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"Pr-ayer: Asking, Trusting, Receiving"

July 14/13 Lk.11:1-13


To begin in the right frame of mind - can you recall a time when you were in urgent need, even desperate, and you had to call on somebody else for help? What situation made you so desperate? How were you suddenly in such a state of need that you were forced to turn to an outside source because your own resources were simply not up to the demand? [RESPONSES]

For me, it was one Saturday afternoon when Yvonne and I were planning to attend an elderly person's come-and-go for their 90th birthday party. For some reason that was the afternoon our car decided not to start. (Later we found out there seemed to be electrical issues and computer failure.) I went to boost it with our garden tractor, but the garden tractor itself wouldn't start! A kind neighbour tried boosting our Neon with their car, but to no avail - it just wouldn't turn over. As time wore on, the situation became urgent - it was nearly time for the come'n'go to end, and here we were without transportation! Finally I asked my neighbour if we could borrow HIS car, which he graciously allowed us to do; we managed to make it to the event just before it was over. That was just before we bought our new used car...The Neon had made its last trip.

Can you relate to that? Perhaps it wasn't a vehicle breakdown; perhaps it was a relationship melt-down and you just had to call your best friend and wail on the phone for two hours. Perhaps it was a physical accident or injury, and you ended up having to ask someone to take you to the hospital or maybe you called 9-1-1. Life has those moments when we suddenly realize we can't make it on our own, we need to turn to somebody else for help or we'll be stuck.

Jesus wants us to know, whatever the emergency, there is ALWAYS Someone we can rely on and ask for assistance - a loving Heavenly Father. Yet an accurate appreciation of God and His goodness will prompt us to turn to Him not just in emergencies, but on a daily basis. As the Lord God promised the Israelites through Jeremiah (29:13) when they would find themselves stuck exiled in Babylon for 70 years, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."


When people that love each other are forced to be apart, they do what they can to find ways to communicate, to "keep in touch" as we like to call it. When my uncle was away fighting in WWII as a Mosquito pilot, he corresponded with my mother's family back home by letters, and my mother kept Uncle Bill's letters all her life. The communication becomes dear. Nowadays those in love rely on phone calls, emails, or better yet video calls - the intensity can be quite heartwarming!

When Jesus was on earth, away from His Heavenly "home", He kept in touch regularly through corporate worship and private prayer. He treasured intimacy with His Heavenly Father and nurtured the connection through intentional time for prayer. There must have been a dearness and warmth about it that caught the disciples' attention for Luke tells us in 11:1, "One day 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 taught his disciples."" We're not told what formula or pattern John the Baptist used to teach his disciples; but from what Jesus said next (and the corresponding teaching in Matthew 6), we can tell He didn't want the disciples to use a rote formula or incantation, words to be memorized and chanted without thinking. Instead He gave them a PATTERN, painting in broad strokes what types of things they could be praying about. The manner can be summarized with eight PR-words as in PR-ayer: PERSONAL, PRAISE, PERSPECTIVE, PRACTICAL, PRIORITIES, PRECONDITION, AND PROTECTION.

1) PERSONAL: V2 He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father..." That was quite revolutionary for Jews who'd been used to hearing rabbis use exalted terms in the synagogue. While there are a few instances of the word "Father" being applied to God in the Old Testament, such familiarity would have been shocking to the Jews of Jesus' day; sort of like even today when Bibles are printed, we always put the word "LORD" in caps where it translates God's special name "Yahweh". But for Jesus, communing with His precious Father from whose side He stepped down to earth for a season, prayer is always PERSONAL. God as Spirit can be found close to all who truly seek Him. "I WILL be found by you," God declares in Jer 29:14. When Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane in the time of His hardest testing, He uses the intimate close family term "Abba," Papa (Mk 14:36). So the apostle Paul urges Christians in the early church to adopt the same kind of closeness in their praying. Prayer is not to be cold and formal, but close and personal. Romans 8:15 "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."" And Galatians 4:6 "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father.""

