January 12, 2014

Pastor Joe Wittwer

Jesus on Prayer

#2—The Audacious Ask

Luke 11:1-13

 

The Big Idea: Jesus taught us to ask with shameless audacity because our Father loves to answer.

 

1. The Ask: _________________________________________________________________________. 1

 

 

2. The Answer. 2-13

 

A. The prayer: _____________________________________________________________. 2-4

 

 

B. The story: _______________________________________________________________. 5-8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C. The lesson: ____________________________________________________________! 9-10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D. The reason: __________________________________________________________. 11-13

 

 

 

 

 

January 12, 2014

Pastor Joe Wittwer
Jesus on Prayer
#2—The Audacious Ask
Luke 11:1-13

Opening then to worship:

Have you ever wished you could pray better–really communicate with God? Jesus’ disciples felt that way and asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  Today, we’re going to look at Jesus’ answer to their request, and hopefully, learn how to pray better.

“Lord, teach us to pray.”  That’s what the disciples asked, and we would expect Jesus’ answer to be very important.  “Here’s what you really need to know to pray.”  So what did He say?  Jesus answered by teaching them a very simple prayer—we call it “The Lord’s Prayer”—and by telling them a humorous story about prayer. 

The Big Idea: Jesus taught us to ask with shameless audacity because our Father loves to answer.

Let’s walk through the story together. 

1. The Ask: Lord, teach us to pray. 1

Luke 11:1 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.”

Jesus was praying in a certain place—I wonder what the disciples were doing?  It seems they were watching him.  Let’s watch this guy pray. I think watching someone pray might be like watching paint dry!  But evidently not if it’s Jesus.  They saw something attractive, something that made them want to pray like Him. So they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” 

By the way, sometime later, we’re going to do a series called Jesus in Prayer, and we’re going to look at what the disciples were looking at—Jesus praying.  I think it will do for you what it did for them—it will make you want to pray like Jesus.

So they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  And here’s His answer. 

2. The Answer. 2-13

A. The prayer. 2-4

Luke 11:2-4 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ ”

First, Jesus gives them a prayer to pray. We talked about this last week, that the Lord’s Prayer is a great place to start when learning to pray. I encouraged you to take one day this week and slowly pray through the Lord’s Prayer, one phrase at a time. Did you do it? I may add an additional week to this series and do it with you. 

“Lord, teach us to pray.”  And Jesus says, “Start here.  Pray this prayer.” That doesn’t mean that we end there.  It’s a start—it’s a good way to start.  Then Jesus tells a story.

B. The story: a midnight emergency. 5-8

Luke 11:5-8 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 he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

As we’ll see, this was a funny story.

It was no small thing to bang on the neighbor’s door at midnight. Most Jewish homes consisted on a single room with a small loft for sleeping.  At night, the animals were brought inside and stabled in the main part of the room, the door was bolted, and the family all slept side by side in the loft, usually under a common blanket.  So when our hero bangs on the door, he wakes up not only the man and his wife, but the kids (you know how hard they are to get to sleep) and the chickens, and the cow and the goat and sheep too, not to mention the dog and the cat. Imagine the kids crying, the dog barking, the cow mooing, the sheep baa-ing, and poor man trying to weave his way through the zoo to unbolt the door!  You didn’t bang on the door at midnight just for the fun of it! You better have a pretty good reason!

He did! He needed bread. Hospitality was a sacred duty he was bound to uphold, even if it was at his neighbors’ expense!

In our culture, if a guest arrived unannounced at midnight, first we’d chew them out for not calling ahead and letting us know they were coming, and then we’d send them to bed hungry with the promise that we’d run to the store in the morning and stock up on groceries.

You didn’t do that in Jesus’ day.  Guests usually arrived unannounced; there were no cell phones or email; you couldn’t text, tweet, or Facebook to let folks know you were coming.  You just showed up.  And while most people tried to arrive before sundown, delays were common, and to avoid the heat, people often traveled at night. Whenever a guest arrived, you were expected to feed him.  Failure to provide a meal would have been considered a failure of hospitality, an insult, a slap in the face.  That is why our host was so earnest about finding bread in the middle of the night: it was his sacred duty, a true emergency.  Also, it wasn’t unusual for there to be no food in the house. Most people were incredibly poor, and lived from day to day.  There were no refrigerators or freezers, no Zip-loc bags, no SaranWrap, no canned goods, no TV dinners and no microwaves to cook them in.  Bread was the staple of the Palestinian diet; when you were out of bread, your cupboards were bare.  So our hero, with bare cupboards and an unexpected guest, had a need, a dire emergency that prompted his midnight rendezvous with his neighbor.

