Sermon Text: Luke 11:1-13
Date: July 23 & 24, 2016
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Luke 11:1–13 (EHV)
1 On another occasion, 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 also taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”
5 He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and tell him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine who is on a journey has come to me, and I do not have anything to set before him.’ 7 And the one inside replies, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give it to you.’ 8 I tell you, even if he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his bold persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
9 “I tell you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives. The one who seeks finds. And to the one who knocks, it will be opened.
11 “What father among you, if your son asks for bread, would give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, would give him a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, would give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Bring Your Confident, Persistent Prayers to God
If we’re inclined to think that someone might say no to a request we make, we’re probably less likely to even bother. If we’d really like to have a sleepover at a friend’s house, but figure Mom and Dad would shoot down the idea, we might just keep it to ourselves. If we’re sure the boss is going to reject our request for a raise or an increase in budget, we might just keep our desires to ourselves. After all, why go through the hassle and heartache of rejection if we know it’s coming in the first place?
As Jesus’ disciples came to him asking them how to pray, he not only gave them the words that has become known to us as the Lord’s Prayer, but he gave them the attitude with which they should pray. You and I, when we pray to God, we should come confidently and persistently because we know that God is not going to reject us, but he will hear and answer our prayers in a way that is best for us.
Jesus made a habit of praying, and doing so in a way that people knew that’s what he was doing. He set aside time in his day to speak with his heavenly Father in the way that we might schedule time to touch base with our spouse, children, or coworkers. For Jesus, prayer was vital, not just in difficult times, but always, for keeping his perspective set where it needed to be.
After he was done praying, Jesus’ disciples came to him with a request. “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.” They knew Jesus knew how to pray, so who better to teach them? After all, even John the Baptist taught his disciples. Why couldn’t Jesus to teach them?
And so Jesus obliges. He gives them a model prayer that keeps things in perspective. The beauty of the Lord’s Prayer as it’s recorded here in Luke’s Gospel or elsewhere in Scripture, or the conglomeration we use regularly in worship is the wonderful balance it has. It addresses every true need we have and does so in the right proportion. Our inclination is often to pray about the here and now the things we feel like we need to survive in this life. The Lord’s Prayer does not neglect physical blessings, but requests it in just one of the petitions as it asks our God for our daily bread.
Along with the physical blessings of daily bread, God has us pray for the much more important spiritual and eternal blessings—that God’s name continues to be respected and kept holy; that the kingdom of his grace be established in the hearts of many people; that we see our need for forgiveness from God for continued sins and find the strength to forgive others like we’ve been forgiven. All of these things help us keep that eternal focus. The Lord’s Prayer focuses us in on those things that make up a healthy prayer life.
Notice what is absent from Jesus’ model prayer. There is no petition that pleads, “Please do not hurt us!” In Jesus’ direction on prayer there is the presupposition that God always has our best interests in mind. That’s why we pray for daily bread, not yearly bread, because we can assume that each day he will provide for what we need and we don’t have to hope we’ve caught him on a “good day” and then get all that we think we’ll need for a long while. Even the very address, “Father,” speaks volumes about our relationship with God. He is our Father in the most perfect, flawless way possible.
That wasn’t always the case, of course. There was a time where we couldn’t pray to God or have any notion that he’d ever listen to us. Our sins separated us from God so that he wouldn’t listen to us and he wouldn’t answer us and he wouldn’t even hear us. That sin separated us from God and would lead to us to be separated from him eternally in hell. It was a situation that we couldn’t fix. No matter what we did, we couldn’t fix it.
Jesus did. He lived and died to fix our problem and restore this relationship between mankind and our Creator. In his death and resurrection, he paid for sin, endured our hell, and gave us the unwavering confidence of eternal life. Our sins are gone, which now means that God is no longer deaf to our prayers nor are we mute before him. He can approach him, not as an employee approaches his employer, nor as the servant approaches the king, but as the young child approaches their daddy.
As we approach our Father, Jesus tells a story about man coming to his friend’s home in the middle of the night to give a picture of how we should approach God. As the man comes to the house of his friend, his friend’s reaction is not the best. But notice the persistence that this man shows. He knows that his friend loves him and would do anything for him. But this request to get out of bed and get him what he needs is one that is difficult to overcome. But the man knows his friends heart and knows that really he wants to help him so rather than just slinking away after the initial rejection, he presses on. And thus his friend doesn’t just get out of bed and help him because he’s the man’s friend, but because he is relentless in his request and in his need.
You do not pray to a God who will brush you off because he’s warm under the covers and doesn’t want to get out into the cold. You do not pray to God who will become irate with your requests because you keep asking for things he cannot provide or do. You do not pray to God who is selfish and hard-hearted. You pray to the God who loves you. You pray to the God who has your best interests in mind.
We said before that we could not even approach God in prayer were it not for Jesus destroying our sins in his death and resurrection. As Paul wrote to the Christians living in Rome, “he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also graciously give us all things along with him?” (8:32). If God didn’t withhold his own Son for you, but sacrificed him to take away your sins, is there anything that he won’t do that will be good for you? Surely he will give you everything you need for this life and the eternal life to come!
That confidence means that you can be persistent. We saw an example of that in Abraham’s pleading with God in our First Lesson from Genesis. He did not relent but kept confidently coming to God knowing that God would answer in a way that was to everyone’s best eternal good. That’s the kind of confidence and persistence you can and should have when you pray to your heavenly Father. You know that when you ask for bread, or a fish, or an egg, he’s not going to give you a rock, a snake, or a scorpion. He’s going to give you what you need, even if you don’t recognize immediately that you need it.
I’ve used this example in Bible Class often, so I apologize, but… Can I pray for a Ferrari to be in my garage? Sure. If God going to give it to me? Maybe. But maybe he knows that I couldn’t afford to insure it, keep gas in it, or even do routine maintenance on it. Maybe he knows that my inclination would be to drive too recklessly, so that my owning that would be a danger to myself or others. Maybe he knows that I would value this thing too much, and it would start to take priority in life over the other responsibilities he’s given to me. So if I pray for a Ferrari and one doesn’t appear, has he answered my prayer? Absolutely. It might not have been the way I wanted it answered, but he answered it in the way that is for my earthly and eternal good.
Be confident and persistent in your prayers, knowing that no matter what you ask God for, he’s going to answer according to his will. Be persistent, knowing that God wants you to trust that he’s going to work for your good. Be joyful, knowing that come to a God who loves you, has forgiven you, and will provide for you now as he’s provided for you eternally—perfectly. Thanks be to God! Amen.