Scripture Text: Luke 11:1-13
This week, we are looking at a parable from the Gospel According to Luke about prayer. Prayer is an essential part of our Christian faith. We need to all be praying both individually and corporately. Lately, we have been praying for revival. In fact, we are observing a day of prayer and fasting this week in order to fervently petition God to revive us and to send us workers to reach those who do not know Jesus Christ. We need God to revive us and this community. Let’s get serious about praying and seeking God for revival and for the work we are called to do. Even the apostles needed, and requested, others to pray for them. That may not sound all that remarkable, because we often ask for prayer and pray for others. We spend time every Wednesday evening to specifically pray for the needs and concerns of each other. Read what the Apostle Paul requested the church in Colossae to pray:
Colossians 4:3 pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word…
In this passage, the Apostle Paul did not ask the church to pray that he would escape prison or punishment, or receive more money for his travels, or anything like that. He asked the church to pray that God would open a door for ministry. If the Apostle Paul prayed for this, how much more should we pray for it? I once heard someone say that evangelism is first speaking to God about people (prayer) and then speaking to people about God (witnessing). We have probably all heard of the need to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others. But what we oftentimes neglect to do is pray for the lost and that we reach others for Jesus Christ. We need to be a praying people. When it comes to prayer, we can learn a lot from a praying man:
- Jesus prayed after being baptized and then the Holy Spirit descended upon Him
- Jesus fasted for forty days prior to starting His ministry
- Jesus withdrew from others in order to pray
- Jesus prayed for His disciples
- Jesus prayed through the night prior to His crucifixion
If Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, prayed so much, how much more do we need to pray? If Jesus, being as close to and in such fellowship with God the Father as He was, prayed so much, how much more do we need to pray and seek God, especially for something as important as revival and reaching the world for Him? In this parable, Jesus was praying and a disciple asked Him to teach them how to pray. Imagine how you might respond if you saw Jesus praying to God the Father. Maybe you would ask Him, like this disciple, “Jesus, teach me how to pray.” That is what He did. Jesus taught them how to pray by giving them a shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew chapter six. I would like to offer four ideas from the passage about how we should pray.
- Prayer should be God-centered
- Prayer should address our needs (not our wants)
- Prayer should be persistent
- Prayer should be by the Holy Spirit and for the Holy Spirit
Prayer Should be God-centered
Jesus responded to the disciple’s request to teach him how to pray by giving a model of prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer that we ought to repeat ritually, meaning that we say these exact same words every time we pray. That was not the point of Jesus giving us this sample prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is one that emphasizes areas in which we ought to be concerned while praying. The first thing we ought to realize is that our prayers ought to be God-centered and not self-centered. Oftentimes, our prayers become a means to exalt ourselves or what we want from God. While praying is direct communication with the Creator of the universe, it is also a time of worship. Jesus indicates this by the words “hallowed be your name.” When we pray according to the model Jesus gave us, we are giving honor and glory to God and acknowledging His greatness. We are saying, “You, God, are worthy to be praised.”
Another thing to notice is how Jesus began this model prayer. Jesus addressed God as “Father.” Addressing God as “Father” recognizes the relationship we have by our faith in Jesus Christ. This is important to realize. Not everyone has God as Father. There are two families and two fatherhoods in the world. There is the family of Adam, into which we are all born, and there is the family of God, into which some are re-born by faith in Jesus Christ. Those who are of the family of God were once children of darkness, but are now children of light. (Ephesians 5:8) They were once dead in sin, but are now alive in Christ. When one believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior, God’s Word says that he or she is “adopted” into God’s family. God becomes the Heavenly Father. The Lord’s Prayer assumes that those who pray like it have genuinely accepted God’s Son as Lord and Savior, have been re-born into God’s family, and may therefore call God, “Father.”