ILL: Let’s reimagine it in our day.  (Bring up a volunteer.)

Let’s imagine that we’re neighbors.  We know each other, we’re acquaintances, but not best friends.  Let’s imagine that Laina is pregnant (we’re pretending since we’re old and I have no prostate). She is full term, has her bag packed and is ready to go, night or day.  It’s the middle of the night—2 or 3 AM—and Laina wakes me up and says, “It’s time—let’s go!”  I throw her bag in the car and turn the key—nothing.  The battery is dead. 

This baby is coming—and I can’t get her to the hospital. It’s an emergency. So I come to your house and ring the doorbell and wake you out of a deep sleep.  I say, “Laina is about to deliver, and our car is dead. Could you take us to the hospital?” 

What would you say?

Why?  Is it a matter of friendship?  What if you hardly knew me?

That gives you an idea of what’s going on here. It’s a midnight emergency!

Why did our hero get the bread he needed from his neighbor? Because he had the audacity to knock at midnight and ask.

Luke 11:8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

Jesus said that the man got what he wanted because of his shameless audacity.  What does that mean?

Some translations have used the word “persistence” there, and I believe that is an unfortunate translation.  For years I thought that this parable taught persistence in prayer. I imagined the unhappy neighbor snug in his bed while his erstwhile friend pounded his door.

“Wake up! Help me!”

“Go away and leave me alone!” 

So his friend pounded harder! 

“Get lost! I’m in bed with my family and don’t want to be bothered!” 

By now his friend is pounding so hard that not only his whole household is awake, but the whole neighborhood must be.  Angrily, the neighbor makes his way to the door, and reluctantly gives him what he needs—only because he has to, not because he wants to.  The man’s persistence won the day; there was no way the neighbor and his family could sleep with that incessant pounding on the door.

But there is really no hint of persistence anywhere in the story.  Jesus asks, “Can you imagine going to a friend with a genuine need, a real emergency, and having him say, ‘leave me alone’?”  It was preposterous. The disciples laughed—no one would say “no” in those circumstances. 

It wasn’t the man’s persistence that won the bread; it was his shameless audacity. The Greek word anaideia means “lack of sensitivity to what is proper, carelessness about the good opinion of others, shamelessness, impertinence, impudence, ignoring of convention.”  It is a compound of the Greek negative a- and aidos, which means “self-respect or modesty.”  No modesty.  No self-respect. Anaideia is a guy knocking on your door in the middle of the night and waking up the whole family.  It’s audacious! It’s shameless! No self-respecting person would do it!  Because of the man’s shameless audacity, he was given what he needed.  It wasn’t a question of friendship.  Just the fact that he was bold enough to ask was all it took. 

That’s the story and that’s the lesson:

C. The lesson: ask with shameless audacity! 9-10

The point of the story is that we must ask God boldly, fearlessly, with shameless audacity for what we need.  Never be afraid or hesitant or reluctant to ask.  The first lesson in the school of prayer is “Ask”. Jesus underscores that lesson by saying it plainly after telling the story.  His next words are,

Luke 11:9-10 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.

Ask!  Ask big, ask boldly, ask with shameless audacity.

Your first and biggest obstacle to prayer is not God’s reluctance to answer, but your own reluctance to ask.  Don’t be afraid!  Just ask!

“But I don’t know how to pray!  What if I do it wrong?”  Don’t worry about that; if you pray incorrectly, the ground will open and swallow you alive; or lightening will fry you to a crisp—no big deal. Of course not! God is very patient with us. If you don’t know how to pray, I have wonderful news for you: you learn how to pray by praying.  You might learn a little from reading books or listening to talks like this, but in the end, you learn by praying.  It’s a lot like swimming.  You don’t learn until you get in the water. 

