Boldness in Prayer

 “You haven’t got a chance!”

“It’s impossible!”

“There’s no way!”

“You will never succeed!”

“You can forget it!”

These are ways in which people express severe reservation and doubt about someone’s opportunity or future.

Have you ever heard such a statement?

I heard one on Thursday, with a local accent. “Eetz Eempozibul.”

I am sure that you have heard this!

…perhaps you have thought or spoken such statements, too.

There is another similar statement that goes like this:

“You haven’t got a prayer!”

But

In Jesus–

WE DO HAVE A PRAYER!

These are statements that the spirit of the world, in which we live, loves to utter, but in Jesus, we have a prayer!

I attended a meeting the other day with a lot of local students. The students were leading this meeting and I was ONLY there as an observer.  The students were sharing testimonies of what their lives are like because of Jesus, and one of them said this:

“Prayer is one of the coolest gifts God has given us!” 

Local University Student

Prayer is one the three gifts that I often mention that God has offered to all believers:

Three Gifts for Every Believer

Prayer

The Word of God

The Church

Today’s message is about prayer and we are continuing in our series on story parables of Luke.

Luke records many special items regarding

  1. 1.   Luke records nine prayers of Jesus, seven of are not recorded elsewhere
  2. 2.   Prayer precedes every crisis of Jesus
  3. 3.   Jesus prays for Peter
  4. 4.   Jesus prays for his enemies

The first part of Luke 11 is about prayer…look at this outline of the teaching on prayer in this chapter:

Luke 11:1-13

  1. Request of the Disciples: Lord, Teach Us to Pray (v1)
  2. The Lord’s Prayer (vv2-4)
  3. The Parable of the Friend at Midnight (vv5-8)
  4. Continuous Action: Ask; Seek; & Knock (vv9, 10)
  5. The Gift of the Holy Spirit (vv11-13)

Today’s parable is sometimes called “The Friend in Need,” and at other times is referred to as the “Parable about Boldness in Prayer,” or the “Friend at Midnight.”

The context in which the parable is set is that it follows a request from the disciples that went like this:

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.”

Luke 11:1

The disciples knew that John had taught His disciples to pray.

The disciples saw Jesus in prayer.

They respected him enough to let him finish.

Then they asked him to teach them to pray.

I can’t imagine prayer being a chore, or boring, or hard to do for Jesus…he would have been the master of prayer…yet, it seems to, that we could assume that Jesus wouldn’t need to pray…and yet, he did

It was his example.

So to the request, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus taught them what is called “the Lord’s Prayer.”

In Luke’s gospel, it is a bit briefer than in Matthew’s but is basically the same:

  “‘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.’”

Luke 11:2-4

Then Jesus tells this parable, after which he says discusses how freely Our Heavenly Father would give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

So, now, let us look at the parable:

 5 Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

   7 “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Luke 11:5-8

PRAYER

“The Friend at Midnight and The Persistent Widow” by Nelly Bube

"The Friend at Midnight and The Persistent Widow" by Nelly Bube

Here is a painting by Kazakhstani Artist, Nelly Bube. It is another one from our collection.  It illustrates this parable and another parable about  persistent prayer.

Notice that these parables are similar, but the postures of the main characters are different:

The widow who is in great need for her life, is on her knees.  She has no other choice but to beg the judge.

The man in need of bread can go to another neighbor or friend…he has that look like, “I know this is late, and I am embarrassed to bother you, but could I please have some bread.”

Parable Background:

SETTING

The setting is probably a small village without a 24 hour supermarket.

The house of the friend in bed was probably a one-room house in which there would have been a raised platform upon which the whole family would sleep. On the floor level of the house may have been animals (hmmm).

So we can see the difficulty in answering the request of the breadless man who comes at midnight.

THE MIDNIGHT GUEST

Why would someone travel at night?

In a time without air-conditioned cars, people often chose to travel at night, to avoid the sun’s scorching heat.

COMMUNICATION

It’s funny how when we travel now, we often stay in contact via E-mail, or Facebook. Or we send texts (SMSs) or call on the cell phone.

But in this story, the host may have known the guest was coming, but didn’t think he would come that night.

THE SHAME

Obviously the “host” was not expecting the “guest,” or else he would have been more prepared.  Being unprepared, he is embarrassed to not have anything to offer his guest.

This shame causes him to not mind further embarrassment asking his neighbor for help.

As Jesus said at the conclusion:

I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Luke 11:8

The Struggle of Prayer

Can we, too, pray in this way.

I am reminded of the moment when the Patriarch, Jacob, wrestled with the angel.

It is an odd story, but for some reason, Jacob found himself in that situation of fighting or wrestling. He was not stronger than the angel, but he was giving all his might. When the angel wanted to leave, Jacob said he would not let go of him, unless he blessed him (until he blessed him).

It was at that moment that Jacob was given a new name: Israel

“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”

Genesis 32:28

The man in this story…the “breadless man,” struggles with his neighbor, and overcomes.

THE OUTCOME OF THE STRUGGLE

If the breadless man persisted with boldness, but still did not receive, then he would have gone to another friend’s house.

He would have concluded that it was not possible to receive from the first friend.

When we struggle in prayer, and still there is no answer as we are expecting, we find ourselves praying sometimes in a different manner.

But, we need to remember to NOT give up the struggle.

The outcome is that we will know the will of God for our situation better, through prayer.

Sometimes we try to accomplish something on our own, and we fail, but when we pray, we will succeed…because we will know His will, better than before.

Prayer makes all the difference in the world…it IS one of the “coolest gifts God has given us” as it IS communication with Him! The Creator!

And if we find we are not praying according to God’s will, we can learn this in prayer.

What is the outcome of our own struggles in prayer?

