What we humans want to know is, “Do we matter?” – and if God exists do we matter to him? And for those in serious search of knowing they matter there has been one well worn road to travel on, and that’s been religion with all its rules and rituals to make our gods take notice of us.
When Jesus turned up, however, he offered another road, an alternative route, that he was that road to knowing we matter, and that we matter to God. Or as he phrased it, he was “the way, the truth and the life.” And on the way to explaining what he meant by that he took several swipes at those pushing religion with its man-made traditions and regulations, because religion made people feel they only mattered if they followed every rule and ritual that religious tradition required.
What Jesus showed his disciples instead was proof that they mattered without the need for religion and its rituals and rules. And how did he do it? He did it through his prayers to his Father, because in the way Jesus prayed it was clear he was talking to someone he knew he mattered a great deal to.
So in Luke 11:1 one of his disciples asked Jesus to help them experience that too. But in verses 2-4 Jesus startles them by starting their prayer with “Our Father,” using the Aramaic word “Abba” for Father, a term of affection and trust a Jewish child would use when asking his parents a question, or asking for help, or wanting to snuggle.
To Jesus’ Jewish disciples this was shocking, because they’d been used to a God with strict laws and rituals he expected them to obey as his chosen people. But here’s Jesus saying God is an “Abba,” a Father who loves hearing from humans who see themselves as his children with free access to him all the time, no strings attached or conditions to meet.
This would be tough for his disciples to understand, though, so Jesus offers them a hypothetical situation to chew on in verse 5: “Suppose,” Jesus says, “you have a friend you visit at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread, because you have a guest but no food in your house to feed him with.”
The homeowner, however, replies: “Hey it’s late, buddy, I’ve locked the house up already and we’re all in bed, so I’m not getting up just to give you some bread.” The man outside, however, doesn’t give up, and clearly he doesn’t feel bad about not giving up either.
But what made him so bold? I mean, could I do that to a friend – knock on his door at midnight asking for a tiny favour, and not stop knocking until he responded?
Well, yes I could if I knew my friend was OK with me doing it, having already made it clear I could enter his house any time without knocking, and if I’m hungry go open his fridge and help myself – because that’s the kind of friendship he wants with me. He loves a relationship with such freedom in it.
And this is the point Jesus is getting across, that we have an Abba Father who loves that kind of relationship too. He’s not like the reluctant friend. Instead, he appreciates us coming boldly to him at any time for any request for help, and feeling utterly free to “ask” because we know, verses 9-10, “it will be given to you….For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened.”
Do we get the impression from Jesus’ illustration, then, that we matter a great deal to this Abba Father? And enough that we feel free to knock on our Father’s door at any time of night or day for the tiniest favour because that’s what he loves us doing, having learnt from Jesus’ prayers how much we matter to him.
So, “Bah humbug” to religion with all its rules and rituals, because Jesus made it clear in his prayers that we have a Father who loves us feeling utterly free as his children to ask him for anything we need and at any time of day or night, without having to use religion to get him to take notice of us.
Because we matter that much to him.