February 24, 2013   Luke 11:1 – 11  Prayer  

      Two men were out walking one day. One guy challenged his buddy by saying, “If you’re so religious, let me hear you quote the Lord’s Prayer.    I’ll bet you $10 you can’t do it.” The second guy responded, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” The first guy pulled out his wallet, fished out a $10 bill and muttered, “I didn’t think you could do it!” Well I think he missed it. 

     Jesus invites us away from the world in the passage and tells us to pray.   Jesus points us to God and when we follow His advice we live on a higher plane.    Those that believe in prayer pray.  It has been said that:   "To pray without action is hypocrisy.    To act without prayer is pagan.      The power of prayer is not in the one who prays but in the one who hears it." -Max Lucado.   The power of prayer is not in you but in God.    We pray and God answers.   We are finite, helpless, and impotent.   God is infinite, all-powerful and willing to answer prayer.    To pray is to admit that we cannot do it.    Last week I quoted from John Wesley who said, "God does nothing but in answer to prayer."   If we want God to move we need to pray.    What are you praying for?   We pray before a great King.    Do we bring great big requests?   Do we come in faith?  

     Jesus gave us this prayer as an example of how to pray.   It is not magic.   It starts with God and ends with man.  Simply saying this prayer does not guarantee that everything you ask for is going to be granted.   It is interesting that this prayer is different than the prayer recorded in Matthew 6.   It is a form or process that we can use.   It is an example.   It starts with our Father.  That should remind us that we are his sons.   We are sons and daughters of God.  We are family.   We are not some outsider when we come to God.   We come before him as beloved children.    A small boy had been consistently late for dinner.    One particular day his parents had warned him to be on time, but he arrived later than ever.    He found his parents already seated at the table, about to start eating.    Quickly he sat at his place, and then noticed what was set before him--a slice of bread and a glass of water.   There was silence as he sat staring at his plate, crushed.    Suddenly he saw his father’s hand reach over, pick up his plate and set it before himself.   Then his dad put his own full plate in front of his son, smiling warmly as he made the exchange.   When the boy became a man, he said, "All my life I’ve known what God was like by what my father did that night." Homemade, May, 1989   It is great when we can impact our children like that.     His dad took his punishment.   His dad ate the slice of bread and had the glass of water.   It reminds us that God took our punishment.   Since we come before our Father in heaven as children prayer is so important.   The enemy Satan does what he can to hinder your prayer life.   He attacks it.   He wants you to think that you do not need to pray and that you can do it on your own.  

         The Japanese introduced a tree to the world that is called a Bonsai tree.    It is measured in inches instead of feet as other trees are measured.    It is not allowed to reach anywhere near its full growth potential but instead grows in a stunted miniature form.   The reason for it growing in stunted from what I have read is that when it first stuck its head out of the ground as a sapling, the owner pulled it out of the soil and tied off its main tap root and some of its branch feeder roots and then replanted it.   They also put it in a small pot and they prune it to keep it small.    By doing this, its grower deliberately stunted its growth by limiting the roots ability to spread out and grow deep and take in enough of the soils nutrients for a normal growth.  What was done to the Bonsai tree by its owner is what Satan has purposed to do to the believer, if he can.   Our prayer life needs to be strong.  Our life needs to be firmly in God.  What is our tap root so to speak to God?    It is the word of God and prayer.  Satan is going to try to tie off our tap root of prayer.   We are helpless without that tap root of prayer.   Jesus said in John 15 without me you can do nothing.    He wants to limit our receiving in prayer what God supplies for our spiritual growth.  Everything we do should be bathed in prayer.   If God does not bless what we are doing we labor in vain.  Life without God is vanity

      One of the ways that the enemy tires to hinder out prayer life is to get us discouraged and get us to stop praying.   He will whisper in our ear that we have prayed for that a long time and nothing is happening.   I believe that sometimes God answers prayer the first time we bring the request before him.  One verse says before we cal God will answer.   I also believe that sometimes we need to persevere in prayer.  An example of that I would say is raising children.   We continue to pray for them after they are born.   We just don’t pray once when they are born that they will love God and that they will marry the right person and that they will be a person of prayer and the bible and pray protection for them and then never pray those things again.   No we lift them up to the Lord for the rest of our life.  I do not believe that my sons and daughter in laws and grand children would want me to quit praying for them and I do not think yours would either.  If God has blessed you with a ministry you cannot just pray for it once and then forget it and never pray for the ministry again. 

      I mentioned in the last message week some hindrances to prayer.   In this passage Jesus points out a hindrance to answered prayer which is not being persistent.   I am not sure that we think that our lack of persistence is a hindrance.    Jesus teaches us to be persistent in our prayers.   Has there ever been something that you prayed for and then gave up?    Maybe that was not God’s will.    I just read this week an interesting article by Tim Peters who is a church communication and marketing person who said that 1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month and he gave 10 reasons why pastors quit too soon.   Some of those 10 points could be called a lack of perseverance.   One person commented that we see the fruit of the problem and now we need to deal with the root of the problem.   Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray and then shares this story.  

     And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him.”   In order to understand this parable we need to understand a few things about first century culture.   First of all, food was not as readily available as it is today.   There was no refrigeration in those days and no fast food places.       Hospitality was held in high regard and was seen almost as a duty.    A visitor was welcomed and cared for, regardless of the hour of his arrival.    In order to avoid the intense midday heat, people often traveled in the evening.    It would make sense then that a traveler arriving near midnight was not uncommon.   It takes time to travel on foot.    Here is the dilemma.    The poor unprepared host has a late arriving guest who is hungry after a long and exhausting journey and it is his duty as host to provide a meal, but he has no bread.    It has been said that not to provide for his guest’s needs would not only bring shame upon himself and his family but to the village as a whole.   So he goes to his friend’s house regardless of the lateness of the hour and to ask for his help.   It takes nerve to do that.   How many people would you feel comfortable with to call them in the middle of the night for help?   There is a tension in this passage isn’t there?   There is the need and then there is the difficulty of meeting the need.   Jesus adds to the tension.  

