, wheezing our way through life, gasping for oxygen because our spiritual lives have been constricted by a prayer-less lack of oxygen.” 

So, how do you see prayer? Do you see it as an oxygen mask or as oxygen? Too often, in prayer, we set our hearts on secondary things instead of life itself. What we most need to ask, seek and knock for in prayer is that one thing that only God can do for us.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami.  He may be reached at

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