2) Prayer is to be pumped with PRAISE. What comes next in the Lord's Prayer? "Hallowed be Your Name": may Your name be held as most holy, honoured, revered; may Your character and attributes (for that's what the "name" represents - you don't want to get a bad 'name' or reputation) - may Your character and attributes be lifted up, celebrated, reflected upon, treasured and appreciated. Prayer is to be far more than just bringing God a shopping list, like a wish-list for Santa Claus! A considerable part of prayer ought to be focusing on our amazing God, blessing Him, recalling His goodness and greatness, how special (holy) He is. Savour Him; let your mind drift back over all the amazing things He has done in Scripture and in your own life. Begin with PRAISE.

3) "Your Kingdom come": that brings PERSPECTIVE. Yes we have our immediate needs, our pressing crises, but focussing on the Kingdom reminds us, when all is said and done, our problems are really a pretty tiny part of the eternal and cosmic situation! God is sovereign over all time and space, He has a divine plan for His people and is superintending the course of history, the rise and fall even of nations, to His ultimate glory. What plans might God be up to in your setting - your personal life, conforming you to Christ; the lives of your family, of people in your community, on the international stage? More of our prayer should be given to listening, seeking to discern where God's leading and how our personal circumstances are to plug into that.PERSPECTIVE.

4) Prayer is PRACTICAL! I like how Jesus gets right to the point, His whole model prayer is just 3 short verses as Luke recalls it. V3 "Give us each day our daily bread." Can't get much more basic than that! Pour out before your caring Heavenly Father your very practical needs - not just what you're going to eat, the work you need to earn a paycheque, but also your physical health, your aging relative's condition, your extended family member's shaky marriage, anything that's weighing heavily on your heart. No point in beating around the bush, God knows our needs before we ask Him (Mt 6:8). Be PRACTICAL.

5) Verse 4 reminds us to keep PRIORITIES in view: "Forgive us our sins..." Life is more than stuffing your face, what goes through your gut. Yes you can bring your physical needs before God, requesting daily bread, but don't forget your starving SPIRITUAL condition. Frankly, many of us could get along WITHOUT bread for a day, even a few days, and not suffer for it (we might even be better off - as some believers have found through occasional periods of fasting). We do need food to survive, but it's not the most important thing to be asking for day after day. Jesus puts His finger on a factor that's becoming increasingly invisible, ignored, unpopular even to MENTION in our secular culture - SIN. The very word contains overtones of moral weightiness, accountability, some supreme Judge or frame of reference outside ourselves by which our beings and actions are weighed: and society rejects that, pushes back against the intrusion of spiritual terminology that dares to evaluate US! The concept of sin presupposes truth about some external standard of right and wrong, and that may cramp our style, call into question the unrestricted exercise of some of our desires. A world that has no use for God dare not consider, not even allow mention of, a baggage-laden term like "sin".

But, there it is: "Forgive us our sins..." Jesus seems to be implying our need for forgiveness, to have our guilt (yes REAL guilt for ACTUAL trespasses, as gauged by definitions offered in unchanging infallible divinely-revealed scripture) - our need to have our guilt dealt with, removed, cleansed, is as important as our need to eat. Keep PRIORITIES in view: unconfessed sin will block one's relationship with God, and give the enemy a foothold or base from which to operate in one's life; so it's VERY important to keep a clean slate, prayerfully applying the blood of Jesus poured out at the cross for this purpose to expunge the condemnation warranted by our misdeeds. Your spiritual state is a PRIORITY in God's eyes. Don't try to ignore things or sweep the dirt under the carpet!

6) In v4 we come across a PRECONDITION for prayer: "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us." Perhaps you thought prayer was just about asking for things that God would give you; actually here we see that quite a bit is demanded of us! We may be withholding the forgiveness someone else needs to hear from us. We may be carrying a memory of an old hurt, nursing an old grudge, coddling bitterness in our spirit over what somebody else has done to us - but bitterness can be an open window evil uses to infect our soul and drag us down. Hebrews 12:15 "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Jesus is very adamant about the importance of us forgiving others if we would receive anything from God: right after Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer we find Jesus adding, "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Mt 6:15) It's a PRIORITY. Draw on the deep fountain of Christ's grace poured out for you, and forgive that other person! Be like Michelle Knight, one of those three Cleveland women abducted and confined for up to 10 years, who was beaten, raped, starved, had her face smashed, yet says she can walk through hell with a smile because she entrusts herself to God's plan and lets Him be the judge; she insists, "I don't want to be consumed by hatred." Forgiving others is a really significant PRECONDITION in prayer.

