Midweek Faith Lift
August 31, 2022
The Parable of the Friend at Midnight
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
July 28, 2022
New research from the American Psychological Association found that Americans have actually become more cooperative towards strangers. Amid a torrent of bad news regarding the climate, the pandemic, and political rifts, the findings suggest that there may be hope yet for our collective ability to face our challenges.
“What in one is in the whole. What happens to the least of my brethren happens to me. The great spiritual masters have given us the teachings that we are in this life together. That each of us is a part of the same collective experience.” – Caroline Myss, Intimate Conversations with the Divine
Affirmative prayer: Infinite Presence, I lean into the creativity and passion of my brothers and sisters, allowing their brilliance to light up and enrich my life. I give thanks for the godsend of unified lives, and I celebrate the power of our collective consciousness. Thank you, God, forever. Amen.
I was heartened to read this research in the Daily Reflection just as recently as July 28, 2022. Finding the desire of our heart to be the desire to cooperate and help each other is a source of hope and light and taps into our exploration today of the parable of “The Friend at Midnight!” This parable was new to me, at least the first part of it. The last part, about “ask and it will be given, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you” is something we have all heard before. However it turns out there is much more to the story, as usual, right?! It is never that simple or easy, and yet it is! The whole parable is from Luke 11:5-10 and reads like this:
Perseverance in Prayer
5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything out of friendship, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (NRSV-E)
This parable is truly about persistence in prayer, but our inclination is to skip to the second part about everything being given to us without deep consideration of the first part of the story. However, as Dr. Michael says, on p. 151 of The Hidden Parables:
“Ask and it will be given to you…..Normally, this famous statement is quoted by itself –as if it were as statement of truth unto itself. But it is not a self-contained truth. For the promise to become realized, it has to be understood and activated in context.
And the context is the friend knocking on your door at midnight, asking for
three loaves of bread. Let’s first stop and realize that we have some spiritual numbers in this story, 12 and 3. Twelve is a powerful number of spiritual completion, suggesting that when we ask in a deeply spiritual context or energy, that is when the whole power and presence of Spirit responds to our request. The other number is three, which is our holy trinity of human self, divine self and observer self. When we are asking in the context of spiritual food as the loaves of bread suggest, we are asking in a consciousness of our wholeness, all aspects of our being are activated and present and vitally alive. These are the preconditions for the opening, the door opening and our questions being answered. If one of those aspects is not actively present, we are stuck and no answer comes.
Now the parable tells us that the friend knocked on his neighbor’s door at midnight and the neighbor basically told him to go away. When I read the first part of this story, I really identified with the person who was already in bed, door locked and tucked in for the night! Would I get up to answer the door? Not really! In our house, I would not even hear the person knocking and we have no phone in our bedroom, so I would not hear that either! And if I did, and it was someone wanting to borrow three loaves of bread, I would just holler for him to go to Walmart or Casey’s and buy some!!! Not my problem, not my dinner party, not my concern.
But here is the other side of the story, the part that includes the person who is asking because he truly wants to feed and help the folks who have dropped in to visit him. The sincere energy of his request, of his desire to take care of his visitors is what compels him to persist! That is the crux of the spiritual nature of this teaching. When we are asking, the message is to persist, to not give up! And our asking is from a consciousness of caring, of kindness and giving to others as well as to ourselves. We ask from a consciousness of the highest and best good for all, and we persist. When we do that, we do receive an answer, the door opens and our needs are met. The sleepy neighbor does get up and give him what he needs! That is the message of this parable.
This level of consciousness, of asking and giving and receiving is a whole new level of spiritual maturity for all parties involved. Jesus is clearly illustrating in this story that we may very well be inconvenienced, awakened from our lack of awareness at midnight in order to understand how giving and receiving functions at this higher level of consciousness. We are giving without attachment to outcome, without any strings or expectations, just the pure joy of giving, even in the middle of our own personal midnight or time of darkness. When we operate at this level of spiritual awareness, things do unfold easily and effortlessly for us. Primarily because our whole trinity of “beingness” is involved- human self, divine self and observer self.
How does this look in real time? In our everyday life? Well we have a prime example in the story of Myrtle Fillmore, one of the founders of Unity. She used a simple affirmative prayer for healing over a two-year period before her healing from TB actually manifested. She was a tenacious and persistent prayer, saying, “I am a child of God, sickness is not my inheritance” because it took that long for her to be free of illness. Books about her life tell of Myrtle staying awake all night, cleaning her house, praying and engaging in productive activity during the midst of a fever or fit of coughing. Her walk of faith in persisting with her simple affirmative prayer is a powerful example of this parable in action. It was for her highest good and that of her family for her to get well and be healed. Not only that, she was releasing a generational belief in illness that started in her family of origin. Was her journey for the highest and best good for all? Absolutely! Did she realize it at the time? Probably not, but nevertheless she persisted.
In my own life, there have been sleepless nights when I was in need of spiritual food as well as very basic human needs such as shelter, which I had no idea how I was going to meet! When I got divorced, we went through bankruptcy and lost our house. I had no money and had about three months to live in my house before I had to vacate it because the furnace had gone out and winter was imminent. I had my job and two small children, ages 3 & 4 for whom I had primary care and custody. I had just found Unity and was beginning to work with the power of prayer. And boy, did I have to persist! By the grace of God, I did not put any energy into worry or panic. I did not have any family to help me, just my newly made friends from the 12-step ACA program. Thank God for them!
Open to grace, to Divine guidance, I happened to be on a bike ride during which I had ventured in an entirely new direction. I happened to pass a house on Polk Blvd. that was for sale and I stopped and looked in the window. This might work, but there was no way I could buy it, my credit was in shambles! By the grace of God, I did not let that thought stop me, I persisted. I investigated and ended up renting this three-bedroom house in a lovely neighborhood, less than two miles from where I was living. The schools were really good, basically the same as before, so that was a blessing for my kids. I was able to pay the deposit over 5 months and the owner was glad to have a school employee as a tenant.
It turns out I knew his wife who was a speech therapist in the schools. And I had the first option to purchase the home if they ever decided to sell it, which I eventually did. I had lots of help in moving because I asked for help from my new ACA friends, something that was new for me to do. They helped me pack, brought pick-ups and over two weekends helped me move. I completed the moved on 12-1-1990, which was a few minutes before the “midnight” of my own amazing spiritual journey! Prayer, persistence, prayer and tenacity…..the message of this parable!
Blessings on the Path,