Prayer 01: two parables – Luke 11:5-13

1.   Why and how we pray: Two parables A – Luke 11:5-13

By all accounts you would be expecting this morning to continue with the Gospel Shaped Mercy series we started last week.  At the Deacons and Elders meeting on Tuesday, and in light of my resignation from the pastorate here, the meeting expressed their desire that I preach…

            I had the preaching program planned since the beginning of the year, and asked myself “what should I preach for 6 weeks through the close of my time at ECCC?”  Prayer.  I have not chosen the topic because I think I excel at it.  In fact, Like DA Carson has said, if you want to show up a regular Christian ask them about their personal prayer life – they may know lots of scriptures by heart and have great evangelistic stories but often our private payer lives are embarrassing.

I will never forget Jerry Bridges who came to speak to us on one of our quiet days at Bible Institute saying the greatest enemy of prayer is distraction – you close your eyes, say a few lines and the next thing you’re thinking about lunch or the rugby.

We are going to start in Luke 11 (you know me – I like getting stuck into a passage) and spend about 4 weeks looking at how the Lord’s Prayer gives us a framework for our on prayer life.  But before we get there we’ll take two weeks talking about how to develop a prayerful heart.

2.   A parable about prayer

Read Luke 11:5-8

Jesus is telling an outrageous story:

  • Remember, in those days there was no 7-11 or petrol station convenience shops so you could throw R50 out the window and say, “go to the Engen”.  You baked their bread.
  • Also, there was an expectation of hospitality so the ask-er doesn’t want to send away his guests away hungry.
  • It was also an outrageous ask: 3 loaves… a friend of mine (not a soccer team)… 3 loaves please.
  • It was midnight: you went to be at sunset so they were probably at least 4 hours into their night’s rest; dead to the world; sawing logs;
  • He was in the bed with his kids – one bedroomed house, Sealy Posturepedic didn’t exist, you were all just together in the bed.  So if the owner gets up everyone is up.  And if he had kids like mine, once they were down it was DEFCON silence in the house – if you woke them you put them back to sleep!

Here is the lesson: if you annoy God persistently you will eventually get what you want – amen!  No!  Quote verse 8.  In fact that may have been the end of the friendship!  He only gets the bread to get him to leave.  Jesus is contrasting this to the heart of God: if a guy had every reason to do nothing but eventually did something, how much more would God, who did not spare his only Son, but freely gave him up for us all, not also answer our prayer for our good when we come in his name and ask.

It does not mean you must have bloodied fists because of all you knocking and then you will eventually earn an answer to prayer.  Read 11:9-13.  Again it is a contrast between human fathers who, by comparison to God are evil, still give good gifts – how much more will God not give us the good we need.

3.      Prayer: our dependence

The man in the story has a desperate need and nowhere else to go.  The one thing that will keep you from praying is that you don’t see yourself as utterly desperate before God.  In society at the moment everything is about method.  If you just have the right method and follow these three or six easy steps you will have success:

  • 4 weeks to a slim and trim body;
  • 5 steps to master online trading;
  • How to change a plug in 3 easy steps (without killing yourself) – and most of them are in a YouTube video now!
  • Last month the drive belt of my washing machine jumped off.  What did I do – I Googled a YouTube video watched the 6 steps and put it back on.  Today you don’t need to know everything, you just need to know where to look to find the info you need at the time.  Get the right method/technique/steps/approach.
  • But that doesn’t transfer into the spiritual realm (5 steps to effective evangelism, 7 ingredients of an effective small group ministry, 3 ways to get the congregation to engage in worship).  God works differently – he says ‘apart from me you can do nothing’.

Skills and methods are important but by no means primary.  And you see it most clearly in the life of Christ…

A.    Jesus’ Prayers

As you read the New Testament you could be forgiven for being alarmed by how much Jesus prayed: the guy was God, why so much prayer to God if you are God?  The only way to make sense of it is the incarnation: Jesus was God IN THE FLESH and therefore models the kind of dependence that we should all have towards God in prayer.  Jesus says this…

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself;  he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

Jesus prayed and the storm was calmed; he prayed and demons fled; he prayed and people were healed; he prayed; he prayed and the loaves and fish were multiplied.  He did what he ‘saw’ the Father doing through prayer.

