“Wake Up, My Friend”
One of the most basic and important aspects of anyone's spiritual life, is prayer. Prayer does two things. First of all, it is our way of communicating with our Heavenly Father. We share with Him the desires and concerns of our heart. And secondly, it allows us to be still before Him as we draw near to Him. This prayer is vitally essential to one's spiritual growth. It allows us to grow deeper in our relationship with Him while expressing our dependence upon Him. God wants us to pray, and is pleased when we do. Oh, His greatest desire, perhaps, is for us to call upon His name as we trust Him to provide. In today's lesson on "Key to the Kingdom," we will notice Jesus' teaching concerning prayer. It revolves around two parables and a well known statement which includes the words, ask, seek, and knock. It is important for us to ask God for help, to seek His face, and to knock on His door knowing that He always responds. Oh, He may not always respond the way we want Him too, or even on our time schedule, but we can know without a doubt, God hears and answers our prayers. As we study about the importance of praying to God, it is my hope we will pause to evaluate our own prayer life. As we do, let us ask ourselves the question, are we depending on God to provide even more than what we need? I hope you will stayed turned to this station, as we consider the lesson entitled, "Wake Up, My Friend."
Do you have a hard time praying? Oh, that sounds like a rather odd question, doesn't it? And yet sometimes we do struggle in our prayer life. Perhaps we repeat the same things over and over again and don't know what else to say. Or, we may struggle with coming up with the right thing to say and we don't know how to communicate or to pray to God. And the ultimate goal, or course, is to grow deeper into our relationship with the Lord and to have a good prayer life. Well, it seems the disciples of Jesus had struggles in their prayer life, also. Even to the point, one day they came to Jesus asking Him to teach them how to prayer. Well, no doubt they had seen on a number of occasions Jesus going away by Himself and praying. He spent time talking with His Heavenly Father, and they wanted that same kind of prayer life. They wanted that same kind of relationship for themselves; and so, they asked Jesus to teach them about prayer. And in fact, this is the only time in all of Scripture where the disciples asked Jesus to teach them anything, and Jesus gave them an answer. The answer comes in four specific parts; He offers a simple prayer, a parable about a reluctant neighbor, He encourages them to keep on praying, and then He closes by offering a story about a generous father. There are two teaching sections and two parables. Jesus teaches about prayer by offering one, and emphasizing the importance to continue to ask and seek and knock. And then the two parables serve as illustrations. Now, when all four of these parts are read together, it makes better sense. Jesus' answer is completely given in all four sections. But before we read this passage of Scripture from Luke chapter 11, I want us to set the scene for what is happening. Notice the context. Chapter 10 of Luke ends with the story of the 'Good Samaritan.' We are familiar with that story, how a person decides to help someone who is in need, even though that person is not like him. He becomes a neighbor to someone else. And then chapter 11 begins with a parable about borrowing food from a neighbor at a midnight hour. And Jesus seems the suggest, in both of these parables, that everyone is our neighbor, and we are to help one another get through the trials and the struggles of life. Yes, sometimes we all need some help, don't we. We all need someone to come along side of us, and give us a boost, and to help us in our times of need. In other words, following Jesus involves being a neighbor. It involves recognizing the people whom God puts into our life, and then demonstrating love to those people and ministering to their needs. Jesus wants us to see others as real people with some real needs. They're looking for some answers to their life and we are to come along, as a follower of Jesus, and help provide some of those answers and meet those needs. Now with that in mind, I want us to read the story that is before us today. We're going to read all four parts of it as one. It's found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 11 and we begin with the first verse. <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." He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation." 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; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Do not bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 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. 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. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 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!”> The teaching section, about asking and seeking and knocking, is rather familiar to us. And perhaps we have heard lessons on that before. And yet, we are to keep in mind, this is only part of the teaching that Jesus gives on the subject of prayer, as He answers the disciples' question; that, if you do not ask God, then God will not give; that, you will not receive anything from God if you do not ask in faith. And yet the real question, the deeper question, might be, do we trust God enough to ask Him for what we need? Now the two parables help us to understand and have our view about God. We see that Jesus contrasts a reluctant neighbor in the first story with a generous father in the second story. Now, I don't normally do this, but I want to offer to us the point that Jesus seems to be making in these verses here at the very beginning, and then we will see how it plays out. But the point seems to be this, how much more will a loving father help us, than an unwilling neighbor? Well, first of all, Jesus teaches the disciples to pray a very simple prayer, in verses 1 through 4. The disciples might have even asked, "Jesus, is this all there is to your prayer life? Just say a few sentences, a few words, and that's good?" Well, obviously, no. We need to keep in mind, this is a disciples' prayer to pray, not the Lord's prayer. Certainly Jesus prayed much more than what we have recorded here. No doubt He spent