    The neighbor will answer from within and say, "Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and help you.  We need to remember that God never sleeps.   God always wants to hear your voice and your prayers.   Jesus is not telling us a story to make us think that God is reluctant to answer our prayers.    But for man it is tough to wake the kids up.  It can take awhile to quiet them down.   There may be animals in the house also and things could get difficult in the middle of the night.   No one wants that kind of trouble.  So he refuses his neighbor.  But the guy keeps knocking on the door.  He is persistent and does not quit.  He is a man on a mission.  It is embarrassing to keep knocking but that is what he does.   You have to stay focused.  The man on the inside of the house realizes that he is going to have more trouble if he does not get up quickly and get his neighbor to stop knocking on his door.   The neighborhood dogs are probably barking by now.   Pretty soon the whole neighborhood is going to be involved and in our society pretty soon people are outside and then police come.  Jesus said well he will get out of bed now and give him as much as he needs.   Jesus tells us after this story to ask and keep on asking.  Don’t give up.  Do not quit.  Sometimes you must persist in your prayers.

    Then Jesus says right after this you pray.  I think Jesus is saying what kind of commitment should we come before God with?   How gutsy are you?  Do you really, really, really want God to give you what you want?   Granted our prayers are not for us to fulfill your own lust and desires.  We talked about that in the last message.     What kind of a commitment do you make to see your prayer answered?   It does not mean that we are bossy to God.    What kind of faith do you bring to the table?   God looks at your heart and He can see your heart and your motive.    As Jesus is speaking this verse he is really using present tense so the meaning of the verse here is ask and keep on asking seek and keep on seeking and knock and keep on knocking.   Jesus is saying stay with it.   We are prone to quit.  Many times we want to quit.   God says no.  If you don’t want to play ball my way God then I am taking my ball home.  Isn’t that what Moses and Elijah said?  For Elijah that is not exactly what he said.    It was not take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to you.   It was more like take my life. 

     I do not believe that Jesus is teaching here that God is reluctant to answer the prayer.   Some look at this passage that God is reluctant to answer prayer but the opposite is true.    He is contrasting the two; He is telling the disciples that if a neighbor can be persuaded to meet the needs of a friend because of persistence, how much more your father in heaven will meet the needs of his children.    God is not awakened in the night because of your prayers.   God is not inconvenienced because you ask Him for something.     I think God likes it when we get pushy and brassy in our praying.   What do you think?   What does it mean to come boldly before God?    The man in need was shameless in his persistence, continuing his pleading until his friend responded.   It looks like to me that is what Jesus sis encouraging us to do the same.  To get a little pushy and brassy.   Isaiah 62 God says I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.  God makes it pretty clear in this passage that they were not to rest and they were not to give God rest until the answer came.  Do not rest in your prayers and do not let God rest.  God I think gives us requests and God expects us to give him – God no rest until he answers it.    I think that God wants to do more than we give Him credit for.   Timing and persistence are important to your prayer life. 

       Remember the 4 men who ripped the roof off and lowered the man on the stretcher?  That is pretty gutsy.   Jesus healed the guy.   Scripture says Jesus saw their faith and healed him.  

Skit    In Matthew 20 there were 2 blind men heard that Jesus was coming by them and they shout Lord Son of David have mercy on us and the crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet.   The 2 blind men were told to shut up.  They shouted louder and what does Jesus do ignore them?   No way.   Another example is the non Jewish Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus to have her daughter healed and the disciples say get rid of this woman because she keeps crying after us.   Jesus tells her I have come to the lost sheep of Israel.    And Jesus says it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.   She is not going to take no for an answer so she says but the dogs get crumbs from the table.   She was saying I am a dog but I want some crumbs.    Do you think God is going to ignore that woman?   No way.   Give me a couple of crumbs Lord!  

   We need to be persistent in prayer and not give up.   There are timing issues with prayer.   Daniel fasted and prayed for 21 days to get his answer to prayer.  There was a war in the heavens.  I think there are labor issues with prayer.  We need to labor in prayer and be fervent in prayer.   Big battles and great victories are won by great cost.         Some people find it difficult to pray because they do not believe that God loves them or that God loves to bless people.    Is there a lack of prayer in your life?   God wants to bless you and to bless people.    Do not rob God of a blessing by not praying for yourself and others.  Malachi makes it plain that we can rob God by not giving our money.    We can rob God by not giving Him our life and I think we can rob God by not praying.   Did you ever try and help someone and they refused your help and you felt like they robbed you of a blessing?   Can you rob God by not praying for others and yourself?   Well it is a good question to think about.   God wants to bless you!   It brings him joy to bless you so ask.    Jesus said here ask and keep on asking.  

    Jesus said here that a good father blesses his children.  If the son asks for a fish the father will feed him.  Then Jesus said we are evil and we give good things to our children how much more our Father in heaven from whom comes all good and perfect things.  God will give his Holy Spirit to those that ask.   His spirit comforts.  His spirit leads us.   His spirit points us to Jesus.  In his spirit is power and victory.  The Holy Spirit is the most precious the most valuable and our greatest asset.  Jesus says here ask and the Holy Spirit will be given.