Friday, November 28, 2008
Luke 11:1 He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”
5 He also said to them: “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ 7 Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Luke 18 He then told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not become discouraged: 2 “There was a judge in one town who didn’t fear God or respect man. 3 And a widow in that town kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For a while he was unwilling, but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming.’ ” 6 Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay [to help]them? 8 I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?”
In both parables, Jesus is careful to vindicate the character of God and to reveal His true nature and attitude. “If you then, being evil, know how to give gifts to your children, how much more shall your F. who is in heaven give what is good to those who Him!” (Matt 7:11, italics added). God is neither a self. neighbour nor a crooked judge dispensing reluctant justice to a wronged widow simply because his comfort was being disturbed by her persistence.
The lesson is that lukewarmness in prayer, as in everything else, is nauseating to God, and comes a’ empty-handed.
1. You Must Have a Compelling Desire
"The proper way for man to pray," said Deacon Lemuel Keyes;
"The only proper attitude is down upon his knees."
"Nay, I should say the way to pray," said Reverend Doctor Wise,
"Is standing straight with outstretched arms with rapt and upturned eyes."
"Oh, no, no, no," said Elder Snow, "such posture is too proud."
A man should pray with eyes fast-closed and head contritely bowed."
"It seems to me his hands should be austerely clasped in front.
With both thumbs pointing to the ground," said Reverend Doctor Blunt.
"Last year I fell in Hodgkin's well headfirst," said Cyril Brown.
"With both my heels a-stickin' up, my head a-pointing' down;
And I done prayed right then and there; best prayer I ever said,
The prayin'est prayer I ever prayed, a-standin' on my head."
The Lord Jesus had a compelling desire to pray.
He prayed in solitude. If “prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, the Christian’s native air,” it was no less so to his Lord, It was the natural atmosphere of His life. Whenever possible, He sought solitude so that He could commune with His Father, It has been remarked that there are three kinds of solitude—the solitude of time, the solitude of place, and the solitude of spirit. Jesus experienced all of these.
Robert E. Speer notes that one of His two prayers of deepest power was offered before midnight at the Temple gates (John 17), the other just after midnight in Gethsemane (Matt 26:36). He used to spend whole nights in prayer (Luke 6:12), and would rise to pray long before sunrise (Mark 1:35). He also chose secluded places so that He, sometimes with His disciples, could pray undisturbed. The mountains, the desert, a garden were His favourite haunts (Matt 14:13, 23; Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16; 6:12; John 18:2). Even in the midst of crowds He experienced a solitude of spirit. Consider the paradoxical statement of Luke 9:18: “And it came about that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him.” He apparently possessed such powers of concentration and abstraction that He did not allow even the presence of His friends to disturb the solitude of His spirit.
Why need He pray who held by filial right, O’er all the world alike of thought and sense,
The fulness of his Sire’s omnipotence? Why crave in prayer what was his own by might?
Vain is the question,—Christ was man in need, And being man his duty was to pray.
The son of God confess’d the human need, And doubtless ask’d a blessing every day.
Nor ceases yet for sinful man to plead, Nor will, till heaven and earth shall pass away.
How Did The Lord Jesus Pray?
His Father’s glory was His consuming passion. He summarized His life’s work in seven words: “I have glorified thee on the earth” (John 17:4, KJVJ, This was the focus of His prayer life. He secured God’s glory by completing the task entrusted to Him.
Thanksgiving was intermingled with worship and petition. Adoring thankfulness constantly welled up in His heart. Whether He was walking in bright sunlight or in dark shadow, He did not forget thanksgiving.
Confession of sin found no place in His devotional life, as it must in ours. This was because there was never any consciousness of defilement or sense of distance from His Father. On the contrary, He asserted, “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29). No occasion for confession evex arose.
Communion with His Father bulked large in His prayers, whereas petition for personal needs occupied only a minor place. Amid earth’s pollution, Fle pined for the celestial air. His high-priestly prayer recorded in John 17 is an example of communion with God at its highest.
Intercession also held an important place, and included the interests and spiritual advancement of His disciples. His prayer for Peter opens a wonderful line of truth: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you [plural, ‘you all’] like wheat; but I have prayed for you [singular]” (Luke 22:31-32). He prayed for His enemies, even for those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34).
His prayers were invariably answered. “I knew that Thou hearest Me always,” was His testimony (John 11:42). This assurance rested on the fact that He knew
He always prayed in line with the will of God.
From the gospel records it seems clear that of all His excellences of character, it was His prayerfulness that most impressed His apostles.
You Have A Compelling Desire To Pray
2. You Must Have A Continuing Determination
The clear teaching of these two parables is that the Lord delights to answer persevering prayer. But why does God want us to persevere in prayer? What is His purpose?
