Parable of the Friend at Night

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Illustration by Jan Luyken, from Robert Bowyer's edition of the Bible.

The Parable of the Friend at Night (Importunate Neighbour), is a parable of Jesus written in the New Testament in Luke 11:5-8. A man refuses to help his neighbour during an emergency at midnight. His neighbour persists in asking until he changes his mind.

What Jesus said[change | change source]

The parable:

Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'

Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.'

I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Luke 11:5-8[1]

Based on the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the unexpected arrival of the neighbour's guest at midnight could mean it is Jesus himself.

What it means[change | change source]

Jesus told this parable after he taught his disciples how to pray the Lord's Prayer.

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.[2]

The parable is therefore an incentive to pray.[3][4] The parable of the Unjust Judge has a similar meaning.[5]

Depictions[change | change source]

The most famous depiction of this parable is The Importunate Neighbour (1895) by William Holman Hunt, kept at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia.

William Holman Hunt's painting of The Importunate Neighbour (1895).

References[change | change source]