130728 Luke 11:5-13

Last Updated on Monday, 29 July 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Luke 11:5-13
Theme: Let Your Every Prayer Be A Bold Prayer!

I'd like to begin this morning with a short and perhaps somewhat humorous poem about prayer:

"The proper way for man to pray," said Deacon Lemuel Keyes; "The only proper attitude is down upon his knees."

"Nay, I should say the way to pray," said Reverend Doctor Wise, "Is standing straight with outstretched arms with rapt and upturned eyes."

"Oh, no, no, no," said Elder Snow, "such posture is too proud. A man should pray with eyes fast-closed and head contritely bowed."

"It seems to me his hands should be austerely clasped in front. With both thumbs pointing to the ground," said Reverend Doctor Blunt.

"Last year I fell in Hodgkin's well headfirst," said Cyril Brown. "With both my heels a-stickin' up, my head a-pointing' down; And I done prayed right then and there; best prayer I ever said, The prayin'est prayer I ever prayed, a-standin' on my head."

What is the proper way to pray? That is what the five men in the poem were arguing about. Does a person have to kneel to be heard? Should we bow our heads in humility or lift them up in the direction where the prayer is going? Do we need to fold our hands or at least press them together before we begin?

Truthfully I don't think the Lord really cares. He doesn't care if we kneel or sit or stand. He doesn't care what we do with our head or our hands. He doesn't care if our eyes are open or closed. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray he didn't give them specific guidelines for proper prayer posture, but he did give them (and he gives us) some guidance as to what constitutes a proper prayer.

Prayer is a gift from God. Prayer is an act of worship in which believers talk with God. No request is too big. No petition is too small. Since prayer is such a blessing, since the Lord commands Christians to pray, since God promises that "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16), there is absolutely no reason to hold back. And that is why Jesus challenges you today to...

LET YOUR EVERY PRAYER BE A BOLD PRAYER

I. Don't be afraid to ask for great things
II. Don't be surprised when you receive great blessings

Right after Jesus gave his disciples a perfect model of prayer in the Lord's Prayer, he told them a story to teach them how to pray: "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'

"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.' 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" (5-8).

What does Jesus want us to learn from this story? Is he telling us that we should always be prepared because you never know when unexpected guests might come into town? Or is he trying to discourage us from waking up the neighbors in the middle of the night? The parables of Jesus are filled with all kinds of interesting details (and this one is no exception), but we need to remember that every parable has one main point.

The key truth to be learned from this story can be summarized in two words: Be bold! When you pray to God, don't give up. When you present you requests to God, don't give in. Be bold like Abraham in the Old Testament lesson for today. He prayed for the people of Sodom not once or twice or three or four or five times. Abraham petitioned God on six different occasions to save the city, and the Lord finally agreed that he would spare it for the sake of ten righteous people (Genesis 18:20-32).

By faith you are Abraham's children, and there is no reason why you cannot imitate the prayer life of your spiritual father. When you pray to God, don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to ask for great things. And don't stop praying because you have Jesus' promise that your persistence will be rewarded: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened" (9,10).

At first these words of Jesus make it sound like the Lord is our own personal genie. He says "ask and it will be given to you," and so I'll pray for a million dollars and look for the deposit on my next bank statement. You and I both know that it doesn't work that way. God's promise isn't the equivalent of a blank check.

Jesus doesn't say: "Ask and you will receive ANYTHING YOU WANT." Jesus doesn't promise: "Seek and you will find WHATEVER IT IS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR." God loves us way too much to answer our prayers that way. And even though he doesn't give us everything we want, he will always give us everything we need.

The Bible is filled with powerful examples of the power of prayer. The Lord encourages and even commands that we pray to him. The short story Jesus told his disciples challenges disciples like you and me to pray. So do you? Do you pray with boldness and confidence? Do you pray with persistence? Is your prayer life better than ever or could it use some work?

Perhaps a one question multiple choice quiz can provide some answers. Let's say that you are facing a crisis. It can be financial or physical or personal. It can be something from your past or something you are facing right now. You decide what it is. As you try to deal with all of the issues and complications caused by this crisis, what role does prayer play? Do you...

