Reading : Luke 11:1-13
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.[b]
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[c]
And lead us not into temptation.[d]’”
5 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; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 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.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “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. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Well folks I hope you are all well, and I hope you are open to hear God speak with you this morning. If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to have a listen again or read online the sermon from last week as we looked at the choice between what we might consider urgent in life versus what actually is important in life, and we looked at the role of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. And the reason why that talk is so important is that it prepares us for where I believe God is leading us as a Church and into our reading today. If you want to know how we reset ourselves for this next phase in the mission of God then listen to last week and listen today.
You know I am blessed knowing that we have an incredible ministry reaching out to many in our community, but this morning I want us to be thinking more about ourselves. I want you to consider your life and not anyone else’s. Just like last week as we considered the importance of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, I want us to think further about where we are with Jesus. So I want to start with a simple question – how is your heart for the Lord at this time in your life? I’m not asking what you have done in your life, or what ministries you are currently involved with, or what involvement you have in this church. I’m asking, do you love the Lord? Are you seeking him every day in a way that shows that you can’t live without him?
So obviously you can only answer that question for yourself, but I can talk about myself this morning around those questions. In these past 5 years I have seen ministries form and develop so much, I’ve seen a great number of new people come and be a part of this church family. I’ve seen incredible blessing come as we have served God. It’s all so good, and everything seems to be heading in a positive direction. And yet I have to say that in this period of blessing, my own devotion to the Lord has not been healthy – it’s been a wee bit like our Josh’s car that he rattles around in. You start it, but it stutters a lot, it’s not a smooth running engine, and you are just waiting until it stops altogether, the engine warning light is permanently on. And for me it’s felt as though I’ve been on constant catch-up, squeezing God further and further, I’ve felt like the engine having a bit of a stutter, always with the spiritual warning light coming on as the busyness of parish life seems to consume everything; getting to bed late, getting up early, and whilst there’s lots to be thankful for the life of this church family, it is frightening to consider how far away from God I can be at times. But it is only by God’s mercy and grace that I know I walk with him and follow him. I come repentant of how I have tried to do everything, and whilst never walking away from God, at many times like Martha too busy spinning all the plates to really be present with the Lord.
Now maybe I’ve just embarrassed myself by being completely honest and being the only one that has felt like that, but I am guessing that as we gather today there are others here that feel the same way – time with God is inconsistent or hurried or maybe non-existent. It’s what I said last week about being distracted by so many others things rather than him. Maybe it’s things outside of church that are the real things that stir emotion in you, rather than what you receive from God. I want to bring encouragement today to all of you to know that God has not abandoned you, even though at times you feel you have missed out on what God has for you. I am thankful personally that I am now on a more healthy road, so very aware of his grace and love that has carried me in my disobedience.
We all need to be careful whether it’s now or whether it’s some point in the future that we don’t become so caught up in the doing and miss out on our affection for Christ every day. I think the danger of where we have been is that while many can engage in a heart for the lost in our community or be busy with the many ministry programmes on offer, we can miss out on a love for the Lord, and that folks is what matters – that’s what we considered last week, and I want to explore more this week. St Augustine out it like this, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you”.
That’s why Luke 11 is an important place to be this morning. The previous chapter, chapter 10 positions us perfectly as Jesus sends people out for mission, but he also says that this comes from a place of Loving the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind. And then we saw last week in Mary’s example of simply being with Jesus. And now these disciples want to know how to pray.
Now it seems strange, doesn’t it, to ask for this, as after all they knew and would have seen prayer in action throughout every day society – at meal times and on the sabbath. They were good Jews. But in Jesus they saw something different in how Jesus prayed. Prayer was feeding and nourishing Jesus’ soul and so they want more of this which is why they ask him to show them how to pray.
