August 31, 2021
Do you ever struggle with prayer? If you do you are not alone. There’s a number of reasons for that. Some of you might say that you struggle with praying because you lack the self-discipline for it. It’s just hard to keep focused. Your mind wanders or you get sleepy in the midst of praying. Others of you might say that you struggle with prayer because you’ve never really learned to pray. You’re not sure how to pray. And some of you struggle because prayer has never felt natural for you. You feel uncomfortable praying to a Deity you’ve never seen. And then there are those of you who struggle simply because, you’re not quite sure if your praying actually makes much of a difference. You pray and nothing seems to happen, nothing changes. You pray and God doesn’t seem to answer. And when God doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers, that doesn’t just discourage you, it demotivates you to the point where if you’re honest, you don’t really pray all that much anymore.
Well, if you’ve ever struggled with prayer, felt unnatural praying, wanted to learn how to pray or just want to rekindle your passion for prayer, then let me encourage you to open you Bible to Luke 11:1-13, where Jesus reveals for us the kinds of prayers God loves to answer. For if there were ever a time where we need God to answer our prayers its today. So, if you’ve found Luke 11, we’re going to look at three motivations that always stirs God to work on our behalf. And the first inner attitude that moves the heart of God to answer prayer is found in verses 1-4, and that is this:
God loves to answer prayers birthed out of humble dependence: One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
The first thing we see in this passage is that Jesus was praying in a certain place. This was one of Jesus’ daily routines. Jesus often got up early in the morning to go and pray. Sometimes he would go up on a mountainside to pray. Other times he went off to solitary places to pray. The point Luke doesn’t want us to miss, is that the disciples saw how Jesus made it a priority to spend time alone with the Father in prayer. And if Jesus needed this time to pray, how much more did they?
In fact, this is the only thing that the disciples specifically asked Jesus to teach them. They didn’t ask him to teach them to heal. They didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how to teach. They asked Jesus how to pray. And what did he teach them about prayer?
He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘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.’” Luke 11:3-4
Here we have an abbreviated version of the Lord’s prayer. And what often happens when we look at this prayer is that we focus on the words of the prayer or the pattern of the prayer. But today, I want us to focus on the content of this prayer. In particular, what Jesus teaches us about who we are calling upon in prayer, the Father. When we come to God prayer, we are coming to our Father. So at the heart of prayer is a relationship. It’s a conversation between the Father and His children. We come to Him as our Father. We don’t come to our earthly father, but the Father who is above all and is good to all. A Father who is holy, different, unique, and whose reign is a reign of all authority and love. So, in coming to God as our Father, our initial act of coming to the One who loves us and reigns over us is an act of humble dependence. That’s why our first requests are for the honor of His name, and the advancement of His reign. For this is a mindset of reverence, honor, respect and worship. This is a mindset of giving God His due. This is a mindset that wants God to be glorified. That acknowledges both His greatness and His goodness.
I find it that if we are truly intent on seeing God’s name being revered in this world, and seeing God’s kingdom become a reality in the heart of every man, woman and child, then our coming to our Father would be absent of any personal agenda. Our motives would be pure. We would want what God wants and not what we want.
Think about it with me. How would a self-centered and prideful person approach God? Their prayer would focus on what’s in it for them: Hey God, can you make me look good, and could you give me what I need to build my own little kingdom. No, a prayer like that dishonors God. It treats Him like a cosmic vending machine or a magic genie. It’s like we’re trying to use God for our own gain. And I don’t know about you, but if you treat God like that, why would you ever expect Him to answer your requests?
This is what Jesus is trying to teach us: When we give God the honor He deserves and when we want what He wants for our world– then He takes great delight in answering our prayers. This is what it looks like to come to God with a heart of humble dependence. We don’t come to God to get Him to serve our agenda, but we come before Him with a prayerful dependence that wants God to get the glory, not just in our lives, but in our world. We come to Him with a sense of awe and wonder at His goodness and majesty. We come before Him acknowledging that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways are Higher than outs. And we treat Him with the honor and worth that’s worthy of Him alone. And when that’s our internal motivation, when that’s our desire, we can come to Him like a confident child, knowing He will take care of our daily needs. Then we can pray: ‘Give us each day our daily bread.’ And we’re set free from worrying about every little thing. Then we can pray: Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. So, then we can live without fear or shame and experience the freedom of not having to strive for perfection in our lives or demanding others to do the same. And then we can pray: And lead us not into temptation.’ So then we can walk securely in this world of evil, knowing that God is always with us to guide and protect us along the way.