ILL: Or remember driver’s ed?  I’m trying to forget! I set a school record; it even made our school newspaper. I killed the engine 15 times while trying to pull away from a stop sign!  Had a little trouble with the clutch!  I can still see my driver’s ed instructor, Mr. Connor, sitting there red-faced, yelling that he was going to hack my arms into hamburger if I didn’t get the car going; and my sympathetic classmates were in the backseat trying to smother their laughter.  Ahhh, driver’s ed. We sat in class for weeks, studying the driver’s manual and hearing about driving.  But you don’t learn how to drive until you get behind the wheel!!

Prayer is like that; you learn how to pray by praying. The wonderful thing is that God invites us to ask, knowing that we’ll make lots of mistakes.  “Go ahead…ask Me!  Ask often.  Ask fearlessly. Ask with shameless audacity.” That’s the lesson, and it raises a question for me.

Why don’t we ask more?

If Jesus says the first step in prayer is simply being bold enough to ask, and promises that if we ask, we’ll receive, why don’t we ask more often?  What keeps us from knocking on God’s door and asking for His help? 

ILL:  Imagine that I come to you personally and say, “Hey, if you need anything, money, help, or just someone to talk to, give me a call, and I’ll be there.  I’m serious; I mean it.  Anything at all…you just buzz me.”  What would you do?  Some of you would never take me up on my offer…why?

Here are 4 reasons why we don’t ask God for what we need.

Pride.  Some of us don’t want to admit to anyone, not even to God, that we need help. Our pride keeps us from asking.

ILL: What does a man do when he gets lost?  Well, first, men don’t get lost.  We always know where we are.  Where are we men? Right here!  But in the rare, almost unimaginable scenario that a man got lost, what does he do?  Does he stop and ask directions.  No! He has a GPS!  But even without a GPS does he ask for directions? No! Real men don’t ask for directions!  Real men know where they’re going!  Real men don’t need help from anyone!!

Sometimes our pride keeps us from asking God. “I can take care of this. I don’t really need God’s help.”

I need God’s help desperately! I told you that my most often prayed prayer is “Help!”  Prayer is the opposite of pride; it is humility.  For when you pray, you are admitting implicitly that you can’t do it alone, that you need God’s help.  And failure to pray is pride; you are saying implicitly that you don’t need God’s help, that you can do it on your own. 

Don’t be proud; ask!

Doubt. Just like you might not believe my offer of help, you might find Jesus’ promises about prayer unbelievable, too good to be true.  Many of us are familiar with verses in the Bible that teach that doubt will keep your prayers from being answered.  But even more, doubt can keep you from praying at all.

I wonder how many of us would be honest enough to admit that we’ve had, or have, doubts about prayer.  I have. I’ll admit that sometimes it seems like prayer changes everything, and sometimes it seems like prayer changes nothing; and I can’t seem to predict when I’m praying which it will be! When some of my prayers weren’t answered the way I wanted, it’s made me wonder if I really understand prayer. It’s made me doubt. And the more I doubt, the less I pray.

What can you do about doubt?  First, admit it.  Stop pretending! Admit it to yourself, and to God. Don’t worry; He won’t freak out! He’s got lots of practice at handling human doubts!  Your doubts won’t make Him angry or launch Him into an identity crisis. “Oh no! Joe doubts Me! Do I really exist?” Admit your doubts to God.

ILL: I love the story in the gospels of the man who brought his son to Jesus for healing.  He said, “If you can do anything, have mercy on us and help us.”

Jesus responded, “’If you can’?  Everything is possible for him who believes.”

And the man blurted, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”

And Jesus healed his son. 

The man asked and admitted his doubt at the same time—and Jesus responded. If you want your faith to grow, exercise it, and give it a chance; so pray, honestly, even if you feel some doubt.

Don’t let doubt stop you from asking!

Fear.  A third reason we don’t ask, and maybe the biggest, is fear.  Fear that we’ll ask for the wrong thing. Fear that God will say no, and we’ll be disappointed.

Some people teach that you should be careful to never ask for anything that isn’t God’s will.  “If you don’t know that it’s God’s will, don’t ask!” I think this creates fear, fear that we’ll ask the wrong thing, so we don’t ask at all.  But how do we know what God’s will is?  Often, we can only know it by asking, and seeing what He does in response to our requests.