Now, Jesus will go on to say this about us…

John 15:4-5 “No branch can bear fruit by itself… apart from me you can do nothing”

Remaining in the vine is about prayerful dependence.  What was essential to Jesus (the God-man!!!) has become optional to Christians.  We are more inclined to look at prayer as the obligatory bookends to our human efforts (that’s what actually makes ministry happen).

B.    The Early Church

Even as you read the book of Acts you can hardly find a chapter where they are not praying or when prayer is not mentioned.  In the opening salutations of Paul’s letters there is hardly one that does not refer to Paul’s prayers for the person or people he is addressing.  The message is: before I have anything to say to you I just need to assure you that prayer is always the first thing I am busy with regarding you.

What was essential to the early church has become optional to Christians today. Listen to this cutting diagnosis: v

            Reading the next and best Christian parenting book is great but you know what your kids need more – your prayers  Attending the next business leadership seminar is great, but what your business needs more is your prayers.  Participating in a marriage renewal course is great, but what your spouse (and you) need more is to pray for each other and your relationship.

4.      Confidence

There are two things in the passage that we read that indicate we can be confident/bold in approaching God in prayer.  (1) God is not a sleeping friend who doesn’t want to be inconvenienced, he is attentive and interested.  (2) He pictures himself as a father.  Who has access to a father more than anyone else in the world?  Children.  My kids have this cockiness, they aren’t scare to ask for anything – sometimes in a cheeky way!  I think: are you serious, do you have no boundaries, what did your mother teach you?

And God is perfectly good while human parents can and do make mistakes.  Jesus appeals to the idea of a loving father – when a child asks for a cheese sandwich would the father say “open
wide” and pop a scorpion in his mouth.  A loving father would never do that – even if his child pouts or mopes or thinks his dad is unfair.

5.   Application

This could be a “deer in the headlights” = frozen; dare not act cause I haven’t prayed enough.  Praying with dependence and confidence may mean:

  • Regular, shorter times of prayer rather than attempting hour long sessions.
  • Writing out your prayers because just saying them can be distracting
  • Saying them out loud (awkward) – less likely to get distracted.
  • Embracing God’s loving fatherhood over you – and trusting his “no” and “not yet”

I am aware that even in this sermon this could be 3 things to do to develop a heart of prayer”!  Prayer at its core is a desperate conversation with your Heavenly Father where you tell him all that you need, all that you’re afraid of, all you are worried about, all you can’t handle because you know how much you need him[1].

            When do you pray the most earnestly?  What things are going wrong?  We need to realise that this kind of dependence needs to be the regular position.  When it’s not what it means is: “I’ve got this God until everything unravels and ‘please God can you step in’”.  When do you pray the most confidently?  When you see him as the loving Father he is.

            Take a minute as we close to assess your prayer life…         

            What is on your heart now that you would bring to God confidently and dependently?

Questions

Read Luke 11:1-13

  1. What do you think a consistent prayer life looks like (be careful – you can always prayer more)?
    1. Do you think you have a consistent prayer life?
    1. Why do many Christians battle to have a consistent prayer life?
  2. The two parables:
    1. What is the point of the parable about the friend asking for bread?
    1. What is the point of the ‘parable’ about the father?
    1. How do they help us get to the heart of a consistent prayer life?
    1. How do the examples of Jesus and the early church challenge you?
  3. Respond to this quote:

“If you are not praying then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life. You’ll always be a little too tired, a little too busy to pray. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can’t do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will find the time.”[2]

  • There is an important balance to maintain here: law motivated prayer (I really should prayer more) and grace motivated prayer (I desire to prayer more because Christ has opened relationship to God through his death)
    • How do you balance these two? [grace alone may lead to a hit-or-miss / careless approach. Law alone may lead to condemnation for failure to measure up]
  • Share some practical methods that you use to help you pray effectively

[1] Craig Groeschel, “Getting to Know God Through Prayer,” series on Prayer

[2] Paul Miller, A Praying Life, 37