a great deal of time talking with His Father. We know that sometimes He would get up early in the morning, before anyone else, and He would go and spend time in prayer with God. On other occasions, He would pray all night long. Before making some major and big decisions in His life, He wanted that clear direction and focus from the Lord; and, the disciples saw all of that. But perhaps Jesus said, "Praying is actually a matter of doing it. Why not spend time praying to God, just like I do?" Perhaps He told them, spend time talking with your Father in heaven, spend time expressing to Him the desires and concerns of your heart, spend time developing a relationship of trust and reliance upon a God who loves you and who will take care of the needs in your life. Now having said that, He then shares the first parable. It is a story about a friend being approached by another friend at midnight to help him. It's found in verses 5 through 8. And so, Jesus tells the story: Can you imagine a friend coming to you at a late hour, and he needs a place to stay; and, it was customary to provide some food for a such a traveling guest. However, the host was caught unprepared. Oftentimes people traveled in the evening or at night, because it was much cooler to do so. And the friend arrived, and he needed something to eat, but there was nothing. And so the host went next door and he knocked on that door of his neighbor. And he needed some help. And yet the voice from within said, "I cannot help you. The light is out, my children are asleep, we are in bed and I'm not going to get up and give you anything." And yet the host continues to knock. And the man from the inside perhaps said, "Go on down the path and find another neighbor to help you, and if not then maybe I can offer assistance tomorrow morning." Oh that is not the way it was supposed to be. In the eastern culture, that would be highly unusual. Showing hospitality was very important. And that is the way it is, still, in some cultures today. People are hospitable and people are willing to help in times of need, just like this one. We also know that in that culture, long ago, people did not lock their doors at night. The windows were open as that breeze during the evening cooled the entire house. People could easily come and go, and everybody knew everybody else. Oftentimes, the people within the village, or the community, came together and they enjoyed fellowship and meals together. If someone had an idea to fill up a pot with meat or vegetables, then someone else might bake some bread and everyone shared the bread and the meal together, because many people did not have enough to eat. And so, they depended upon one another to take care of each other in times of need. And that's what was happening in the story Jesus was telling. But here was the reason why all of that took place: Nobody wanted to be put to shame. The people, when Jesus lived, lived in a time where shame was very important. They wanted to avoid shame. They wanted to avoid embarrassment. They did not want to be ridiculed by their friends or by their neighbors because they did not do their part in the community and among other people or in the village. Now in most Bibles, there in verse 8, we find the word 'boldness.' We think of that as being persistent or demanding. And yet, in this context that is not a positive, but rather a negative quality. It refers to shame or to shameful behavior. The version that I read from in verse 8, uses the words shameless audacity; and, that is a better translation. It does not describe the host who comes knocking on the door and asking for help, rather, it describes that reluctant neighbor on the inside who wants to avoid shame in his community. He does not want to be laughed at the next day because he turned away his neighbor and refused to help him. And so, that is why he got up in the middle of the night and gave to the man exactly what he needed. And so because of the sleeping man's desire to avoid shame, he got up and he helped his friend. Now, this parable was meant to be humorous, and the people knew that. The excuses of sleeping children or locked doors were ridiculous. Nobody behaved that way in the day of Jesus. Every citizen of the village had their reputation to protect, and they were expected to provide whatever was needed by one of their neighbors or friends. It's important, as we read through this parable, we are to identify with the needy host. We are to identify with the one who is standing there knocking on the door, and not the sleeping friend on the inside of the house. We are the ones asking God for help because we do not have what we need, and we have no resources from which to get them. It's also very important, as we look at this parable, God is not the sleeping friend. We're going to come back to that in just a moment. Well, after telling the story, we find the section about asking and seeking and knocking, in verses 5 through 8; the importance of continuing to ask and seek and knock on the throne room of heaven. And then we find, in verses 9 and 10, another story or parable about a generous father who willingly helps his hungry son. Now, this one is about God, and He is not like that reluctant neighbor. He is not an unwilling deity whom we must continually beg for help. But rather, our Father in heaven is like this loving father, whom we can trust to give us exactly what we need. He sees that we are hungry, He sees that we are having problems, and He will provide whatever is necessary. That is the view that we are to have of God, the second story, as it serves a contrast to the first story of that reluctant neighbor. As we look at this whole teaching section, we notice that in verse 1 and also in verse 13, at the very beginning and at the very end, the focus is on the Father. Jesus told the disciples, "When you pray, pray Father, hallowed be your name." Address your Father as one who is holy, as one who recognizes your needs and knows all about you. And then the father there at the end, God, He is represented by a generous father who gives and loves his son and helps him with what he needs. Then, the middle verses describe us. We are the ones seeking help. We are the ones who have run out of food, we are the ones who are asking and seeking and knocking, and we are the ones who need some kind of solution for the problems in our life. And that is