Luke 11:5-9 “Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
What does ask, seek and knock mean? It is an exhortation to pray
“Pray the largest prayers. You cannot think a prayer so large that God in answering it will not wish you had made it larger. Pray not for crutches but for wings.”
This is an exhortation to pray big prayers, if you are asking God to save one person, why not ask Him to save thousands? We limit ourselves to ask for small things, because sometimes we think that God is like us. We are shabby, stingy and petty when we give. God is not stingy, He gives over abundantly. Have you seen a mango tree? It gives so much fruit. Have you seen the sea? There are thousands of fish in its depths. Look at the sky, how many stars are there? We see God’s abundance all around us.
God wants us to think of Him as an over abundant giver. He likes it when we ask Him for things. In Luke 11:9 it says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” God invented this resource called prayer. God wants us to pray! Why did God invent this? Will God still work if I don’t pray? Of course He can and will! He has included prayer as part of His plans. How is it possible that God depends on my feeble prayer in order to execute His plan? This is a concept that is difficult to understand, yet God is waiting for us to pray. Many things haven’t come to your life because you have not asked or maybe because you are asking with the incorrect intent. In James 4:2b-3 we read “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Do not put your hope and trust on your human resources (your money, strength, or wisdom); but put your hope and trust in God. We forget to ask God for help, the very God that has our lives in His hands. We are guided by our senses if we don’t see it, hear it, sense it, or understand we don’t ask for it. God wants us to ask for guidance and direction. 1 Kings 3:5 says “At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’” As we know Solomon asked for wisdom; the same wisdom that Solomon asked of God is at your disposition. God wants us to ask for our daily needs. In Zechariah 10:1 we read “Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.” This verse shows us to ask for Gods provision for our needs. God will respond to all petition that is in sync with His will. God also wants to relieve our anxiety and give us peace. We see this in Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” God is better than a friend that responds to our petitions in the middle of the night. After todays preaching you will see how our Heavenly Father supplies all our needs when we ask, seek and knock. When Jesus tells us to continue asking, seeking and knocking in prayer it is not because God wants to play with us. He is using our determination in prayer to powerfully work in our lives.
There are three people in this story
- The persistent friend
- The tired traveler
- The neighbor that is sleeping
The houses back then in Jesus’ time was just one large room that served as dining area and sleeping area. There were adults and children sleeping in the same room. To get to the bread was something of an inconvenience. The man had to climb over the other people that were sleeping in the room in order to get to the bread and open the door in order to give it to the man that was asking for it.
- The persistent friend is thinking to himself, what do i do now? when his friend got to his house at midnight. I know I can give my traveler friend a place to sleep in but I have no food to give him! This is a difficult situation. This is a cultural dilemma, for people from the Middle East it is an important responsibility to be hospitable. It is shameful to not attend to your guests properly. In Genesis 18:4 we see where Abraham was visited by three visitors and he says “Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way— now that you have come to your servant.” In verses 6-8 we see where Abraham had Sarah make bread, and also had a tender calf prepared as well. In Genesis 19 we see Lot has visitors and he prepared a meal for them, the situation got so out of hand that Lot stood between the townsmen and the visitors in Genesis 19:8 he says “but don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” Jesus is using this attitude of the persistent friend to show us how prayer works. The friend did not care about his family at that moment, he ran to take care of his friend the tired traveler. Jesus is telling us that we should be like the persistent friend.
- The tired traveler. Why did the man that traveled get to his friends house at midnight? This was to avoid the harsh sun and temperatures of mid-day. The people of that time normally started traveling around 3 P.M. because it starts to cool off at that time. He knows that when he got to his friends house his friend would give him food to eat and a place to rest. What’s curious is that when he got to his friends house the friend did not have any bread. Back in that time there were no preservatives for bread and if you stored it from one day to the next it would more than likely go bad. But the friend (the persistent friend) knew where he could get bread. This is a town where possibly everyone knew each other. So the persistent friend goes and asks the neighbor for bread. Jesus is talking about the importance of persevering in prayer. In Luke 11:2 we read the Our Father prayer. This is a prayer model left for us, this was not a prayer Jesus was praying to His Father. How do we know this? Because Jesus said “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” We know that Jesus had no sins therefore this is why this is a model left for us.
- The grumpy neighbor. Think of someone that is knocking at your door at 1 A.M. they are interrupting your sleep, the next day you have to take your children to school and you have to go to work, so this is very disruptive getting a visitor late at night. The persistent friend said, hey get up get me bread, the grumpy neighbor said leave me alone, but the friend did not leave and kept knocking. The neighbor at one point says well he is not going to leave and he will end up waking everyone up in the house with this racket so i am better off getting up and giving him the bread. This is how God works, not so much that God gets bothered when we ask for things, but he looks at our perseverance in prayer. Just how Jacob also persevered in Genesis 32:26 “But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’” This is the idea of prayer, God you have to bless me, and hear me, I have a need and i will not leave here until you throw me out.
Remember the New Testament is originally written in Greek. The words ‘shameless audacity’ come from the Greek word “anaideia” it could be translated into inopportune, or being shameless. He didn’t care that he was going to wake everyone up in the middle of the night, Jesus is telling us that we need to be the same way valiant, persistent, and never giving up in your prayers.
This is a verb, you are the one that needs to ask. God will not be doing the asking in the prayer, you are the one that will ask.
This implies there is effort. Prayer is work. Waking up earlier because you are going to pray implies you are making an effort, as is going to bed later because you are going to pray implies you are making an effort into your prayer life. Leaving your responsibilities for a bit because you are going to pray implies you are making an effort.
Includes the idea of persistence. You don’t ask for something and forget about it, you become persistent until you get a response.
What have you been asking for that you have not had a response to yet? Or what have you asked for and you just gave up and haven’t asked for it any more? Don’t think that God has forgotten your prayer, or that it was lost to the cosmos. If you continue to persevere in your prayer your way of thinking is changed even if they have not received a response to that prayer. That person has matured and they have come to know God better, and they also realize is this something that I should even be asking for? When you have been praying for something for a while you may come to realize this request is more a whim of mine, not need of mine. Prayer is transforming us and our thought process while we are praying.
Christianity came to a town in Africa, and they built a little chapel so that the townspeople can go pray. People came from different areas of town, so they made little trails from the persons doorway to the chapel and the grass would not grow in those trails where people stepped on constantly to go the chapel. When someone stopped going to the chapel the grass would grow on that trail, so they could go to that persons house and exhort them to continue praying. How is your trail to prayer? Do you even have a trail? Is your trail full of grass? Nothing will happen in your life if you do not pray. You may have earthly possessions, yes, but there are things that only a life of prayer and communion with God can bring us.
The conclusion of this story is that if a grumpy neighbor responds to his persistent friends request, for sure our loving Heavenly Father will supply our necessities when we ask Him. He is better than a friend and wants us to ask Him, seek Him, and Knock till He responds.
God is looking for people that will persevere in their prayer. In a marriage you need to pray together. This is the best therapy. You can use all the resources at your reach, but when a couple starts praying together they see beyond their problems to the bigger picture and walls tumble down, they start asking for forgiveness so they can heal and move on.
When a church starts praying together we realize the important things. The things of eternal implications are more important than me holding a grudge against my brother that wronged me. You start thinking more like Jesus you start accepting people for who they are and with their defects. Prayer helps us do that. Prayer also helps us accept bad news (whether its from a doctor, friend or family member). Prayer transforms us.
In Luke 18 we see another Parable of a persistent widow
Luke 18:1-7 “then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: in a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, Grant me justice against my adversary. For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me! And the Lord said, listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
That widow that persisted is us and the persistent friend that kept knocking at the neighbors door is also us. Your life circumstances don’t matter, our job is to persevere in prayer. You may say, but Pastor you do not know nor understand my situation! Yes that is true, but I know what the Bible says, that even when the situation seems bleak you still need to persevere in prayer. Many people that are here with us in church today are a product of someone that persevered in prayer. God has placed that same responsibility in your hands. There is someone out there that depends on your prayers. Stop judging that person and pray for them. You will need to counsel less and pray more for your family and for this generation. There are no frontiers when we start praying, you are praying and interceding for people in all the world.
There is a story of a college girl that was preaching to her atheist friend. The girl would try to preach the gospel to her friend but her friend would just laugh at her because she wanted nothing to do with God and Christianity. The college had told the atheist girl if we catch you out of the dorm rooms one more time past curfew we will have to expel you from school. One evening the 2 girls were in the library studying and it was getting to the libraries closing time. To get from the library to the dorm rooms it is about a 20 minute walk, so the one girl said, listen I don’t want to get expelled, I will take a shortcut through the woods so that I can make it to the dorm rooms before curfew. However, there was also reported in the area that there was a rapist that was raping women but had not been caught yet. The friend ran into the wooded area and the Christian friend felt bad and ran after her to make sure that they would make it out of there ok. The Christian girl could not find her friend, however all the time she was praying that they would stay safe. The Christian girl made it safely to the dorm rooms, however, her friend did not make it. The girl called campus security but they did not find the other girls body until the following morning. She had been strangled to death. The police caught the man, and the Christian girl asked to speak to him during the trial period. She asked him why did you only rape her? Did you not see me? And the man responded, yes, I saw you too, but you were with a man, so I got frightened. We do not know what we have! We activate God’s protection when we pray. In Psalm 34:7 it says “The angel of the Lord encamp around those who fear him and he delivers them.”
There is a municipality in Cuba called Moa, they have built a church there that seats about 1,000 people. There was a long standing battle with the Cuban government however, but regardless they were able to build the church even though the government tried to stop them. The government at one point accused the people of stealing the building material to build the church. The government had taken the church builders to court and in front of tribunals, but the church had held on to all their receipts to prove they actually purchased the material. They had people coming to pray 24/7 at the site they were building the church for 80 days straight until the government declared they could continue building the church.
You may have a huge obstacle in your life, that doesn’t matter, you have to pray. Prayer is work, but you have to remember that there is no problem too large for God. In the middle of turbulent situations God will work.
Look at Cyrus the Persian, God uses worldly people. God called Cyrus his shepherd and someone that will accomplish what I want! In Isaiah 44:28 and Isaiah 45:1 we read “who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’ “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut.” God used Cyrus to liberate the Jews from Babylon. God uses anyone to accomplish His purpose only if His people pray.
John Knox is considered to be the father of the Scottish Presbyterian faith. His prayers were said to be very powerful. Mary, Queen of Scots, a lifelong enemy of Knox, is said to have stated, “I fear John Knox’s prayers more than all the assembled armies of Europe.”
There is nothing impossible for God. In Philippians 4:6-7 we read “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” There may be a storm in your life but you need to talk to Jesus in prayer. There may be an army against you, but you should not be afraid, affirm the word of God. There are obstacles ahead of you, but continue to persevere in prayer.
Transcribed by Dr. Elizabeth Stone