If I could, I’d like you to think of the Lord’s prayer in a whole new way. Like a little child who holds his father’s hand and doesn’t have a worry in the world, because you trust that He will not just provide for you, but care for you in every way. When I think of this I see my little 19 month old grandson holding His daddy’s hand. He trusts Him. He knows his dad will take care of him. And if you can cultivate this kind of humble dependence in a loving relationship with your Father, then you won’t need discipline to pray, your mind won’t wander when you pray, you won’t feel uncomfortable when you pray… rather, you’ll get to the place where you can’t wait to be with your Father and ask Him anything, knowing that He will be delighted to answer your requests. God loves to answer prayers birthed out of the humble dependence of a child. But that’s not the only prayers He loves to answer.
God loves to answer prayers birthed out of desperate determination: Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything. I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity, he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. Luke 11:5-8 I love this example Jesus gives. Why? Because it illustrates for us the kind of desperate determination that moves God to answer prayer. Jesus tells us this man didn’t get bead from his friend because of his friendship, but because of his shameless audacity. In other words, here the request is granted, not because of a relationship, but because of one man’s desperate plea for help.
Think about his man’s request: It came at an inconvenient time (it was midnight). Remember, we are in the first century. There are no electric lights, so when the sun goes down, everyone goes to bed. Midnight means exactly that: it was the middle of the night. Halfway through your sleep cycle, this guy comes pounding on your door. Is it any surprise his answer is a bit short? “Don’t bother me; the door is locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.”
Here’s the other thing: This wasn’t an emergency. No one was bleeding or dying. Couldn’t this just wait till morning? No. So why come knocking in the middle of the night? It was all about Jewish hospitality. In the first century, hospitality mattered. When a guest showed up, the Jewish custom of hospitality required that your guest be cared for lavishly and generously. You lost face if you couldn’t feed a guest.
And so that explains his bold request. He asks not for one loaf, but three. In those days the loaves of bread were huge, and one loaf would feed a large family for an entire day. So here he is in the middle of the night asking for… three loaves.
So Jesus tells us that his friend answers his request because of his desperate, his shameless determination. He gets the bread because he’s one of those people who will go to a friend’s house at midnight, knock on the door, and keep knocking. The lights may be off but he’s going to keep knocking till they give up trying to sleep and give him what he needs.
What’s Jesus is trying to tell us here? Sometimes God will respond to relentless, desperate and shamelessly persistent prayer.
In other words, sometimes we just give up too soon. Sometimes we ask God for something, but then we don’t bother to come back and ask again. What does that tell God? Maybe it tells Him we really don’t believe He can change things. Or maybe it tells Him we weren’t all that serious about what we are asking for? We throw up a prayer, and since God doesn’t answer it immediately, we stop asking.
Now, I’m not sure why we do that. But we do. Maybe it’s because we live in an instant gratification culture. We want something to eat, so we can call Grub Hub and have it delivered. Or we need something for the house, just order it on Amazon Prime and it arrives on your porch the next day. Sometimes I think our immediate gratification culture is eroding our ability to grapple with God in prayer. We give up too soon!
That’s why Jesus follows up this parable with this command: “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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10 Each one of these verbs is a present tense imperative. That means we are to ask and keep on asking; to seek and keep on seeking; to knock and keep on knocking. What Jesus implies here by these three metaphors in prayer is that sometimes God will not answer our prayers immediately; sometimes we must keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking, awaiting God’s answer. Again, this speaks to our inner motivation – do we really want God’s help, God’s protection, God’s deliverance, God’s provision? If so, we will keep on pursuing God for an answer until He gives it. We’ll keep on knocking on heaven’s door until God opens it and acts on our behalf.
