Last week, we began a sermon series about Prayer.
Now, when I say the word prayer, probably a lot of things come to mind; Maybe kneeling, hands clasped in a church. Maybe a pastor saying, “Every head bowed and every eye closed”, or maybe words you say before eating meal or before bedtime.
But what exactly is prayer? Well, put very simply, prayer is talking to God. It’s about relationship. And like any good relationship, you talk to one another; you talk about your thoughts, feelings, emotions, or ideas. It doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t have to be long and dry. It doesn’t haven’t to be weird.
Prayer is simply talking to God, anytime you want. That’s what this series is all about.
But I recognize that some of us struggle with how to pray and if that’s you, I want you to know that you are not alone. All of us in this room, have struggled at some point with how to pray. Even the disciples struggled with how to pray.
Last week we looked at Luke 11:1-4
One day, Jesus is praying, and His disciples are watching Him. And when He finishes, one of the disciples says, “Hey Jesus. Will you teach us how to do that?”
They basically told Jesus, “We don’t think we’re doing it right.”
And so, Jesus teaches them how to pray. Not what to pray but how to pray. He is giving them a model; he is giving them a pattern for prayer.
What follows is what we call the Lord’s prayer and we looked at it in depth last week . . . Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
Most of us stop but there’s a bonus round of teaching that follows which we can’t miss because you can’t truly understand the Lord’s prayer . . . this pattern for prayer, until you understand what follows.
Read Text: Luke 11:5-13
In that day, people would travel for days, oftentimes on foot to get from one location to another.
And along their journey they would need to find a place to rest for the night. They’re tired, they’re exhausted, they’re hungry, and they just want to kick back and relax.
But typically towns didn’t have a Motel 6 where somebody left the light on for you. Maybe there would be a small inn, but those places were seedy and dangerous . . . kind of like a Motel 6. You just didn’t want to stay there unless you absolutely had to.
So, the best-case scenario was to find a residence of someone you knew, a friend or even a friend of a friend. And you would go up and knock on the door and when you did, there was a cultural obligation of hospitality that they would let you in to stay at their house and to eat their food and to care for you while you were there.
But if you knocked on their door and they rejected you . . . they would lose face.
That’s what’s happening in this story . . .
The problem is that the guy doesn’t have any food to give to his visitors. He didn’t know they were coming. They didn’t text him in advanced and its midnight and nothing’s open. He can’t just run down to 7-eleven to pick up some taquitos and diet coke because there isn’t a 7-eleven and there’s no late night pizza delivery service in town.
So the next thing you know, this guy finds himself in a shameful position.
What was he gonna do? Well, he’s gonna go to his neighbor’s house and make his problem their problem . . . maybe you have some friends like that.
And this is where Jesus picks up the story. He goes to his neighbor’s house and he starts banging on his front door.
The guy comes to the door and says, “Dude, what are you doing banging on my door at midnight?
And he’s like, “I’ve got these friends at my house and I need some bread”
And the neighbor says, “No, if I get up and start preparing a meal, I’m going to wake up everybody in the house, and the kids are gonna think it’s time to get up and they’re gonna want to wrestle or log on to X-box and tomorrow will be a nightmare . . . so, no I’m not gonna open the door”
But the guy keeps knocking . . . “I’m not leaving until you give me some bread.”
And he just knocks and he knocks until finally the neighbor opens the door and gives him the bread.
And you might be thinking the point of the story is . . . “When you pray, pray like a rude neighbor until God finally gives in; fine, here. Now quit asking me for stuff.”
That’s not the point but it is close.
He’s saying that even though we are not the greatest children of God; we’re rude, inconsiderate, shameless, bossy, pushy and at times really annoying . . . God is loving and gracious and he’ll listen to us any time, day or night, 24/7. And he provides what we truly need at the time we need it.
Jesus gives us this parable and he follows it up with principle’s regarding prayer. He says that prayer is about three things; asking, seeking, and knocking. That’s prayer.
- Asking is going to God and saying, “Hey God, here’s what I want, here’s what I need. God, this is what’s going on in my life and I really just need you to show up”
- Seeking is getting up and doing something and pursuing the answers to your prayer
- Knocking is going back to God with your request.
I think that most of us are good with the first part, we’re pretty good asking God for stuff but we’re not so good at seeking and so we find ourselves perpetually stuck in the same cycles over and over.
You say, “Lord, take this from me. I hate this about me. Please do something here . . . (look at watch), um, it’s still here, Lord. Please take this from me.”
And before we know it, we’re shaking our fist at God. “Why aren’t you listening to me?”
You see, you can’t just say I prayed about it and then sit around and do nothing, expecting God to sprinkle some kind of fairy dust on the situation. I’m not saying that he can’t miraculously do things but you’ve got to get up and do something about your prayers. You’ve got to seek and you’ve got to pursue answers to your request.
- If you’re struggling in a relationship with someone, pray that God will heal that relationship and then go out and get some counseling.
