We are going to look at one of the strangest and most misunderstood parables that Jesus ever spoke and find within its illustrative story is revealed one of the most powerful lessons on prayer that we could hear in this day and age. If you were present for the Sunrise Service on Easter Morning, you heard the discussion about all that Jesus' Blood bought for us when He was Sacrificed: how He purchased the right for us to speak directly to the Father with all of the authority, and expectation that Jesus Christ, Himself, would have when He stood before the Father. It is hard for us to fathom the incredible privilege and importance of that gift, which was purchased with the very Blood from Jesus' Veins. Do you use prayer with the purpose and power in which it was intended? (After our many lessons?) Or do you still lack confidence in prayer? Still, never really see your prayers answered? Still rarely pray with passion, or real hope for an answer? Is prayer just a way to ask forgiveness, stay in good graces with God, and follow the expectations of a, "Good Christian"?
Once we become servants of Christ, we become His warriors in a very real battle for everyone around us for the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 6:12). And almost all the work that God does in this world will be done through us. Therefore, our prayer life—the very way in which He guides us, and we petition Him for help and power in this war—is one of the most crucial parts of our daily walk. Therefore, one of the main things that Satan tries to completely remove from our lives, most often, very successfully. Let's take a look at this parable and see how our view of God is so often misconstrued, when it comes to hearing our prayers. We first need to get the setting and the audience: Luke speaks more about Jesus' prayer habits than any other Gospel writer, which makes sense because Luke writes with the Human side of Jesus in mind, more than any of the others. Luke tells of an intimate moment involving only Jesus and His disciples: Luke 11:1-4. So, in order to fully understand Jesus' Words, we must see the context: it was a private, intimate time with only His disciples. The audience is not a group of men and women who are wanting to use prayer simply as a means to a richer life, with self-serving, self-pleasing petitions. They are men and women who have watched Jesus Christ Himself, as He has spent many humble hours in prayer to His Father. They have seen the intimacy and the power that have resulted from this prayer, and they are interested in having the same relationship and power. They are interested in serving God the same way. The answer that Jesus gives to them, begins with a model prayer that we have studied in detail in a recent sermon, which summarizes these points: Realize the intimacy God has with you: "Our FATHER". Stop and recognize the magnitude of this opportunity: "Hallowed (revered, honored) be Your name". Seek His will on this earth above all, first, in petition and heart: "Your will be done". Then ask your petitions: "Our daily bread", and restore any lost fellowship in sin: "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive". Ask for His strength and guidance in your ways: “Do not lead us into temptation". Lastly, ask protection and deliverance from Satan's forces: “Deliver us from the evil one".
After this, in this setting and conversation, Jesus continues His teaching on this subject with an illustrated lesson—a strange parable to show God's heart towards our prayers, and what our attitude of expectation should be for an answer. [Remember, this is to an audience who already knows and desires to use prayer to draw closer to Him and do His will.]: Luke 11:5-13. Two things jump out at us in this story: 1) the parable is usually taught as a lesson on how God wants us to be persistent and determined in our prayers, though partially true, this is not the main lesson of the parable by far. 2) if this is a story representing us and God in prayer—that's a scary picture. Is God the man asleep in bed, who not only has no interest in our lives or needs, but is annoyed by our requests? And, are we supposed to just wear Him down with nagging and pleading, until we force Him in exasperation, to finally answer our prayers? Were this parable, primarily about persistence in prayer—this is the picture it would seem to paint. But this parable is about much more, and realize, this is not a parable about comparisons—it is a parable about contrasts. In other words, if evil man could respond in a particular manner, how much different and greater, the response of a loving, passionate God?
