We are in a series looking at prayer during this season of Lent. The reason is I want us to be praying church and a praying person this year.
Last week we talked about the pattern for prayer - the Lord’s prayer.
We saw that the key to the Lord’s Prayer and to all prayer is found in the first words Our Father. This is incredible. To be able to call the God who created the heavens and earth your father. And yet that’s what happens when a person becomes a Christian. You are adopted into God’s family. He becomes your father. Prayer is the way you communicate with God your heavenly Father. What a privilege prayer is. Prayer we saw, according to the pattern of the Lord’s prayer begins with praise. Wow God! Hallowed be your name! Your kingdom come. Prayer continues with Confession - sorry. To remind us that we are people who need forgiveness and people who are forgiven. And prayer ends with asking. Please. Give us this day our daily bread, Lead us not into temptation. We are to ask, knock seek in prayer..
Which raises a question which I want us to look at this week. And the question is this. Why don’t we ask more?
Statistics show that all of us pray at some time. Some of us only pray occasionally when we are in a crisis. Others of us pray a little more frequently. But none of us would say we pray a lot. We are slow to pray. But why? If God is your father and you are his child why wouldn’t you come to God in prayer? There’s only one answer.
It’s the oldest lie in the world. the one that the serpent used in the garden of eden. a lie that runs deep. the lie that God is not good. that he’s mean and doesn’t answer our prayers. our trials and sufferings and seeming unanswered prayers seem to back up the lie and so we feel that God says, No alot.. And so we don’t pray.
Jesus realizes this might be an objection to us praying and so in v5-8 he gives us a parable. I want us to look at the parable to motivate us to pray by seeing that God will answer when we pray. God will answer when we pray. He must!
There are two things I want us to look at this afternoon .
- What the parable means
- How the parable should affect the way we pray
1. What does the parable mean?
Parables are stories that Jesus taught to communicate big ideas about God. The key to the this parable is the word translated persistence in v8. Sometimes it’s translated boldness, sometimes impudence. But in Greek the word literally means the avoidance of shame. And so the question is who in he story is trying to avoid being shamed?
Let’s look at the parable:
A person has come into the village at midnight and knocked on his friends door wanting a place to stay the night. His friend is not expecting him and so in a culture where hospitality is very important he finds himself unable to provide his guest with an appropriate meal to eat. So what does any 1st century middle eastern person do in this situation? He goes to one of his neighbours who has some bread to ask them to lend him some. He doesn’t knock on their door he calls out to them so they would recognize who it was. He says to his neighbour ‘I have nothing appropriate to offer this guest.’
In middle eastern times bread was the knife and fork and spoon for the meal. No bread no meal. Can you give me some bread so that he can be fed and he won’t think I’m not a good host and we are not an hospitable village. My honour and the honour of the village is at stake.
When Fiona and I were on our honeymoon in Morocco we were invited to stay for a few days in the humble Marakech home of a grand lady called Halima. We accepted her hospitality and on the first day we were there we arrived back at her appartment after a very large lunch to discover that Halima had been cooking. A huge tagine was put in front of us with the exhortation ‘Mange Mange’ Eat Eat! Out of politeness we ate and it was delicious and we were stuffed and only then did Halima appear with the main meat course! The tagine had just been a starter! The main course was placed before us. ‘Gilles, Fiona.. Mange Mange!!”
In oriental cultures laws of hospitality dictate that whether the wayfarer is really hungry or not, the host must serve his guest and the guest must eat. And it must be food adequate for the occasion. Honour is at stake.
That’s why the man is out in the middle of the night calling through his neighbours letterbox. ‘A friend has come and i have nothing to set before him.’ He would have had something in the house. People had basic foods stored. But he has nothing adequate for the occasion of welcoming a guest. He needs unbroken loaves. To give someone a half eaten loaf was considered an insult. And 3 loaves was the right number to be seen to be generous and lavish. This is only the beginning of what he would need for the meal. Perhaps more neighbours would need to be got out of bed. Though notice, end of v8, that true neighbourly behaviour would be to get up and give your neighbour everything he needs.
Because of the homogeneous character of life in the East. The guest is a guest not just of the individual but of the community. The whole village is responsible for his entertainment. The honour of the village is at stake.
This background helps us with understanding the manner in which Jesus tells this parable and the response it would have got. It’s as if Jesus says “this guest has come to your village, to your house in the middle of the night and you have nothing to set before him so you go to call to your neighbour - so much so normal..
But then imagine says Jesus that your neighbour says - “Aww look
the doors closed and bolted I can’t give you any bread!” Or imagine he says “my children are in bed with me” - in the one room house the whold family slept on a mat in the middle of the floor - “if I get up they’ll wake up too.” Can you imagine such a thing?? The idea is ridiculous of course he’s not going to say that. Just imagine what the village would say in the morning. Look there’s the guy who dishonoured our village. Did you hear what he said to Fred last night - couldn’t be bothered to give him some bread because his door was closed. Afraid of waking up the family. What a mean fella he is. Dishonouring our village like that. Shame!