- If you’re struggling with some kind of addiction, pray that God will heal you of your addiction and then go to recovery.
- If you’re struggling financially, pray that God will heal your finances and then take a Dave Ramsey course and discover way’s you can cut your spending and save money and then put those into practice.
- If you look at the world and you see hunger and disease and injustice . . . and it really bothers you, pray that God will bring healing to the world and then get involved in an organization that allows you to become the hands and feet of Christ.
- And if that just doesn’t seem to be working, and your prayer doesn’t seem to be answered, you just keep banging on the door. You keep knocking, and asking and seeking. And you keep doing this until you clearly hear God’s answer.
That’s what Jesus is saying. No matter how annoying you are, God loves you and he always answers prayer; sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes later, sometimes it’s not the answer you want to hear but he listens and He provides the things that we really need.
Then Jesus tells another story . . .
A son comes up to his dad, “Hey dad, can we have fish for dinner?”
The Dad says, “No, but here’s are some snakes”
So, the kids says, “Ok, I see that the fish thing was a bad idea so how about some eggs . . . eggs would be good”
And the dad says, “No, how about this? Scorpions”
And you have to wonder if the Dad is off his meds or something?
But what Jesus is teaching is that . . .
- If you go to your dad, even if he’s not a great dad, and you give a simple request, like, “I want a fish,” he’s not going to give you a serpent.
- If you ask for an egg, he’s not going to give you a scorpion.
- Even a not-so-great-dad knows if your kid asks for a good thing, you don’t give them a bad thing.
- Now what you give the kid may not be the thing the kid wants but it won’t be something bad.
God is a good and loving father and you’re not going to come to a good and loving Father and ask for a good thing and get a bad thing. Whatever he gives you is a good thing because He’s a good God!
And some of you are going to go to God with some really big requests; health, life, removal of pain, or for some kind of closure. And God who is good and infinite in knowledge will at times say “no”.
But you need to know this He doesn’t say “no” or not give you the things you ask for because he’s angry with you or because you’ve done something wrong.
It’s because he loves you and he can see what you can’t see.
I’m not pretending for a moment that you’ve got to understand everything. I would never put that weight on you and I don’t think scripture does either.
So, I’m not saying you have to understand but I’m saying that you have to trust that God is good and he sometimes doesn’t answer prayer the way you wanted because he knows that the thing you want might not be the thing you need.
What is it that we need . . . here’s what Jesus says . . . If you then, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Some of you might be thinking, “What? I didn’t ask for the Holy Spirit. I asked for a job, I asked for the cancer to go into remission. I asked to get pregnant. I asked for my wayward child to come back home.”
But Jesus says, when you come to me in prayer . . . I’m going to give you something greater than what you’re looking for . . . the Holy Spirit.
That’s a big statement and it culminates everything that he’s been teaching about prayer.
The disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus says, “Ok, you’ll need the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift to those who persistently ask, persistently seek, and persistently knock.
Let’s unpack this . . .
The Holy Spirit is the third member of the trinity. One God, three persons; God the father, God the Son, and God the spirit. They co-exist, sharing attributes of love and grace, and perfectly communicating with one another.
So when the three are together . . . there is nothing but happiness and joy!
And what the gospel tells us is that we accept Jesus into our lives, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us and he teaches us how to talk to God because he himself is God. This is amazing.
And prayer is where we enter into conversation with the living, loving, communicating Father through the Son and asking, “Can Your Spirit guide me and lead me and give me understanding”
That’s the great gift because that gift brings us peace and happiness and joy . . . even in the midst of our circumstances because through the spirit we are better able to see things through the heart of God.
So, as we wrap up let me ask you a couple of questions . . .
What are the motives behind what you’re asking for? Because I think that some of us need to confess that we have no real interest in God being glorified in our lives. We’ve just got this thing that we want.
And we have this picture of God as a genie or servant whose job it is to bring about whatever we want.
And if he doesn’t, than we shake our fists at him asking, “How could you be a good God when I didn’t get what I wanted?”
And if your motives are pure . . . are you doing anything to pursue the answer? Are you seeking help where you need it? Are you being honest with anyone and asking for help? Are you relying on your brothers and sisters in Christ to be a source of comfort and guidance?
The church is a place where we should pray with each other and for one another.
Are you being the hands and feet of Christ . . . asking God how you can be the answer to your own prayer? How you might make a difference in this world, one life at a time.
And are you desperate enough to knock and knock and knock and knock? Saying, “God, I just need you to show up – send me your Spirit and give me wisdom and courage and understanding through this”
But at the end of the day, more than you need your relationships fixed, your addiction overcome, your finances all lined up . . . you need to know and to see the power of Christ who walked on this earth in the power of the Spirit.
If you can see that, than there is hope for the rest of it. The gospel is not if you love Jesus, then you get everything you want. The gospel is you’ll get Jesus and He’ll be enough no matter what.