A third aspect of God-centered prayer is in regards to God’s work here on earth. The model prayer of Jesus mentioned, “Your kingdom come.” When we pray to God our Father, we are to ask that His will and work on earth be accomplished. According to Jesus’ prayer here, we are to long for and pray for the future and final form of God’s kingdom when Satan and death will be finally extinguished and God’s people will live forever with Him. Prayer needs to be God-centered.
Prayer Should Address Our Needs (not our wants)
Sometimes, we pray with the wrong motives. James addressed the concern of asking for something but not receiving it because the people asked wrongly. Oftentimes, prayer becomes an exercise of petitioning God for our wants. God becomes a vending machine where we deposit some prayer expecting to receive a particular result. If you really want to see this, just visit a casino. There you will find all kinds of people calling upon God to give them a winning hand or to help them on a slot machine. You can also see people praying for their wants at ball games. How many players and fans call upon God to help their team win the game, or at least, cause the other team to lose. The model prayer Jesus gave addressed what is necessary for living, not our daily wants. We see the statement “Give us each day our daily bread.”
Our daily needs, however, go beyond physical needs such as food and water. We have spiritual needs as well, and these are the ones that have the most significance for our eternal life. Our spiritual needs include the need for forgiveness. As a child who will often disobey his or her earthly father and need to ask for forgiveness, so should we go to our Heavenly Father and ask Him for forgiveness when we have done wrong. God’s Word declares that if we confess our sins to Him, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” (1 John 1:9) We each have a daily need to ask for forgiveness as well as to forgive each other. We cannot hold on to bitterness, and unforgiveness, and resentment and expect God to forgive us. We need to be a forgiving people.
Finally, God-centered prayer seeks God’s protection from the evil one. We have an enemy who desires to steal, kill and destroy. He wants to lead you into temptation and away from God’s perfect will in your life. In this model prayer Jesus said, “Lead us not into temptation.” When we come to God in prayer, we need to recognize our complete inability to lead a perfect life and our utter dependence on Him to make us who we ought to be. I said earlier that when we pray according to the Lord’s prayer, we give honor and glory to God and acknowledge His greatness. We also acknowledge our need for Him. We need to pray to Him that He protect us from entering into temptation that could destroy us. This should be a daily concern.
Prayer Should be Persistent
Sometimes, God does not answer our prayers as quickly as we want. In that case, we ought to be persistent in prayer until we get an answer from God. After giving the model prayer, Jesus told a parable to emphasize a particular kind of prayer. When I read this parable, I thought of a contestant from the TV show Wipeout. For those of you who may not know, Wipeout is a TV show with several crazy obstacle courses in which contestants compete with one another for a grand prize. To most of the contestants, the hosts of the show will give them funny names based on something they say or do. There was a female contestant one time who they called Never Give Up, Never Surrender. Though she was not the most athletic or most gifted person to compete, she gave her best and said that her motto was always “Never Give Up, Never Surrender.”
In the parable, a friend was traveling at night and the host of the friend had no food to offer him. The host went to a neighbor to ask for food to give to his traveling friend and was denied help. During Jesus’ time on earth, people normally traveled only during the daylight hours. If at nightfall a person had not reached his destination, he would usually find an inn where he could safely spend the night and then continue his journey the next day. In the parable this traveler had violated that normal custom and had continued on the journey to a friend’s house until midnight. The traveler would most likely have been exhausted and hungry after such a long journey. While the host in the parable could provide shelter, apparently he had not gone to the grocery store yet and had no food.
The host felt responsible to feed his guest, but it was midnight and all the stores were closed. He had another friend who could meet this need and therefore went to his friend’s house in the middle of the night to intercede on behalf of his needy guest. However, when he got to his friend’s house, his friend refused to even open the door. In biblical times houses were very small, often with only one room and that room served as a living room for the family by day and the family bedroom at night. For one to arise and light the lamp and admit a guest into the house required that the entire family wake up and greet the visitor. This friend was unwilling to do that, maybe for fear of waking up his wife. Some of you may understand that issue. Because he recognized the need of his guest, the intercessor persisted in his asking until his friend opened the door and gave him what he needed. It was not the need that moved the friend, nor the friendship with the intercessor, but rather the friend’s persistence that brought a response.