Let's walk through this story together: Luke 11:5-13: v5: This is someone with whom a relationship has already been established; a relationship good enough to warrant confidence in coming to them in the middle of the night in trust and hope. v6: In those days, it was common for people to travel at night, away from the heat of the sun. It was also common to stay with a friend, a family member, or even a stranger because hotel equivalents were not numerous. Courtesy and etiquette with guests was of the utmost importance in those days. [And also, there were no late-night hours at Taco Bell to help the situation.] Please note here: the man was not asking for anything for himself, but for the benefit of serving another, though seemingly untimely, his intentions were good. v7: First century Hebrews often had one room houses, but even when they had more than one room, they were few—they all slept in one room, on a raised area with mats laid on the floor. To disturb the family this late at night, was to wake everyone. During hours when the family was available for hospitality and visits, the custom was to leave the door open. Once the door was closed for the day, it meant, "Do not disturb”. At this point in the story, most Jewish listeners are saying, "Can you believe the audacity of this guy? Oy vey!" v8: (Here is the contrast in the parable—here is where Jesus wants to show His disciples the true image and character of His Father in Heaven, when they pray to Him) Jesus is saying, if a man will be this bold in what he will ask from a friend, and still get what he wants from an unwilling, evil man, just because of his persistence, how much more will our loving God want to answer?!? When your requests seem big, or audacious, or assuming, or even a bit arrogant in what you feel God should do for someone like you—Jesus is saying: God loves you that much! Your requests (in His Will), will be answered! And He is saying it glorifies Him when you show that kind of unreasonable faith in His character and willingness. Are you willing to be bothered by the simplest problems of your spouse, or kids when no one else would really be interested, or give the time? (Answer carefully men): Of course you are! t's an honor to be the one they confide in. And to further expand and illustrate that point, Jesus continues: v9-10: He is saying that He wants you to be bold in asking. If we are His way of working, why wouldn't He want you to be asking, seeking, knocking? He wants us to be bold, even assuming when it is in His will and for His glory. I am afraid that so much more than we want to realize, James speaks the truth about us: James 4:2-3. These are the reasons our prayer lives seem ineffectual. We do not have the faith that God actually wants to answer our prayers. [Or, we simply want for ourselves]. Listen to the way Jesus finishes His story: v11-13: Why do we let Satan make us feel that God does not take great delight in answering our prayers? Why do we feel that God is that man who resists, or must be worn down and begged for help, when He is Father who loves infinitely more than any earthly father? We bring shame to His Name and His Image when we think this way about Him, and, it is often why we get nothing form Him: James 1:6-8. Now look again at the way Jesus ends this parable about prayer and receiving: v13: If this story was about receiving good things in prayer, why did Jesus seem to turn it around in the end, and make about receiving the Spirit? If I pray for wisdom or direction, God gives me Himself. He gives me His wisdom and His guidance personally from within—how intimate and complete is that? If I ask for a miraculous work, who is doing the work of the Father on earth since Jesus ascended? The Spirit! If I ask for strength, peace, power, ability, love, provision, who would work through me and in me to accomplish these requests? The Spirit!: John 16:7. We all need to see the reality of just Who we are praying to, when we come to the Father in the Name of Jesus, and through His Blood. If we come with sins confessed and under His Blood, we come as Christ. If we come, with petitions that are based on His Promises, and founded in selfless love, we come as Christ. And we need to realize at that point, that it is not a matter of wearing Him down, twisting His arm, making deals or promises, begging the loudest and most pitifully, or being worthy enough to have our answer. We need to know our God is loving enough, trustworthy enough, eager enough to answer our prayers in great joy and passion. We need to know it is not His obligation that we must hold Him to—it is His joy, that His Son died to give Him freedom to fulfill. It is His will, His desire, His designed mission, that He answer our prayers so that He may work through us and in us.
It is His great desire that we will see Him in this light. His Name, El Qanna (El Kan-Aw’), means Jealous God. Know His goodness, His willingness, and come in crude boldness in the eyes of the world. This is what Jesus was trying to illustrate to His disciples, and to us today. Come with audacity: meaning an almost arrogant willingness to take bold risks, not because of self-confidence, but, because of God-confidence. What is He just waiting for you to come to Him with, having the boldness of a trusting child in a loving, faithful Father? Show Him that you have faith and confidence in His love for you! Ask! Glorify Him!
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