  1. I remember when I was 15 I had a financial need.

It was rather simple: I had a guitar that needed repair. I wanted it repaired. I was playing old rock songs and envisioned myself as a Rock and Roller with an Acoustic guitar (actually like the group known as the Eagles, whose song “Hotel California” used to the proverbial “soundtrack” of Almaty, as so often I would hear that song on the radio and therefore in stores and in taxis).

I needed about $50. In simplicity, I prayed and asked God for help. He provided some money, but not all, and yet, I was able to repair it for $35 (a savings of $15) WHAT’S MORE, the Lord encouraged me through this to use the guitar for ministry, and so, I had since used that guitar in ministry in about five different churches over a 20 year period.

My prayer was simply, “help me get the money I need for my guitar repair,” but the answer lasted much more time.  I have that guitar with me, now, here in Kazakhstan. It has been used in many small group meetings.  It’s a classic!

I’m not the Rock and Roller I had hoped to be…and Praise God!  The results of a struggle in prayer, 32 years ago, continue today!

2.   When I was 22, Clover and I were challenged to go to Morocco on a short trip to pray for that country.  We were told that we would not be able to evangelize there due to government restrictions. BUT WE COULD pray.

It was going to cost us more than we had ever had to raise in our lives at that time: $2500.  We prayed, and money seemed to literally fall from the sky (now, I am not an advocate of praying so that I will get rich, but I have no problem praying for funding for ministry).

About a week before we departed, we were lacking about $900. We didn’t know what to do. I remember on the Saturday before we departed, Clover and I were praying throughout the day.  We were moving from one place to another, the move saved us about $100 that we could apply to the trip.  During the day while moving we prayed and prayed.  In the evening, as we were going to conclude our day with prayer, I said to Clover, “let’s stop praying for this money, and just pray as we sense the Holy Spirit leading us.”

We began to pray for everything that popped into our minds. We did not take the time to make a list of what we prayed for or for whom we prayed.

We led children’s church on Sunday evenings in our church (back then, our church was one of those that had Sunday evening services), and we had 150 children in that children’s church.

We prayed for those kids…and for others.

The next day, in the morning service and in the evening service, people came up to us and said, “hey, I heard you were going to Morocco, take this,” and they would hand us some money. In children’s church, all of the kids came with $1 each and our colleagues contributed, too.

Every person who handed us money, we had prayed for by name the night before.

Near the end of the service, our pastor sent word to us to come into the sanctuary, as they wanted to commission us.

Just before the pastors prayed, our missions pastor asked, “do you have enough money for the trip, or do you need me to ask the congregation to help.”  I was almost laughing as I said, “We needed $900 this morning, but I think we have received $1000 from the congregation in one day, already!”

Now, I don’t like talking about money, but that trip to Morocco is what led us to pray for Kazakhstan…and since 1985, we have prayed for this land, and lived here since 1996, and it has been our privilege….a struggle in prayer 26 years ago, continues, today.

3.   Fifty years ago, my parents were faced with a startling dilemma: their second child was born with severe brain damage.  Pam was never able to sit up and could hardly interact with anyone. Subject to regular seizures, she had to be rushed to the hospital, often. My older brother remembers, even though he was quite young, the picture of seeing my father rush home from work, and rush back out with Pam to take her to get some help.

While my mother was pregnant with me, she prayed that God would protect me…as any mother would pray for her unborn child…but you see, my mother had already experienced the alternative. And while carrying me, Pam passed away and was buried.

And as much of a struggle I was for my family with my hyperactivity (you know, my mother asked my doctor to prescribe Ritalin, but my doctor said it was too new and thankfully did not give it to me).

My parents committed me to the Lord at birth, even before birth.  A prayer prayed in the struggle of life—the results of which, continue even today, almost 48 years later

4.  WITH WHAT ARE YOU STRUGGLING?

God wants us to boldly ask Him when we need help.

As, in the story of Esther, Esther, although she was the queen, was not allowed to visit her husband the King unless he summoned her, and yet, on behalf of her struggle in prayer for her people, and an impending threat that had come upon them, rushed in to see her husband and to ask for his help.

Today’s parable is surrounded by teaching on prayer…first of all, that we can begin our prayer by calling God “Father.”

What a seemingly absurd statement for the unbeliever…and even for the person who thinks he must save himself in order to gain God’s goodness.

Can we imagine that a suicide bomber who kills scores of people in the memory of Osama bin Laden and in the name of Allah, would ever consider that Allah was his “Father?

In Luke’s account of the Lord’s prayer, we call God “Father,” but in Matthew’s account, we call Him “Our Father, in heaven.”

Oh, how I wish that the people of this land would know God as “Our Father,” and not merely as “God is One!”

When I remember that God is “Our Father,” I remember the inter-relationship between all people.

As well, Luke states that we should continuously

Continuously…

  • Ask
  • Seek &
  • Knock

And that we will, therefore,

Continuously…

  • Ask...                RECEIVE
  • Seek…              FIND
  • Knock…           WALK THROUGH OPEN DOORS

Therefore, with Esther, and with the disciples of Jesus, who for 2000 years have continued to seek God in prayer, let us follow the encouragement from the writer of the book of Hebrews, who wrote regarding our access to God’s grace:

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

5.   Many of us are knocking on doors in prayer…

For some of us, it is a matter of life and death

A prayer for healing

A prayer for a loved one struggling with an addiction

For others, we may be having a clarification of God’s will in our lives…

If not this door, then is there another door upon which I should knock?

We should remember to Knock in Jesus’ Name!

We need to Knock according to God’s Will.

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

James 5:16

Let us, now, approach the Throne of God in prayer!

Invitation for people to come for prayer.

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