- Sermon Notes
The Importance of Prayer
At this point in our study through the book of Luke, Jesus is on his way toward Jerusalem, traveling south from the Sea of Galilee area. And it came about at a certain point that Jesus was praying. After he had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray."
No doubt the disciples saw Jesus in prayer many times because the Scripture tells us that he would often go away to a lonely place and pray. They knew that His relationship to the Father was something wonderful and amazing and were certain that prayer was a significant part of that relationship.
Therefore, they wanted more than a simple tutorial; they wanted to understand the significance of prayer and to have an insight into His relationship to His Father so that they too might understand what it means to walk in a deeper relationship to God.
First, Jesus gave them an example of prayer, which we’ll look at in a few moments, but he also gave them some parables to understand the significance of the persistence of prayer and the Father's heart toward us when we come to Him in prayer.
I. God Teaches Us About Prayer
- You can almost hear God saying, I've been watching people pray for thousands of years and I have some things I want to say…
- Notice that Jesus said, “When you pray.” The assumption is that those who are godly pray.
- Someone might say, “Do we really need to pray?” Who was the greatest man who ever lived? Without question the answer would be Jesus. If Jesus prayed, should we not also pray?
A. Pray also in secret
- Jesus prayed in public, but the greatest portion of his prayer life was just between Him and God.
Mark 1:35, In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
Luke 5:16, But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
Luke 6:12, It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
- Beware, Jesus said, not to pray for the purpose of being seen or noticed by men.
- Jesus is not saying that there's anything wrong with public prayer; in fact, it was an important part of the early church as it is today.
- The point, again, is the motive. Authentic prayer is communication with God. Others can say, “Amen,” but it's about God, not men.
Illus – I had lunch with a man many years ago in a restaurant and he asked to pray for our lunch. I was a bit surprised, however, when his voice suddenly turned quite loud and it didn't take long to figure out the reason as people began to turn their heads toward us.
B. Do not use meaningless repetition
- Many people take this prayer of Jesus and use it as a repetitious prayer. In fact, there are many faiths that prescribe prayers that must be repeated a certain number of times, “Pray the ‘Our Father’ prayer 10 times,” is an example.
- Jesus said that this was “meaningless;” in other words, they don't mean it and therefore, it has no meaning.
Matthew 6:7, "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words."
- Do you use the same prayer all the time? Of course, a simple prayer of thanks before a meal is very appropriate. In fact, a long prayer wouldn’t be appreciated at all, especially if the food is getting cold.
- Prayers with children should be simple, but we should still mean them.
Illus - How about this edifying prayer? “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
No worries, if that should be a bit unsettling, you could always sing a song. “Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop, when the wind blows the cradle will rock…”
If that doesn’t settle them you could always say, “Good night, sleep tight.,..”
C. Pray in this way
- Jesus then gave an example of how then to pray.
- He begins, “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.” He is our Father and he is also to be highly honored.
- Your kingdom come… Let your kingdom come into my life, and let it come into all the earth.
- Your will be done on earth… Not, “my will be done in heaven,” but God's will be done on earth.
- Give us this day our daily bread… We look to you, God, for our daily provision. We trust that You will provide what we need each day.
- Forgive us our sins, even as we forgive our debtors… Prayer is about changing me.
- God wants us to forgive others that trespass against us; He really does. But if we refuse to forgive, then we are being stubborn in our relationship to God.
- This is about our heart before God.
- Someone might say, “I can't forgive because they don't deserve it.” But we didn't deserve it either and yet God forgave us.
- But if we refuse to forgive, that root of bitterness will affect every area of our lives.
- What Jesus is saying is that a root of bitterness will even prevent us from having the relationship with God that He desires with us.
- Lead us not into temptation… Probably the best explanation for what Jesus is saying is found in the bible itself.
1 Corinthians 10:13, No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
- God the Father knows what you need before you ask Him; but we need to ask. Does God need our worship? No, but I need to worship. Does God need our prayers? No, but I need to pray.
II. Ask, Seek, Knock
- In verse 9 there is a progressive intensity from asking to seeking to knocking.
- It's important for us to understand that the literal translation would be, "Keep asking and keep seeking and keep knocking."
- God is the one who is giving us this instruction. "I want you to ask, I want you to seek; I want you to knock."
A. We need to ask
- It's interesting that you see the same words used in God's relationship toward us.
2 Corinthians 5:20, Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
- Jesus also said that he came seeking.
Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
- We also see that Jesus came knocking on the door of our heart.
Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
- To keep asking, and seeking, and knocking suggests that we need more faith to trust the timing of the Lord’s answer. We’re not very good at this because we live in a culture that prides itself on efficiency and we want God to answer our prayers right away or we become impatient.
Illus – If there are more than three cars for the drive-through window, we become impatient. We have to have the shortest lane in heavy traffic. (Invariably, no matter which lane I choose it becomes the slowest.)
We want the fastest computers because we want instant answers. My first computer took several minutes to do a Bible search and I remember complaining about that, but imagine the time required to do that by hand.
- To keep asking and seeking and knocking is to understand persistence in prayer. Two things are certain about prayer.
- First, and we see this from the context here, that He gives us what is good. Therefore, we can also conclude that he won't get us what is not good for us.
James 4:2-3, You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
- We can ask for what is not good and even if we ask with great persistence God will say no.
Illus - I remember walking through a grocery store with Jordi and we saw a mother and her young child having a dispute over some cookies. “Put them back,” the mother said. “No, I won't,” the child responded. This went back and forth without an end in sight. “The kid will win,” I whispered to Jordi.
- Waiting on the Lord means that we wait in the faith that God will do that which is good.
- In verse 10, Jesus said that everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds. And then he used a humorous illustration to make His point.
- “If a son asked his father for a fish, would he give him a snake? Or if he asked for an egg, would he give him a scorpion?” of course not.
- Then He says again, “How much more shall your Father in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
- He is your Father, He hears you when you pray, and He takes your prayers seriously.
- Wait for the Lord in all patience and know that God is working in your behalf…
Psalm 127:2, It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even while he sleeps.
Illus - I remember reading a book by Alexander Solzhenitsyn about the years he spent in the Russian gulags. The suffering was so great that it reduced him to a state of despair. Finally, one day he decided to give up… Then an old, skinny prisoner sat down beside him and drew a cross in the dirt…
C. Love God and love your neighbor
- If you have a genuine and personal relationship to God in prayer, then it will also change how you love God and how love others.
Luke 10:25-37 The story of Good Samaritan
- These verses summarize the entire Law and the Prophets; in other words, the entire Old Testament.
Exodus 23:4-5, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.”
- Why should you do this? To get others to do good things for you? No, because of your relationship to God, because He has changed your heart, because this fulfills the entire Word of God; because it represents God's heart.
- We agree with these verses and we admire them, but do we take them seriously? We want God to take our prayers seriously, how much more does God want us to take His Word seriously.
Luke 11:1-13 NASB