significant. As we think about this message, I believe there are two primary thoughts for us to consider. Number one, we learn something about God's nature. Now that's always good, isn't it, to learn something about God. And when we go to a neighbor, like this one described in the first story, everything is against us. It's dark. It's late at night. We know that our neighbor is asleep. His children are with him. The light is out. We know that the neighbor may not even like us. Perhaps we've had some trouble or struggles with him in the past and we are uncertain as to what will happen. And yet, we will receive more than we ask. And that is because our neighbor is a man of integrity. He does not want to lose shame. He does not want his reputation to be damaged; and, he will help us. And likewise, our God in heaven, to whom we pray, also has integrity. His reputation is always intact, and He will never be shamed. And then on top of that, He loves us more than we will ever know. And our view of God is to know that He is willing to help us when we ask Him for it. And that is the nature of God. But then secondly, I believe we learn something about our own assurance, that we may be confident our needs will be met when we go to our neighbor in the middle of the night; and, that's a good thing. And hopefully people can count on us, too. And yet, how much more confident can we be when we take our request to a loving Father? We can know, without any doubt and without any question, that He will help us and He will provide, when we present a request to Him. And that's a comforting thought, isn't it? That gives us assurance. A neighbor who does not even like us might get up and give to us something we need, in a time that is very inconvenient, but then, how much more will a loving Father give us, one of His children, what we need when we ask Him in faith. Therein lies the lesson that Jesus wants us to learn. Our father does not have to be begged. He sees what is going on in your life and in mine. He knows the problems we have and He simply wants us to ask Him for help and for assistance. And we can know, without a doubt, that He will always come through and He will help us. Yes, our Father in heaven is generous, and He will graciously give us all things. And that is why Jesus said, "Here's how you pray." Recognize that God will give to you your daily bread, and your forgiveness, and spiritual guidance, and protection. And then at the very end, in verse 13, the greatest gift of all, He will give to you the gift of the Holy Spirit. Since that is the case, we can trust Him. We can know, without any doubt, that He sees and knows, and He hears and He will always respond with great generosity and with great love. Why, because we are His children. We are a part of His family. He knows us and He loves us. More than anything else, our Father wants to take care of us. And when we cannot even provide a need for a friend, we can be totally dependent on God, who always meets our needs. At the beginning of our lesson, I asked the question, do we have a hard time praying; and, perhaps we all do at one time or another. But when we do not rely upon our own efforts, but rely upon God to meet our needs, it is then that we have learned how to pray. And perhaps that is what Jesus was trying to teach the disciples, and even us today. Prayer is a matter of trusting God. Prayer is a matter of depending upon Him; not begging Him, but depending upon Him to provide for the needs in our life. I would encourage you, as you develop your prayer life, to develop a deep trust and dependence upon God.
Have you ever knocked on a neighbor's door because you need some help? You're knocking on that door and no one seems to respond. Perhaps they're at work, perhaps they have gone on trip, or maybe they are inside and just do not want to answer the door. I suppose we've all experienced that at one time or another. We need some help. We have come into a situation and we are calling upon our neighbor or our friend to help us, and yet there is no response. Have you ever considered knocking on heaven's door? You ever considered knocking on the door of God and asking Him for the help you need in your life? I want you to know that God sees what is happening in your world. He knows your needs and He will respond. He wants you to ask Him for help. He wants you to approach Him in prayer with those request, and to knock on His door, because He loves to help people. Oh, He does not live in houses made with hands, but He is among us, He is with us. He is never farther away than our right hand, according to Psalm 121. And more than anything else, He wants you to knock on His door and ask for help. And the big difference between knocking on a neighbor's door and getting no response, and knocking on God's door is that He always answers the door. He is always present. He is always aware and He will provide exactly what you need. I encourage you today to knock on God's door.
Thank you for being our guest today on "Key to the Kingdom." I trust this short message on prayer allowed you to consider your own prayer life. It is available to listen to or view again on our website, keytothekingdom.com. There are many other lessons there, as well, and you are welcome to download any that might be of interest, without any charge or obligation. The website is full of information, resources, and Bible studies. Wherever you might be in your spiritual journey, I believe we can be of assistance. I really encourage you to work through the study questions at the end of each lesson, as they are designed to help one apply the message to everyday life. The 'Key Moments' and 'Key Minutes' are updated on a regular basis and offer practical messages in the midst of our busy and ever changing world. If you have some specific questions or concerns, please call the number on the screen. We'll be happy to assist you in any way possible. A free app for smart-phones gives you access to our website. It takes only a minute to download, and is a useful and easily accessible tool. Yes, we even have a Facebook® page. Like and follow us as we post something new, each and every week. Many have already done so, and I hope you will, too. Again, I appreciate you taking the time to join us for today's broadcast; and, hopefully you will tune in again next time, as we study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."