ILL: When the kids were younger and we went on a road trip, every time we stopped for gas station, all 5 kids asked me, “Dad, can we have a treat?”  Imagine the nerve of those kids, just shamelessly asking for a treat like that, without figuring out whether or not it was my will to treat them!  I never once saw them conferencing in the back of the van, all 5 of them huddled in deep discussion:

“Do you think it is Dad’s will to buy us a treat?” 

“I don’t know…we just had one 75 miles back.”

“Yeah, and it’s only an hour till dinner.”

“Maybe if we get a low-cal, low-fat treat, it would be his will…”

Never happened. They just asked. And guess what! By asking, they discovered my will. Candy? Sure!  Pop and ice cream?  You bet!!

My kids discovered my will by asking. You discover God’s will by asking, and Jesus says that He wants you to ask boldly, audaciously, fearlessly.

Perhaps the biggest fear is that He will say no.  But you don’t know if you don’t ask.  I wonder how many prayers are never answered because we were simply afraid to ask.  Don’t be afraid; ask!!

Ignorance.  Some of us don’t know God very well. We don’t know how generous He is, or how much He wants us to ask.  We may have had parents who always seemed too busy, or not interested, or unwilling to be bothered, so we mistakenly believe that God is not interested in us and our needs or problems.  We think that He is too busy for our small concerns.

ILL: I once heard a respected Christian leader rip into a lady who had prayed for a parking place. How, he wondered, could this woman have the audacity to pray about something as insignificant as a parking place, when wars are raging, people are starving, and children are dying? I’ll be the first to admit that parking places aren’t high on God’s agenda!  And if all this woman ever prayed about was trivialities like parking places, then she had a problem. 

But it seems to me that many people make the mistake of assuming that God, like us, is working with finite resources, that He can only do one or two things at a time. If I thought that asking for a parking place would pull God away from solving world’s water crisis, or saving a starving baby, then I wouldn’t ask.  “Forget the parking place, God!”  But God’s resources are infinite; my small concerns don’t detract from God’s ability to do the truly significant.  Your small concerns may reveal the smallness of your heart (which God wants to enlarge), but they aren’t a problem for God, who truly cares about you, and your needs, no matter how small they may be. 

Don’t be ignorant of God’s grace and mercy and generosity. He cares about you! So ask!

And that leads to the final point: the reason to pray. 

D. The reason: your Father loves to give to you. 11-13

Jesus teaches us to ask with shameless audacity.  Ask big. Ask boldly.  Why?Because God is your Father, a very generous Father.

Luke 11:11-13 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for 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!”

If we are willing to respond to our children’s requests, how much more willing is God to respond to ours’! You are not asking some stingy, tight-fisted old miser.  You are not praying to a distant deity, some impersonal, uncaring God. You are talking with your Father, who loves you deeply.  You matter to God like a child matters to a Father.  Jesus is saying that you could find the best father in the world, the most attentive and caring and generous father in the world, and his love for his children would pale next to God’s love for you! 

ILL: I love to be generous with my kids, and I want to give them all I can.  I love to say yes.  In fact, Laina and I decided years ago that we wanted our default answer to be yes, not no.  It is so easy to say no.  We get busy and tired, and it’s just easier to say no.  One time years ago when the kids were little, all of them were asking for different things at once, and I said, “No. No. No. No. No. No to everyone!  Now leave me alone!”  They all looked at each other like, “What’s his problem?”  Can any of you identify with that? I don’t want to be a grumpy no-dad; I want to be, as much as I can, a yes-dad.

Our heavenly father is a yes-dad. He is generous. He loves to give good gifts to us.  

2 Corinthians 1:20 “No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” 

“Yes”, God says.  Yes!  God wants to say yes as much as He can. 

Do you love your kids?  Do you love to give them what they need or want?  “If you, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give what is good, give the Holy Spirit, to those who ask him.”

Ask! Ask big!  Ask boldly.  Ask with shameless audacity. Why?  Because you are asking a Father who loves you and is more eager to answer than you are to ask. So ask!