Just because God doesn’t answer our prayers on our time-table doesn’t mean He’s not going to answer. Many of you are asking God to save our country so that God’s name might be honored once again. Don’t give up. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. Many of you have loved ones who are no longer living for God but are living for themselves, and they’re hurting and messed up. Don’t stop praying for them. Be persistent. Be relentless. I can’t tell you why God hasn’t answered yet. Remember, God works all things for good for those who love Him. He is good all the time toward you. So it may be He’s testing your faith, or growing your compassion, or developing your patience. Sometimes He just wants us to trust Him, and that means waiting for Him to answer – whether that be one day, one week or even one decade. All I know from what Jesus is teaching us here, is that God does respond to the persistent pleas of the desperate. That’s what Jesus is teaching us here: God loves to answer prayers birthed out of desperate determination So don’t give up hope. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, and hold onto His promise: For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Are you starting to get the picture that God wants you to come to Him in prayer? And keep coming? So far we’ve seen that God loves to answer prayers birthed out of humble dependence – He loves to respond to childlike faith. And now we’ve seen that God loves to answer prayers birthed out of desperate determination. But there’s one more motivation that moves the hand of God to answer our prayers and that is this:
God loves to answer prayers birthed out of audacious faith: Now this last truth once again is connected to the story above. Remember what the man asked for? He asked for three loaves of bread, not one. That was a shameless and bold request. But it came from a place of faith. He had the audacity to believe he could ask for this. Now, let’s read the final teaching Jesus gives us: “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, 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!” Luke 11:9-13
In these words, Jesus reveals the heart of God the Father. Our God is not selfish, begrudging, or stingy; we don’t have to beg or grovel when we come to Him with our requests. He is a loving Father who understands, cares, comforts and willingly gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. So, here’s the thing: since the Holy Spirit is God’s highest gift and He will not refuse giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask, that means we can trust God is willing to meet all our lesser needs as well. As Paul says, in Romans: He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32
So then, like the man who came with the shameless bold request of three loaves, our Father delights that we would come to Him with a confident faith in what He can provide. He delights when our requests of Him are bold. He is a fountain of goodness and grace. And He is generous at the very core of His nature.
So then, when we understand who we are (His children through faith in Jesus), and to who it is that we are asking (our great and good God who is our Father) – then, we won’t just ask boldly, we will ask for more than we might even ask or imagine!
Many of our failures in prayer is not because we are asking for too much, but because we imagine the love of our heavenly Father is too small.
There’s a story told about Alexander the Great, who conquered for himself an empire two-thirds the size of the US while he was in his twenties. Towards the end of his life one of his generals came to him and said, “Alexander, I have served you faithfully for years. I’ve never asked you for anything. Now I have one request.”
“What is it?” replied the young emperor.
The general answered, “I would like you to pay for my daughter’s wedding.”
“Well, you have served me faithfully all these years,” said Alexander. “I will happily pay for this wedding. Go and speak to my treasurer about it.”
A few days later the treasurer came to talk to Alexander. “You need to punish that general,” he said. “He’s trying to take advantage of you. He is requesting funds for the greatest wedding the empire has ever seen. He has invited everyone. He’s taking advantage of your generosity. He must be punished.”
Alexander thought for a minute and then answered, “No, I want you to give him everything he is asking for.”
The treasurer, amazed, asked Alexander why.
“Because,” replied Alexander, “my general is paying me two compliments. First, he thinks I am wealthy enough to afford all this. Second, he thinks I am actually sufficiently generous that I will do this. He is acting as though I am wealthy and generous. So I will give him his request, because in making this request, my general shows me tremendous honor.”
Alexander may have ruled two million square miles of this world for a few years; but our God, your heavenly Father who loves you made it all, and He rules it eternally. Look around. You have much more evidence of God’s wealth than that general did of Alexander’s.
So the question for us is this morning is this: what would your requests of God – for others and for yourself – be like if you really believed that God is infinitely wealthy and infinitely generous? Here’s what they’d be: they’d be bold!
You see, God is honored when we ask of Him those things only He can do!
So how are we to pray? Let’s Reboot prayer as God’s people! Let’s call on the one who is good, who is in control and who wants more for us than we can ask or imagine
Let’s Pray Dependently! Pray with a childlike dependence that honors our heavenly Father
Let’s Pray Persistently! Pray with a desperate determination – keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Never give up. God promises to answer us.
Let’s Pray Boldly! Pray with audacious faith to our good Father who gave us everything when He gave us Jesus!
And may our great and good God rekindle your passion today for what He wants to do when you come to Him in prayer.