If this morning you feel in a dry or difficult stage in your life, then I hope this morning will encourage you about who it is you are praying to. Jesus starts by saying “When you pray, say: “‘Father”. Remember that these disciples would not be used to a picture of praying to a Father God in the way that the New Testament taught. Only 15 times does the Old Testament refer to praying to God the Father whereas the New Testament refers to it 165 times. Remember that Jesus opened up the way to a direct relationship with the Father. For us we have that picture of knowing that we have the right, the privilege and the honour of calling God our Father. The Old Testament has those images of Sovereign, King, but Jesus says that we can call him Abba, Father. We have access to God because he is our Father. Paul in writing to the church in Galatia confirms for us in chapter 4:7 “So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God”. Folks, this should prompt our praying in that we have access to God as our Father. This is a Father who knows our very needs because he loves us that much. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ teaching on prayer says this ,”for your Father knows what you need before you ask him”.
That’s an amazing statement folks, as we come before a Father God who loves us – he knows what we need even before we ask him. So it’s not like God is sitting up there with a note pad writing down every request that comes in from us – we don’t have to explain everything to God – he already knows. And therefore the point of prayer is not to get some things from God from our long list of requests, no it’s about being with him that matters and recognising that we are his.
That’s why Jesus’ model for prayer teaches us more about who our Father is. Remember we are not meant to use the Lord’s prayer as a kind of wrote prayer – it’s a model for pointing us to who this God is that we pray to –
He begins with Hallowed be your name – God is worthy of all our praise, and therefore in our lives we want him to remain the Holy One. That’s why folks we must start with a devotion and our hearts longing to be with a holy God. There’s no point in being involved in his mission if we don’t first recognise who God is. We want the people that we meet to know how beautiful his name is – that’s what drives us. Holy is his name.
Your kingdom come – are we content that we need his Kingdom rule in our lives and in our communities – his justice and mercy to come into our hearts and then into the lives of those around us? The society we live in now has created new rules to suit a secular viewpoint. We are in this world but we are not of it, so we desire that his authority rules how we respond to a broken world.
Give us this day our daily bread – He gives us all we need. But we don’t pray like that. How many of us got up this morning and asked God for our bread today? We live in a culture where that doesn’t make sense. However there are definitely parts of this world where our brothers and sisters in Christ will be praying that they receive their food. Our brother Antony has just yesterday fed 500 children who certainly can pray Give us this day our daily bread. So should we pray like that? We should be reminded that prayer is a guard that prevents us from beginning to think that whatever we need we can get on our own. God forgive us when we take the provisions we have every day for granted. This should be a reminder that the only reason we have bread is if God gives us bread. We’re too self sufficient – therefore recognise that we don’t have breath today if he doesn’t give it. I think the reason why we don’t have as much prayer in our lives is because we don’t think we need to ask.
Forgive us our sins – Do you ever think about those words? It’s opening us up to the storehouse of God’s mercy. You see the more that we draw close to a holy God, the more we see the sin that entangles us daily. The good thing is that we have a God who says that his mercy is new for us every morning, and he pours it out as a reward.
For we also forgive everyone who sins against us – when we see the mercy which he has shown us, when we understand the cost that was paid for our sins, when we know the depths by which he sacrificed all for our wretched sin so we could commune with him, it should ensure we forgive others who have hurt us. And today you might say, well Jonny I can’t at the moment forgive what happened. Well Matthew 6:15 Jesus warns “but if you do not forgive others their sins, then your Father will not forgive your sins”. Let’s be careful that we are not people who recognise what God has done for us, and then ignore what he wants us to do for others.
And then, lead us not into temptation – lead, guide, direct my life. I’m prone to wander Lord with my own plans. I want to walk in your plans, in your will, and not be tempted to veer off track.
And so into this structure for prayer, Jesus then provides us with a picture of the character of our Father God through a parable. So in 1st century Palestine there would have been a battle to get food every day. It’s not like our house that whenever we have no ideas for dinner, the boys automatically think the answer is Dominos which it’s definitely not. And so the parable shows a man who appears at a friend’s house late at night hungry. The options are that his friend is a poor host and not get the guy any food, or the second option is to go and find bread from someone else in the neighbourhood. And so that’s what he does – ho goes to the next door neighbour. Everyone’s asleep, and then suddenly a knock comes to the door. And the guy outside says, “Friend”.
