As we study the parables of Jesus, we’re looking at three parables on prayer.
Last week we looked at the parable of the persistent widow which Jesus told in response to the question – “when will the kingdom of heaven come?”
In light of God’s timing (with Him a thousand years is like a day), we should learn to pray with faithful persistence – even when it seems like God is delaying.
This morning we are going to look at a parable Jesus told in response to a request from one of the disciples – “Lord teach us to pray.”
According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, “more than half (55%) of Americans say they pray every day, even among those who are religiously unaffiliated, 20% say they pray daily.”
We all pray, and we all experience uncertainty about what exactly we are doing when we pray. That uncertainty can be a major obstacle to regular, fruitful prayer. This morning we are going to bring that uncertainty into the school of prayer with Jesus.
In Luke 11, verses 1-13, we find three lessons on prayer which answer 5 questions.
Verses 1-4 answer the questions: Who should we pray to? and What should we pray about?
Verses 5-9 answer the question: How should we pray?
Verses 10-13 answer the questions: Why should we pray? and What should we expect when we pray?
1. Who do I pray to?
Father. With this one Word, Jesus introduced a truly revolutionary understanding of prayer. In no other religious system, in no other faith is Almighty God addressed as father. We could spend months seeking to understand the implications of this one word and not yet scratch the surface. Tim Keller dips into the meaning of the word with the image of a great king who is woken at night by a knock on his door. The king’s response to that knock will be wildly different based on the identity of the person on the other side. If the person knocking is the king’s young child, they will find a reception open to no one else. His child has privileged access. According to Jesus, you are that child.
2. What do I pray?
Verses 2-4 contain a shorter version of what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Here Luke gives us 5 topics of prayer from Jesus.
1. God’s glory.
The word hallowed means revered or respected. The more we know God the more we will experience a love for his glory.
Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.
When we pray, “hallowed be your name”, we are asking that God would receive the reverence He deserves. That he would be revered and respected in our homes – in our marriage and in our kids’ hearts. Through our character and performance at work, in the minds of our friends who don’t know Him, in the hearts of our friends who do and who are doubting, in our neighborhood through the reputation of our church.
2. God’s will.
When we pray, “your kingdom come” we are praying that God’s will would be done, that His wisdom, justice, power and mercy would win the day in our world and in our circumstances.
We pray for His will to be done in our government, in the lives of the foster kids and refugees, amidst the suffering of slaves of the modern sex trade.
We pray for His will to be done in our decision making, through our leadership . . .
3. Your needs.
When we pray for our daily bread, we are bringing our immediate physical needs to God. We also bring other needs – emotional and relational needs, spiritual needs, etc. Jesus invites us to bring our hearts to God in prayer. Are you anxious about anything today? Bring your need to God. Many of us are unable to engage in prayer over God’s glory and His will because our hearts are blocked up in worry over our needs. When we bring those to God, we find the peace to expand our concerns.
4. Your guilt and shame.
We are often kept from prayer by a sense of guilt or shame. We sin and we feel disconnected from God. Jesus invites us to bring our guilt and our shame to God. How will God respond? “I’m so disappointed in you. I knew you were going to let me down. You better go clean yourself up and make this up to me!” Though we may attribute these thoughts to God, the Scriptures do not.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9
God is ready to take our sins from us and remove them from us as far as the East is from the West.
5. Your temptations.
When we pray “lead us not into temptation” we bring the grace and power of God into our battle for holiness.
Here’s some practical application: get a 3 x 5 card, write out Luke 11:2-4 line by line. If you like simplicity you might just write these 5 categories:
God’s Glory, God’s Will, My Needs, My Guilt/Shame, My Temptations.
3. How do I Pray?
What kind of tone should we pray with? How do we talk to the Almighty God?
To answer that question, Jesus takes us to the doorstep of a man whose friend comes knocking at midnight, looking to borrow some bread. The man calls out from the dark house, “The kids are with me in bed, I’m not going to answer the door.” When the man does eventually get out of bed and answer the door it won’t be because of friendship, it will be because of impudence.
Impudence is a word we don’t use often these days. The Geek word isἀναίδεια (anaideia). Here’s how the translators of the NET Bible define the word:
“The term is hard to translate. It refers to a combination of ideas, a boldness that persists over time, or “audacity,” which comes close. It most likely describes the one making the request, since the unit’s teaching is an exhortation about persistence in prayer. Some translate the term “shamelessness” which is the term’s normal meaning.”
It is because of audacity that the doors is opened. Jesus takes us from this doorstep to the throne of God. We should pray boldness and persistence because audacity opens doors.
Are there prayers you have prayed, but with meekness and timidity? Are there matters of God’s glory, His will, your needs that you have given up praying for? Maybe it’s time to pick those up again and bring a new boldness into your requests.
4. Why should I pray?
This question is answered in two parts. First, in verses 9-10, Jesus gives us the law of asking, seeking and knocking.
We should ask, seek and knock because it’s the askers who receive, the seekers who find and the knockers on doors who get in.
A life of character and fruitfulness, a life of faith and knowledge of God is not going to happen naturally. A fruitful life growing in the knowledge of God and spreading the knowledge of God does not come to those who wait passively for it. Those who don’t ask should not expect to receive. Those who don’t seek should not expect to find and those who don’t knock shouldn’t expect to get in. We should pray because people who pray see things happen.
The second answer to this question comes in verses 11-13. Would any of us earthly fathers give a scorpion to our own children who have asked us for something to eat? Of course not.
If you earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to your children – doesn’t the heavenly father know?
We should pray because it is those who ask who receive, and we should pray because we have a heavenly father who answers prayer with good gifts.
5. What should we expect when we pray?
We should expect to receive, find and enter in. We should expect things to happen when we pray for God’s glory and His will, our needs, sins and temptations. We should expect things to happen when we pray boldly and shamelessly. What exactly will happen?
The possibilities are endless, but there is one thing specifically mentioned – The Holy Spirit.
What is the Holy Spirit? A better way to ask that question is Who is the Holy Spirit. In the unfolding of the Scriptures, God is revealed to us in three distinctive essences – The Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each is revealed uniquely and yet at times they are interchangeable. If you have questions about that, you’re not alone. Some day we will take more time to unpack this.
When Jesus tells us that our Heavenly father is ready to give good gifts to his children who ask, the one gift he is especially ready to give is Himself.
When the Scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit they reveal a uniquely present and at times tangible expression of the invisible God. When the Holy Spirit enters into the Scriptures, the people involved know it. They experience something.
We can say that the one thing God is most ready to give to those who ask is a very present and real experience of Himself.
There is some confusion about what this means. Is this a one time promise for those who ask for the first time, who are new to Christianity and must receive the Holy Spirit to become spiritually born again? In other words, is this something Christians already have and no longer need to consider?
It’s possible, but in my opinion not likely. The Bible scholars and teachers who I have found to be the most careful and reliable, all of them consider this an open invitation for an ongoing experience.
I mentioned that a person must receive the Holy Spirit in order to become a Christian.
You may be wondering, how exactly does someone become a Christian?
Anyone who hears the message of Christ – that he came to us to live a perfect life and then die as a substitute for our sins, that God raised Him from the dead and that he is the rightful Lord over all – anyone who hears that message and turns to Christ in faith will receive the Holy Spirit.
So how do you do that?
You pray the prayer Jesus taught us. Then you get baptized as a symbol of the new life you have received and a public confession of faith. Then you repeat the process of trusting Jesus, praying the prayers he taught us and walking with Him.
If that’s something you would like to do, I’d love to talk to you more about that.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown