Luke 11: 5 – 13 NLT
5 Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.
9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
For years I used to wonder what these verses meant. It seemed that if you “bugged” God long enough, you’d get what you wanted. God seemed to be the upset neighbour who didn’t want to get out of bed. But that’s not God!
In the culture of the Mideast in Jesus’ day, if someone showed up at your door in need of something, you had to help them. It would be incredibly rude to ignore someone’s needs. So, the man looking for bread to feed a late-night arrival is actually the good person. He needs that food for this person who knocked on his door; arriving late at night would indicate the traveller had been on a long journey. The request for bread from his neighbour is a good thing. But his neighbour is like the father of the second story who gave his child a snake. He refused to offer needed food – something in that culture you didn’t do.
These two stories tell us about prayer. God is not like the neighbour who didn’t want to get out of bed. He is not like the father who gave his child a snake instead of the healthy food the child asked for. He is ready to meet our needs. God wants to give us good things. God is like a neighbour who would be glad to help out even when it is inconvenient. God is like the father who wants his children to be well-fed and nourished.
But Jesus says we sometimes need to keep on asking. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Why? Why do we need to keep on asking? Both the “askers” in these two stories were asking for something good. Sometimes, we think we are asking for something good, but it’s not in God’s plan. Maybe not at all, maybe not then. Maybe our “wish list” needs some changing. God wants us to be in contact with him on a regular basis, not just when we’re desperate for something. Can you imagine what a marriage relationship or parent/child relationship would be like if the only conversations took place when something was needed right away, pronto?
Jesus also promises the Holy Spirit will be present for those who are praying. “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Paul repeats this idea in Romans 8: 26 – 28:
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Prayer is the foundation of our relationship with God. Talking with him brings us closer to him. These past 3 days, we’ve been looking at Jesus’ instructions about prayer. We need to acknowledge God’s supreme being as well as knowing he is our loving father. We can pray about our basic needs – our jobs, our income, our homes, our families, etc. We need to ask for forgiveness as the Holy Spirit nudges us about what we’ve been doing and thinking. We also need to be aware of how much God forgives us, and be willing to forgive those around us – a humble spirit. We can pray for God’s help in keeping us close to him.
We can pray – everyday, and as much as we want all day long. We can keep on asking. Sometimes, it seems so repetitious, but I’ve discovered that asking God for help in some area numerous times really makes me aware of how much that request means to me, and if it is really what God wants.
Our song for today is Pray by Sanctus Real.