I don’t know about you in that situation, but I think it’s a good way to start if you’ve just woken your neighbour up late at night. Friend is a softly softly way of annoying someone. Because the reality is that you’ve not just woken up the dad – you’ve woken up everyone else in the home as they would have all slept together, so the dad is miffed knowing how long it took to get the baby to sleep. Frankly I think the response back is rather polite – he says “Don’t bother me, I can’t get you anything at this time of night”. Then Jesus says that even though the guy won’t get up because of his friendship, he will get up because of the guys boldness, and give him as much as he needs.
So put yourself in the shoes of the guy outside. Jesus is saying, imagine someone who is bold enough to go to your friend at midnight and ask him for bread. I think the picture that Jesus is creating is someone who has no idea that he’s crossed the line. He doesn’t think it’s a big deal to waken a friend up in the middle of the night, and Jesus is saying that’s how we should approach God. God our Father has everything we need, he is sovereign over all things. He has what we need, but even with that he is so approachable. It’s a picture of the God of the Universe has actually invited you and me to come to him any day, any time with anything. It’s pretty bold to think that I can come to a Father God who has set the stars in place, who ensures that the earth continues to rotate at a perfect angle for our very survival, and meantime I can come to him rather shamelessly and say, God I know you might be busy right now, but I’ve a few wee things going on that I need guidance on. That seems rather bold, and yet it’s not. The picture here is of a shameless boldness to come into the presence of God and Jesus says be as shameless as you want. Our Father delights in revealing himself to those who would come day and night to him.
Can you imagine me coming into the house after a busy day, and asking Alison how her day has been, and she replies “Ah there’s been a few wee things that have caused problems during the day, but as you are just in from work I’ll not bother you with them”, and then I reply “Great thanks”. Clearly my life would not be worth living. Clearly I’m not going to say those words if I value my life. And the main reason why I won’t do that is because I delight in being the one who Alison bothers with what is heavy on her heart. It would be dreadful and wrong if she was going to someone else with her challenges rather than me. And that is the same with the God of the Universe – he delights in being the one that we come to with the things that are heavy on our hearts.
Don’t ever hold back folks from being bold as you ask God – know in your hearts today that God is approachable to you. He has invited you to take your burdens and place them before him. And it’s not just the big issues – it’s anything. After all the guy came to the door in the middle of the night looking for bread. It wasn’t as if it was urgent – he could have waited until the morning, but he didn’t. There’s nothing too small or too big for the Lord to hear from you. It means we can pray for wars to cease and we can pray for our noses to stop running with the common cold. He is interested in everything.
Well as we finish let’s look at the picture at the end of our reading, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead?” You see the God we worship is good in all he gives. Unlike him we are not perfect parents, and sometimes how we respond to our children is not well thought through. But our Father in heaven is always good in how we responds to our requests. When you ask for fish he doesn’t give a snake. He’s all good. He’s all wise. He always knows what’s best as our Father. How he responds may not be how we expected. So he’s good but he is all loving, because Jesus says that he gives us his Spirit. That for me is far better than just fixing the problem for us. He gives us his Holy Spirit so he can indwell within us so we receive wisdom for a decision. God loves us so much that he has given himself for us in his Holy Spirit. Is that not mindblowing? We don’t have to sit like the children of Israel in the Old Testament while one man Moses goes to meet with God. We all get to meet with God. We don’t have to go anywhere. He dwells within us.
I want to encourage all of us today, with the picture of his true love for you. Remember today that prayer is not a wish list, prayer is an opportunity to draw close to the maker of the Universe and know the freedom in approaching him. May your time belong with him, may your intimacy be beautiful with him. And when that happens I believe truly that the mission of God through this church will flow across this community. However if we bypass this and think that we can just march on with the next programme then we have completely missed the point. Let me go back to those questions I started with which are so much at the heart of who we need to be as people of God – how is your heart for the Lord at this time in your life? Do you truly love the Lord? Are you seeking him every day in a way that shows that you cannot live without him? I pray that this becomes our starting point in this new chapter of our church family. Let me pray for us.
God our Father, we pray help us not to miss the point. Thank you Jesus for making the way for us to have unhindered access to the throne of God. Draw our hearts closer to you, cause your name to be hallowed in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.