“Practicing Persistent Prayer”

(Please read Luke 11:1-13.  My remarks were prepared using the New International Version.)

Context: Luke’s purpose was to give an orderly account of Jesus’ ministry.  Here he gives Jesus’ teaching on prayer with a model prayer, a parable about prayer, and a promise of answered prayer.  All us which teaches us to…

Message: Pray and do not give up.

Comment:

  1. The model prayer (vs. 1-4).

Verse one sets the stage: Jesus had been praying privately.  Jesus frequently prayed alone.  This was a means of recharging His spiritual batteries.  His practice is also an example for us to follow; both public and private prayers are needed for a full and satisfying life of prayer. Because the disciples had seen Jesus go apart for private prayer on several occasions, they were naturally curious about the practice; they wondered what Jesus did during those times.

Also, John the Baptist had instructed his disciples about prayer, so they were expecting Jesus to do the same.  They knew this because some of Jesus’ disciples had previously followed John the Baptist.

Demonstration is a good teaching method.  Jesus began by giving them a model to follow, by demonstrating prayer.  What matters is neither repeating these particular words, nor the order of the elements, but observing all the parts of a well-rounded prayer.

– PRAISE God = “FATHER, HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME.”  Give God the thanks He deserves for who He is and what He does.  We must balance closeness with God and respect for Him.  The best point of balance is to remember you are His child; He is your Father.

– AFFIRM your goal is the Kingdom of God = “YOUR KINGDOM COME.” A more modern way of saying this is say our purpose is to draw attention to God.  He is the highest good, so this makes sense.

– EXPRESS your dependence on God = “GIVE US EACH DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.”  God knows our needs before we do and better than we do, so we don’t express them for His benefit, but for ours.  It is a reminder that we depend on Him as our Provider.

– ASK for forgiveness of sins = “FORGIVE US OUR SINS, FOR WE ALSO FORGIVE EVERYONE WHO SINS AGAINST US”.  Our culture prefers to avoid the unpleasant subject of sin entirely; God’s word tells us that we are to deal with it daily.  Beware spending more time contemplating the sins of others at the expense of ignoring your own.

– REQUEST strength of times of testing = “AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.”  Being a Christian is difficult.  Being a Christian without relying on the grace God gives thru the Spirit is impossible.

Prayer is about changing our mind, not God’s.  In fact, since God doesn’t need us to pray, we can safely assume that it’s for our benefit, not His.  Prayer is about our relationship with God, our dependence on Him as our Provider and our obedience to Him as our Lord.  Prayer is essential.  We must persist in prayer because we cannot possibly live in Christ and have any hope for heaven without prayer.  It is THAT important.

  1. Parables were Jesus’ preferred teaching method. (5-8)

They are effective because they are simple.  They are “simple” in the sense that they have just one main point.  In this parable, Jesus’ one main point is this: Though we show respect for God as we pray, we must also show persistence.  Respect and persistence don’t need to be opposites or mutually exclusive.

Understanding parables in this way, we realize that the details of the story are not the point, they develop it.  For example, in this parable, we understand the details better as we understand the cultural norms that give it form.  The customs of hospitality in that culture made this series of events a very real possibility; some of Jesus’ listeners might likely have experienced something similar!

The standards of hospitality were so high that even guests who showed up unexpectedly and in the middle of the night would expect to be fed.  Though the host in this story had no reason to be prepared for company, he was obligated to the degree that he was driven to this desperate act.  (Imagine how we’d grumble at the inconvenience of having to drive to Wal* Mart, use our card, and drive back to feed those people!  What a nuisance!)

On the other hand, the man to whom the sudden host turns for help – friend or no – is under no obligation.  His objections to this intrusion are understandable and legitimate.  A typical home of this time was a one-room block building.  An interior or exterior stairway lead up to the roof which, in this warm climate, was the typical sleeping space.  The whole family and their livestock shared this space.  So picture the fellow protesting from the rooftop, hollering down to his importunate “friend” on the street below.

What would it take to rouse YOU from a comfortable sleep in the middle of the night?  That’s why the man on the roof resists those pleas for help.  What finally gets him up is that the other guy will not give up. His persistence is close to obnoxiousness, but that is not the quality Jesus commends.  Instead, Jesus is talking about not giving up; not settling for the first answer, but holding out for a better one.  The word BOLDNESS in v. 8 is hard to translate from the Greek.  It is a shameless kind of pleading, even begging.  It’s appropriate because this man is fixed on what he needs and on what his neighbor can supply.  He has everything to gain and nothing to lose by persisting in his cries for help.

For those who are skeptical about Jesus having a sense of humor, I think this parable can be offered as proof that He did.  It’s an amusing story, especially when you understand it in its cultural context.

  1. Persistence is affirmed with a promise. (9-13)

Relationship with God makes prayer possible.  Note the verbs Jesus used:

– ASK = “Keep on asking.”  This verb is passive voice; it involves receiving.  These prayers are called “petitions;” things we pray God will do for us.

– SEEK = “Keep on looking for God’s will.”  This verb is in an active voice; it involves looking around until we find something.  When we pray for God’s leading, to know His will, we should be looking for what we can do for God.  We look at what God is blessing and join Him there.

– KNOCK = “Keep on trusting God to answer.”  This verb is about relationships, like the relationship between the late-night caller who was knocking and the man in bed who just wanted him to go away. Knocking means you want to do something WITH God.

Persistence makes prayer work because persistence is follow-through. Here’s the rule of prayer – commit it to memory – pray until either God grants your prayer or until he has changed your mind.  There will always be discouraging circumstances and discouraging people.  DO NOT LET THEM HAVE THE LAST WORD.  Pray through.  Let God alone move you!

I guess I should’ve saved verse 11-13 for Father’s Day.  We can trust God to be wiser than our earthly fathers; He will always provide exactly what we need.  This is another example of Jesus’ sense of humor.  What father in his right mind gives their children snakes or scorpions?  It’s silliness.  This is humor by exaggeration.  Given all our human limitations and the evil of which we are capable, even against our own children, isn’t God’s wisdom and grace all the more wonderful?  Isn’t He infinitely worthy of our trust?  Isn’t prayer, at its most basic level, an act of trust between our Father and His children?

The promise Jesus makes is that God honors persistent prayer with life-changing answers.  There is power in prayer

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