Dr. W. E. Biederwoif makes the interesting suggestion that importunity is one of the instructors in God’s training school for Christian culture. God does not always grant the answer to prayer at once because the petitioner is not yet in a fit state to receive what he asks. There is something God desires to do in him before He answers the prayer.
There may be some lack of yieldedness, or some failure to master some previous spiritual lesson. So He does not deny the request, He withholds the answer until, through persevering prayer, the end He has view is achieved.
May this not be in part the explanation of some God’s seeming delays? His delays are always delays of love, not of caprice. “Men would pluck their mercies green; God would have them ripe.”
Canon W. Hay Aitken refers to prayer as “an athletic of the soul” that is designed to render our desires more intense by giving them adequate expression, to exercise the will in its highest functions, and to bring us into closer touch with God. It will also test the reality and sincerity of our faith, and save it from being superficial. Importunity rouses the slumbering capacities of the soul and prepares the way for faith.
There may be other reasons why the divine response tarries and importunity is needed. Here are some suggestions.
1. We may be asking without greatly caring about the issue. If we are not in earnest, why should God bestir Himself? We shall find Him when we seek with all our hearts.
Luke 11: 9 “So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
2. We may be asking for selfish reasons, and the discipline of delay is necessary to purge us of this. Selfish motivation is self-defeating in prayer.
Luke 11:11 What father among you, if his sonasks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
He moves to the greatest and most important blessings.
This is what the early church needed to learn to pray about:
Here them in the fires of persecution praying:
The Early Church had a Continuing Determination to pray.
Acts 4:29 says, "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word" (emphasis mine). The word "servants" comes from the Greek word doulos that literally means bondslave. I believe that the reason many of our prayers are not answered is that we have not made that level of commitment to the Lord.
The early church was committed to express His Word (see Acts 4:29 again). Do you live and breathe to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and to obey the Great Commission?
The disciples also prayed to extend His hand (see Acts 4:30). Are you praying, "Lord, these hands are Your hands. All You have to do is say the word and my hands will do whatever You want to do today."
The disciples were committed to exalt His name. Acts 4:30 says, "By stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy child Jesus" (emphasis mine). When you say, "In Jesus' name. Amen" at the end of your prayer, it is not just a closing phrase. What you are really saying is, "I ask these things in Your authority and for Your glory."
3. We may unconsciously be unwilling to pay the price involved in the answering of our prayers, and our Father desires us to face up to this fact.
4. We may be misinterpreting what God is doing in our lives in answer to our prayers. This was the case with John Newton, the converted slave-trader.
He gives his testimony in verse:
I asked the Lord, that I may grow In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know, And seek more earnestly his face.
I hoped that in some favoured hour, At once he’d answer my request;
And by his love’s constraining power, Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, he made me feel The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with his own hand he seemed Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
Lord, why is this, I trembling cried, Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
‘Tis in this way,” the Lord replied, “I answer prayer for grace and faith.
“These inward trials I employ, From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy, That thou mayst seek thy all in me.”
God’s dual method with His servant was to reveal to him the inherent evil of his heart so that he would be motivated to claim importunately from God the blessing he was then fitted to receive.
"If to-day he deigns to bless us With a sense of pardon'd sin,
He to-morrow may distress us, Make us feel the plague within,
All to make us Sick of self, and fond of him."
Another possible reason for God’s apparent delays or denial of an answer is it secures our humble dependence on God. If He bestowed our desires as gifts of nature and did not want our solicitations, we would tend to become independent of Him. “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth,” was God’s warning to His people. “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth” (Deut 8:17-18).
Unanswered yet? Nay, do not say unanswered, Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done,
the work began when first your prayer was uttered, And God will finish what He has begun.
Keep incense burning at the shrine of prayer, And glory shall descend sometime, somewhere.
Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be unanswered; Her feet are firmly planted on the Rock;
Amid the wildest storms she stands undaunted, Nor quails before the loudest thunder shock.
She knows Omnipotence has heard her prayer, And cries, “It shall be done sometime, somewhere.”
3. You May Have A Complete Deliverance
The very point of the parable is that the Lord is not like an unrighteous Judge. He is like a gracious Father.
Luke 18: 6 Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay [to help]them? 8 I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice.
Luke 11: 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish?
12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
God says, “Call to me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3, NKJV). He is a prayer-hearing God (Psalm 65:2).
When asked the secret of his spiritual power, Charles Spurgeon said: "Knee work! Knee work!"
George Whitefield, who retired punctually at 10 p.m. every night, rose equally promptly at four a.m. in order to pray.
John Wesley spent two hours daily in prayer, and commonly said that "God does nothing but in answer to prayer."
Martin Luther said, "I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer."
William Temple replied to his critics who regarded answered prayer as no more than coincidences, "When I pray, coincidences happen; when I don't, they don't."
Our Lord's disciples' request is probably our most needed prayer: "Lord, teach us to pray.
With thanks to J Oswald Sanders and Adrian Rogers