7) Jesus closes His suggested pattern for prayer with a request for PROTECTION: "And lead us not into temptation." Keep us from enticement, trial, hard testing. God doesn't tempt anyone, as James 1:13 points out; but He does allow testing to round-out our character and maturity, and so He can reward us with the crown of life when we have persevered under trial and stood the test (1:12). Jesus in Gethsemane could pray that the cup of His upcoming suffering might be taken from Him, and urged His disciples to pray so they wouldn't fall into temptation (Mt 26:39,41). God's word promises He won't permit us to be tested beyond what we're able to endure, but will provide a way out (1Cor 10:13). So in prayer we seek His PROTECTION.


Jesus follows up His capsule-prayer outline with a colloquial kind of story that could have happened in anybody's home but illustrates the kind of desperation and urgency and persistence that should permeate our praying. Remember me asking you earlier about a situation that left you asking desperately for help? Vv5-8 "Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me.The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed.I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs."

Isn't that just like life? An unexpected visitor, an old friend, drops in. Eastern hospitality demands a meal, but there's nothing in the cupboard. You saw your friend 3 doors up coming back from the market earlier that day with full shopping baskets. You go bang on his door - at midnight, not the most convenient time, to say the least! Now, many middle eastern homes consisted of just one large room, and all the family slept together - so to light a lamp would risk raising the whole house, not to mention the animals too. Will he get up to help you? He doesn't want to - the door is hard to unlock, not like our modern steel locks. There'll be a commotion like no tomorrow. When the householder responds "Don't bother me" it's like saying literally "Stop furnishing troubles to me." But you keep knocking. So it's not because he's such a good friend, but simply because of your brazen boldness, your obvious need that forces you to come at such a crazy hour, that he finally gets up and gets you what you need - if only to get rid of you!

"Because of the man's BOLDNESS" - shamelessness, impudence even. Prayer that "importunes" (from a Latin root meaning unsuitable, troublesome, relentless). One commentary likens this strong word to "persisting in the face of all that seems reasonable and refusing to accept a denial." Is your praying that desperate, that shameless and persistent? Think of Abraham praying for his relatives caught in the impending judgment on Sodom, Genesis 18(23ff) - daring to barter with God from 50 down to 45, and 40, then 30, and 20, finally 10. Pleading for his kin. Or take the Canaanite woman imploring Jesus to have mercy on her demon-possessed daughter in Matthew 15(22-28), not taking "no" for an answer, insisting there's enough crumbs for even the dogs under the table to get some benefit. Jesus rewarded her audacity, her "great faith". Or for a modern analogy think of Benny and Joon, where Sam (played by Johnny Depp) goes swinging by the window on a rope (and falls!) to catch Joon's attention and convince her how desperately in love with her he is. Willing to put himself all "out there", not caring what other people think, what a fool he's making of himself in public - he's putting it all on the line for her.


"Ask and it WILL be given to you," Christ concludes; I like the 3-fold emphasis on "will" here - "knock and the door WILL be opened to you, seek and you WILL find." Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Then in vv11-13 He resorts to one of the most fundamental human relationships - that between a father and his child - to underscore the confidence in God's nature we can have when praying. If a son asks for a fish, what father would give him a snake? Or if the boy asks for an egg, would a father give him a scorpion? HOW MUCH MORE, is Jesus' point - "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" The Holy Spirit is the ULTIMATE "good gift", God giving God Himself. God's not a meany! Parents, imperfect as we are, respond with a basic loving and positive impulse when our children approach us with genuine need and we have resources - anything, however small - to address that need. Because we love our child; they're "ours". And for those who believe in Jesus, to God we're "His" - He's going to look after us.

You have a GOOD Heavenly Father who delights in showing His glory by supplying His faith-children with GOOD gifts. Romans 10:12 "...the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him..." I like that "richly blesses", don't you?!

CH Spurgeon stated: "Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God.Some scarcely stir the bell, for the pray so languidly; others give only an occasional jerk at the rope.But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might." Now, boldly confident in a loving Heavenly Father who "richly blesses all who call on Him" - let's pray!