Jesus says of course he wouldn’t make these excuses. Even if he doesn’t like the fella who asks he’s going to give him whatever he wants so that he won’t be shamed by the village as a mean and dishonourable person.
And now here’s the point: If this guy will give to his neighbour who asks him so he is not dishonoured what will God our heavenly father do when we come to him with our prayers and requests?
Do you realize that God’s honour is at stake when we pray? God has to answer our prayers otherwise we could rightly accuse him of being mean and dishonourable. Or other people could accuse him. People could say you know their God he doesn’t answer their prayers even though they call him father.
But God won’t allow his name to be dishonoured like that and therefore when you pray he will answer you.
He might answer you in a different way than you expect. Or a different way than you want. More on that next week. But He has to answer you because his honour is at stake. It’s ridiculous even laughable to doubt that he will answer you. That is a huge incentive to pray. God will answer in the best way for the sake if his honour.
In light of this how
2. How should this affect the way we pray
should we approach God in prayer? If God’s honour is at stake in the prayers of his children how should we pray? 4 ways
1. Approach God confidently
Many of us don’t approach God confidently or we don’t approach God at all because we feel unworthy of approaching him. We’ve messed up in some way and we say well I can’t pray. I’d feel a hypocrite if I prayed. I’m not good enough. But the question is not are you good enough to pray but are you a child of God? Are you trusting in Jesus Christ? If not then put your trust in him and pray to your father maybe for the first time. If you are then no matter how you feel, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how good or bad you are God will hear and answer your prayer. Not because you are good enough but for his honour. He has to answer the prayers of his children.
Maybe we don’t approach God confidently because we don’t feel that he cares, it feels like he is often silent and doesn’t answer. The age old lie of the serpent.. God is not good, God is mean. But Jesus says we are wrong. If the neighbour approached at midnight, who isn’t a friend and doesn’t care, for the sake of his honour gets up and provides everything needed. How much more so will God who is a friend - A Father, and does care. How much more will he for the sake of His honour provide us with what we need. God never, never ignores our prayers. He always answers in the way that we need.
So approach God confidently
2. Approach God comprehensively
Pray about everything and anything
Nothing too small – parking spaces (how else do you get a parking space when things are busy?)
Nothing too big –
Nothing too easy -
Nothing too difficult – One example in OT nebuzaradan
Pray about everything
What’s the result when we don’t pray? We worry.
Don’t get to that point. Take your cares, your concerns to the lord in prayer. Put it on the shelf. Place them at the foot of the cross.
Worried about your children? pray,
worried about work? pray,
worried about the future? pray,
worried about dying? pray.
Don’t talk about those things or think about those things but pray.
And leave it with him confident that he will answer all our prayers because his honour is at stake.
3. Approach God constantly
Set times for prayer - QT yes they’re great am, lunch time, evening
But pray at other times as well.
Pray as you work
Pray as you drive. I always try and pray before I drive my car. And there are other cars that you get into where you don’t just pray before they are driven but throughout the whole journey!
Pray as you have a meeting at work.
Pray when you meet your boss
Pray as you change a nappy
Pray in all circumstances.
Pray when money tight, when money abundant,
when healthy, when sick,
on celebrations, in sadness,
at the midnight hour
when all alone and sad,
pray at birth of newborn baby, pray at funeral.
One good example from the Bible was Nehemiah. Prayed in his heart before he spoke to the King. Why/ because he was always praying. Why would you not pray to your heavenly father who is going to answer your prayer and honour his name.
4. Approach God continually
Be persistent in prayer. I prayed and it didn’t work.
But it’s not like a recipe you see on bake off. O I tried that recipe it didn’t work. Not trying it again. No, pray and keep praying. Sometimes God answers prayer immediately, sometimes after a year sometimes after 10 years, sometimes after we have died. One great example of persistent prayer was George Muller.
George muller 19th century director of orphanages in Bristol
In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without one single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be.
Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God, and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second one was converted. I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day I continued to pray for them and six years more passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remain unconverted. The man to whom God in the riches of His grace has given tens of thousands of answers to prayer, in the self-same hour or day on which they were offered, has been praying day by day for nearly thirty-six years for the conversion of these two individuals, and yet they remain unconverted; for next November it will be thirty-six years since I began to pray for their conversion. But I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer.*
*One of these persons was converted before Mr Müller’s death, and the other only gave clear evidence of conversion after Mr Müller had passed away.
What makes you able to keep praying? God’s honour is at stake in answering the prayer. He will do it.
God is a God who wants to honour his name. He told us to pray that in the Lord’s prayer. Hallowed be your name. He will make sure it is honoured by answering us when we pray.
He has already given us his son JC.
He gave him to us when we didn’t pray,
He gave him to us when we weren’t his children. In fact when we were his enemies.
He gave him up for us to make us his children.
If he loved us so much that he would not spare his own son but give him up for us all to make us his children won’t he along with him also give us all things? He’s promised to do it. He will do it.