Jesus was teaching that when a person recognizes a need that he or she cannot meet, that person is in the role of an intercessor. While that person may not be able to meet the need, he or she can intercede on behalf of the one with the need. In fact, the point of the parable is that we ought to persist in praying until the thing has been provided that will meet the need. Again, this is not persisting in asking God to provide a want, but persisting in praying for God to meet a need, whether that is a physical or a spiritual need. Jesus was also not saying that God is unwilling to hear, for we know that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers.” (1 Peter 3:12) What Jesus was saying here was that if even an unwilling human friend can be moved by persistent intercession, how much more will God be moved by persistent prayer! Jesus literally told His disciples: “Keep on asking and it will be given to you; Keep on seeking and you will find; Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.” In prayer, keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. God centered prayers that address the physical and spiritual needs ought to be persistent.
Prayer Should be by the Holy Spirit and for the Holy Spirit
Our heavenly Father gives good gifts to His children. Jesus compared the goodness of our heavenly Father to our earthly fathers. Our earthly fathers want us to have good things. However, every earthly father is imperfect. Not a one is perfectly good, and some are very far from it. But even if you had a very good father who showered you with good gifts, your Heavenly Father will do so much more. The greatest gift that God can give His children is Himself. Certainly, this reminds us of Jesus Christ Who was given to us as a Savior that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. That is true. But God gives Himself also with the Holy Spirit. When one becomes a Christian, God provides the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit in order to empower the believer to live out his or her Christian faith.
Our prayers ought to be in the power of the Holy Spirit and for the moving of the Holy Spirit. For instance, when we pray for revival in the Church, we should pray that the Holy Spirit will move in the hearts of men and women to empower them to be disciples of Jesus Christ. When we share the good news of Jesus Christ, we should pray that the Holy Spirit moves in the life of that person to convict them of sin and convince them of Jesus Christ. I heard it said that when it comes to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, “It is our responsibility to get the Gospel from our lips to their ears. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to get the Gospel from their ears to their hearts.” (John Folmar) We should pray in the power of the Holy Spirit and for the Holy Spirit to move in the lives of people.
In closing, I would like to encourage you to pray specifically for something in the days ahead. I mean really pray for it. This is a challenge to me as well. I have spoken quite a bit lately about faithfulness. I was challenged this weekend concerning the issue of faithfulness. I heard that faithfulness is more than obedience. It largely means obeying God’s Word no matter the circumstance or the result, but it means more than that. It also includes a burden for the lost regardless of the results we see. We need to yearn for the harvest even if we do not see the fruit of our labor. The Great Awakening of the 18th century was carried forward by prayer. The revival under Wesley and Whitfield began with a small group of believers praying. The revivals under D. L. Moody and others were carried on in a spirit of prayer. We need to pray for revival and I would like to encourage you to specifically pray for something regarding the revival. Pray that God will open a door for ministry and that He will send workers to do it.
Luke 10:2 And [Jesus] said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
I encourage you all to pray earnestly and persistently for God to open a door for ministry here at Good Hope. It is God Who opens doors for ministry and we need to be praying that He does so here. Paul asked for the church to pray that God would open a door for the Gospel, and that is what we should pray. Go to the Father and ask that He would provide opportunities for Good Hope to minister and share the Gospel to this community. I also encourage you all to pray earnestly and persistently for God to send workers into this community. Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. There is is great harvest out there and one or a few people cannot accomplish it. But, a church full of workers who God sends out to the field can. I want you to also pray earnestly and persistently that God will make us a faithful and passionate people for the Gospel. Pray that He will burden us with a real deep concern for the lost and a desire to rescue the perishing. Pray that God will use His church to reach the community for Jesus Christ. Will you pray for these things? Will you promise to never give up, and never surrender? May it be so! Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.