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Biblical/Doctrinal Studies:
Focus on Jesus Series

Chutzpah in Prayer
Notes on Luke 18:1-8
by Ed Vasicek

Jesus told two parables that have related lessons: 1) The Friend Who Drops in At Midnight (Luke 11:5-8), and 2) The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8). In both of these parables, we are told to imitate the persistence of the characters involved. Like the man in the first parable who hounded his neighbor until he got out of bed and provided him with bread, so we are to persist in prayer. Like the widow in the second parable who hounded the judge until he gave into her demands, so we are to persistently petition God in prayer.

Although the New Testament was written in Greek, Jesus spoke Hebrew (or the related Aramaic, or, most likely, a combination of the two). The Greek work translated as "persistence" is more than likely a translation of the Hebrew word, chutzpah.

Brad Young, in his work, Jesus, the Jewish Theologian, comments on the meaning of chutzpah:

"The word chutzpah is difficult to define in a single word. It means headstrong persistence, brazen impudence, unyielding tenacity, bold determination, or what in current English terms might be referred to as raw nerve. Can faith be described by the Hebrew word chutzpah?" Young's answer is "yes."

When we think of the nature of God, we are reminded of two realities:

  1. We can grasp some of what God is like because He is somewhat like us; we are created in His image, and, like Him, we have intellect, emotion and will. We are capable of a low-level of creativity (we recombine what He has created), we value relationships, and we have a spiritual element that is a key component of our identity.
  2. We are unlike Him. He is completely pure, separate from His creation, and possesses all positive human attributes to an infinite degree (He is all knowing, all loving, all-powerful, etc.), obviously without any taint of sin.

But when it comes to the matter of chutzpah, we differ. We dislike it when someone pesters us, is persistent, and doesn't let things go. It drives us crazy and often we avoid such people. But God enjoys it when His children persist. When a believer (in fellowship with God) engages in prayer, "Zoom" the doors to God's throne room are cast open instantly. No appointment is necessary. If we know Jesus, we have an immediate audience. And God invites us to reach out and express audacious chutzpah. Some believers reject this entire concept because, while they recognize where God and we are similar, they fail to recognize how we differ.

Abraham is the ultimate example when he bargained with God (Genesis 18:23-32). It took nerve, chutzpah, to do that. Jacob wrestles with God in Genesis 32:22-32. And David hounds God with his complaints throughout the Psalms. When directed toward God, chutzpah is a Christian virtue! In all cases, this bold determination was never disrespectful, just persistent. So the writer to the Hebrews tells us to approach God's throne "with confidence" (Hebrews 4:16); some versions say, "boldly." Maybe if he had written in Hebrew, the Spirit may have directed him to choose the word, chutzpah. We simply can't pester God too much.

Pastor Ed

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Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA
765.452.1779
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