Sermon Notes

February 19th 2020

Thoughts on the Sunday School Lesson February 23rd

Making the Request / Luke 11:5-13 (MSG)

5-6 Then He said, “Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don’t have a thing on hand.’ 7 “The friend answers from his bed, ‘Don’t bother me. The door’s locked; my children are all down for the night; I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 “But let Me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need. 9 “Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open. 10-13 “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask Him?”

INTRODUCTION

This lesson is topical and doctrinal. It continues, from Luke’s perspective, emphasis on our need to pray and what our expectation should be from prayer. Prayer is our line of communication with God, through Jesus Christ; prayer is our way of talking to God.

LESSON BACKGROUND

Jesus knew the need for one-on-one communion with the Father. So, He often withdrew from His disciples to pray. We learn from this that God wants to commune with us on a personal level in the most intimate way, through one-to-one contact. The prayer closet (or wherever we depart to pray) is where we can go to be alone with the first love of our lives, God.
Luke has, by far, the most emphasis on prayer, primarily the prayer life of Jesus. But here a certain unnamed disciple sees Jesus’ practice as a pattern, one that each disciple should follow. The prayer life that characterizes Jesus will ultimately characterize the disciples as well.
Several things about this passage are worthy of note:
1. The subject of prayer is raised by one of the disciples, rather than by Jesus. As strongly as Jesus believed in prayer and practiced it personally, He did not initiate the subject here. Perhaps He wanted the disciples to conclude on their own how important prayer was. Jesus was ready and willing to teach on prayer, but only when His disciples were eager to learn. Motivation cannot be higher for learning than when the student asks the teacher to teach.
2. Jesus knew the power of a good example was greater than that of oration. It is no accident that the disciple asked Jesus to teach them to pray at the very time He had set aside time for His own prayer. Jesus’ prayer life prompted the disciple to press Him to teach them to do likewise.
3. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray because he knew that this was an area of ignorance and inexperience. The petition of this one disciple was an open admission that prayer was not only needed, but was a deficiency in his life and in the lives of his fellows.
When we look at the prayer Jesus gives to His disciples as a pattern, it does not include all of the elements of prayer. This prayer focuses on petitions for God to meet certain needs, but it does not deal to any great degree with man’s praise. The prayer is a skeletal one, one which can be filled in with much greater detail, but it is also one that does outline the essential elements of our prayers.
Having provided us with the curriculum or material for our prayer, Jesus now moves to the motivation for our prayers. To do this He tells two parables. The first parable deals with one’s request of a friend (vv. 5-9); the second with the request made of one’s father (vv. 10-13).

INTO THE LESSON

5-6 Then He said, “Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don’t have a thing on hand.’ 7 “The friend answers from his bed, ‘Don’t bother me. The door’s locked; my children are all down for the night; I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 “But let Me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need. 9 “Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open.
In the first parable, a man has an unexpected guest arrive at his home, and he is without bread to give to him. Even though it is midnight, he goes to the house of a friend to ask to borrow bread. His friend is already in bed. He would have quickly given the bread if it were not so late, and if it would not disturb the whole house. But even though man in bed protests, the man in need boldly (the text literally says “shamelessly”) persisted, which prompted his friend to get up, open the door, and give him what he was seeking.
If this man’s request was granted, due to his persistence, even though it was most inconvenient, then persistence in seeking what one truly needs must pay off. By persistently knocking, the door had been opened to him; by boldly asking, he got what he asked for. He sought and he found what he was seeking. Consistent, persistent prayer, daily prayer, is to be motivated by the assurance that if a friend will give what is sought, even if inconvenient, then God will surely answer our petitions.
10-13 “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask Him?”
In the second story, Jesus uses the imagery of a father. He had instructed His disciples to pray to God as their Father. He now picks up on the theme of God as Father in His second illustration. Earthly fathers love their children and delight in giving good gifts to them. Human fathers do not give their children “bad” things when they have asked for something good. Fish and eggs are both helpful. They strengthen the physical body. Snakes and scorpions are both harmful to the physical body. God, as a Heavenly Father, does not give us those things that will be harmful to us when we have asked for those things which are beneficial to us.
Too often, we ask God for snakes and scorpions, rather than for fish and eggs. We are often inclined toward things which are detrimental to our spiritual lives. In such cases, we may ask for a snake, but God gives us a fish. We may wish for a scorpion, but God gives us eggs. If God does not give us evil gifts when we ask for the good, He does give us good gifts even when we seek those which are harmful to us.
Because God is a good God, a loving Father, He can not only be expected to answer our petitions, but to do so in a way that is for our highest good. From our Lord’s first story we learn that God answers our prayers. From the second, we learn that His answers are good ones. The highest good that God gives to His disciples who petition Him in prayer is summed up in the gift of the Holy Spirit. What better gift could our Lord give to His disciples.

CONCLUSION

Jesus, in giving the disciples this teaching that accompanies the model prayer, is telling us that this prayer should be constantly on our lips. There are no excuses for not praying for these things, whether in these precise words or not. There are, however, some troubling reasons why we do not pray as our Lord has instructed us.
1. When we do not pray that God’s name be revered, and that His kingdom come, we reveal in ourselves a love for this world, and a reluctance to see it replaced by the righteous rule of God.
2. When we do not pray for God to provide our daily bread, we reveal either a self-sufficient attitude which does not depend daily upon God’s provisions, or we see a life of affluence and the laying up of earthly treasures which renders prayer for daily needs unnecessary.
3. When we do not daily pray for God’s forgiveness of our sins (and the grace to forgive the sins of others) we reveal either a stunning ignorance concerning our own (daily) sinfulness, or a calloused conscience toward sin.
Thus, when we fail to pray as our Lord has here instructed us, it may be because we are Christians, but not disciples. A Christian is one who is saved through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. A disciple is one who takes following Christ seriously in his life. The difference is that between those who embrace Jesus as Savior and those who have made a commitment to Him as Lord.

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