A) Pray at any and every opportunity for God's help and guidance
B) Pray about it once or twice, but get discouraged if nothing changes
C) Think about praying but never actually get around to it
D) Refuse to pray because you are convinced that God is part of the problem, not the solution

Prayer is a very personal thing. You can pray in private. You can pray in a public place and no one else has to know that you are praying. Because prayer is so personal I am not in a position to judge you. I can't look into your heart. I can't tell you that you don't pray enough. But I can look into my own heart, and I can admit that even though "A" is the ideal answer, it is not always the answer that describes me.

So why don't Christians pray as much as they should? Why don't we always pray the way we should? If you are thinking that it's because we are all sinful I wouldn't disagree, but then I would ask you another question. Which sin(s) is it? Are there specific sins that keep us from a healthy prayer life?

One sin that Christians always need to guard against is apathy. Sinful people are by nature spiritually lazy. Prayer may not require us to burn a lot of calories, but it does require time and energy. And even if we are aware of the benefits and blessings of prayer, that doesn't guarantee that we will make the effort.

Another sin that gets in the way of a healthy prayer life is pride. Not like another shopper whose cart gets in your way at the grocery store, but more like a fifty foot brick wall that stops you dead in your tracks. Before you can offer up a single petition to God, you have to start with total submission to God. You have to admit that you can't take care of yourself. You have to admit that you don't know what's best for your life. Before you can ask the Lord for help you have to come to grips with the fact that you need it.

And pride doesn't like the way that sounds. Pride doesn't like that at all. Instead sinful pride beats its chest and boasts: "I can do it myself. I can take of myself. No one knows me or my needs better than me." Pride goeth before the fall because pride prevents us from connecting with the One who can keep us from falling.

If you are not a perfect pray-er (and no one is), if you are ready to admit that you have disobeyed God in this area of your life too, then I'm happy for you. I'm happy for you because you are now ready to do what you haven't been doing (that is, praying with boldness and persistence).

If what I just said speaks to your heart, if you can feel that pit of guilt in your stomach, this is what God wants you to do. Swallow your pride. Confess your sins. Ask for his forgiveness. Ask God to give you strength and guidance. And when you do don't be surprised when you receive great blessings.

Jesus continues: "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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" (11-13)!

A few years back a local television station did a series called, "Deadbeat Dads," in which the reporter walked up on unsuspecting men and asked them to explain why they weren't supporting their families. Some refused to talk on camera. Some got angry. A few became confrontational. While some viewers probably found this entertaining, it was actually quite sad.

That series highlighted the fact that there are some pretty bad dads out there. The good news is that they are the exceptions. There are no perfect fathers, but the vast majority of dads love their children. They protect them. They provide for them. And they wouldn't do anything to cause them any harm.

Jesus made that point to make a comparison from the lesser to the greater. His reasoning goes like this: "If sinful dads love their kids, if imperfect human fathers want to give only good gifts to their children, how much more can you trust your perfect heavenly Father to provide for you."

In the parallel account in Matthew Jesus says that God the Father will give "good gifts" to those who ask him (7:11). In Luke he puts it a little differently. Here God promises to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him, not just "good gifts," the best gift, the greatest gift of all.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of saving faith. Through the Holy Spirit we believe that Jesus is our Savior. Through the Holy Spirit we believe that God is our loving Father. Through the Spirit we believe all of God's promises, the promise that he will be our guide through life, the promise that he will give us the gift of eternal life, the promise that he will bless us and keep us, the promise that he will make his face shine upon us and give us peace, the promise that he will hear and answer our prayers...which brings us back to the place where this sermon began.

It doesn't matter if you pray with your hands folded in your lap or lifted up to the sky. It doesn't matter if your head is bowed or raised. It doesn't matter if you pray while kneeling or sitting or standing on your head. The Lord doesn't care how you pray, but he does care how you pray.

What do I mean by that? Because Jesus has knocked down the wall of sin that separated you from God, because God's Word commands you to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests" (Ephesians 6:18), because God himself invites you to "cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (I Peter 5:7), let your every prayer be a bold prayer. Don't be afraid to ask for great things. And don't be surprised when you receive great blessings. Amen.

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