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TEXT: Luke 11: 5-8
Fifty-six years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached a sermon based on this parable titled “A Knock at Midnight” at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time, the United States and the world was in a state of turmoil. War abroad and unrest at home kept many people up at night worrying about the future. While Dr. King noted that this parable is indeed talking about prayer, he applied it to the social context of his day. He said, “It is midnight in the parable; it is also midnight in our world, and the darkness is so deep that we can hardly see which way to turn.”
King used this passage to describe the problem-bound world knocking on the door of the church looking for answers. He said, “Many men continue to knock on the door of the church at midnight because they know the bread of life is there.” Dr. King challenged his audience to step up to the plate and provide the answers that men so desperately were seeking then.
I want to share from this passage tonight because, once again, metaphorically speaking, we find ourselves at the midnight hour in our society. Darkness is in our world. We face struggles at home and conflict abroad. Millions are without jobs and without hope. Poverty is on the rise. Our news channels and newspapers are filled with reports of war and acts of terrorism. People are worried, perplexed, scared, and depressed. The world is looking for somewhere and someone to turn to.
What can we learn from Jesus’ parable about what to do as we stand at this midnight hour?
1. The first thing we notice is the need of this man. Verse 5 says, “Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves…” Jesus begins His parable describing a man in need. This man has a friend who visits him late at night. In the cultures of the Middle East, hospitality is extremely important, so this man is desperate about his request for bread. He really, really needs this bread. He needs it so badly in fact that he is willing to go to his neighbor’s house at midnight and ask for it. Jesus wants us to understand that this man is in need.
2. The second thing we notice is the knock of this man. Now, we come to the heart of Jesus’ parable. The man in need goes to his neighbor’s house at midnight and begins to knock. Verse 7 says he tells his neighbor, “a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.”
3. The third thing we notice is the nature of this man. Not only do we see the need of this man, not only do we see the knock of this man, but we see the nature of this man. The man in Jesus’ parable knocks at his neighbor’s door, and Jesus tells us that the friend “shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.” What a disappointing answer the knocking man receives from his friend. “I cannot rise and give thee.”
Does this answer cause the man to stop knocking? No. This man’s response tells us something about his nature. Verse 8 says, “Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many loaves as he needeth.” Jesus says the neighbor will arise and give to the man, not because he is his friend, but because of the man’s importunity.
Today, in the midnight of our world — in the midnight of our lives — we must take what Dr. King called our “complex personal and social problems” to the throne of God in prayer. Dr. King said the church’s mission was “to proclaim God’s Son, Jesus Christ, to be the hope of men in all of their complex personal and social problems.”
We must knock at Heaven’s doors. We must have faith that God has the answers to our questions and the provisions for our needs. God responds to importunate prayer. And, more than anything else, not only does the world need to learn the power of prayer, but the church needs to learn the power of prayer — the power of knocking at midnight.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in twenty-three foreign countries. He is the author of sixteen books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts, The Prayer Motivator Devotional and the Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report and the Second Coming Watch Update. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, and a Master’s degree in Religion from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for twenty-five years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.