Luke 11:5-13 Persevering in Prayer

This week my life seems to have revolved around the debate over the health risks of mobile phones and the location of antennas. It all began when I received a copy of a planning application from Runnymede Borough Council to say Orange wished to place one of their antenna at the bottom of our garden on Christchurch Road. I have to say I would really appreciate an improvement in the non-existent reception of my orange phone but not to the extent that I wouldn't need a phone to speak to you. So this week, thanks to the marvels of email many of you have helped me become a world expert in mobile phone technology. Runnymede Borough Council suggested that the Church tower would prove a better option. So I cited the story of the vicar of Glastonbury, passed on to me by Liz Schafer who lives part of the week down there.

"My vicar in Glastonbury Patrick Riley is currently the most hated man in the district for some because he allowed an Orange antenna to be placed on the church spire - as a result he is regularly appearing in the Guardian as the vicar who fries children (I exaggerate for effect of course) as the school playground is next door to the church."

I suggested to Richard Hattersley, of Runnymede Planning Department that I didn't think the suggestion would improve my image. Someone else emailed me to suggest that if they were seeking a high powered antenna in Virginia Water, they should join us in Church on Sundays. The amazing truth is the cost of phoning heaven is not a premium mobile rate, an international call or even a local call from here. God has instructed us to reverse all the charges in Jesus name. These Sunday evenings during the Summer we are thinking about the prayers of the New Testament. Like the disciples we want to ask Jesus, "Lord teach us to pray". Tonight our theme is 'Persevering in Prayer".

In Luke 11 Jesus is teaching his disciples how to pray. Last week we saw in verses 11:1-4 Jesus gives them a pattern for prayer. In verses 5-11 he gives them a parable, a principle and a promise about persevering in prayer.

1. A Parable about Persevering in Prayer Luke 11:5-8
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, 6because 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.' 8I 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.

We need a little help to appreciate the setting of this parable. Sleeping arrangements in a simple Palestinian home are very different to our own. The scene Jesus describes is the humble one room dwelling - often built onto the front of a cave. The food and precious possessions would be stored at the back of the room. The family would be laid out like sardines asleep on the floor. The father would lie near the door.

Why? To protect his family. In the scene Jesus describes, the father would have had to wake the family to get to the food to share it with his neighbour. It would take a deep friendship or a bold persistent person to get such a father to wake his entire family up to help his neighbour. This is the vivid scene Jesus uses to explain the need for perseverance in prayer. Perseverance is a sign of how seriously we take our request. Its a sign of the quality of our relationship with God as well. The parable of persevering prayer.

2. The Principle of Persevering in Prayer Luke 11:9-10
9"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. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

The sense of these verses is "ask and keep on asking... seek and keep on seeking." Quite simply, if you don't ask, you don't get. But we can go further and say the principle is this: God tells us to pray, indeed Jesus commands us to pray.
To pray about all things. To pray without ceasing.

The parable about persevering in prayer - how desperate are you to pray? The principle about persevering in prayer - how obedient are you to pray?

3. The Promise about Persevering in Prayer Luke 11:11-13

11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If 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!"

What is probably the most frequent sentence a parent says to a child? "Just a minute". Children ask and keep on asking. Virtually every morning I am woken up by a little boy who very gently asks whether I can please put the television on for him. And when he doesn't get a coherent reply, he asks again, and again because he knows what he wants and he can't reach the electricity socket behind the TV. Last week after I had said "just a minute" a few times while working at my computer, Michael came back and said in a very grown up voice, "Its OK Dad don't worry."

I immediately got up and satisfied his request. Jesus appeals to their heart felt attitude toward their own children and says that God feels the same way about us only more so. The Promise Jesus makes is this: God will answer our prayers by giving himself to us. It may not be the answer we want but God will always answer our prayers, personally. Lets wrap this up with a question: Why should we persevere in prayer? Four reasons: The test will be whether you can give me these four points on the way out of church... next Sunday.

1. Because God has said so (Ephesians 6:18)
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

See also Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Revelation 12:12. If this was the only answer it should be enough. We live in a rebellious age. The anarchy creeping into our society witnessed in the desecration of the cenotaph and the statue of Winston Churchill disturbs me greatly. But you know it is endemic to us all. The seeds of rebellion and independence are in us all. Why pray? Because God commands us for our own good. That should be a good enough reason. But in case you want more, here is another reason.

2. Because we can't see the whole picture (Eccles. 11:5)
"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things". (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

"Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come."
(Daniel 10:12-21)

See also Job 1:20-22, 12-21, 6:8-10, 7:17-21; Job is another example. He was a righteous man, yet the Lord allowed him to be tested by Satan. He lost his family, his home, his wealth and his health. He was never told why.

"What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my offences and forgive my sins?
" (Job 7:17-21)

Our approach to the unanswered questions must be to persevere in prayer but leave our questions like Job in God's hands.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." (Job 1:20-22)

The pattern of the New Testament is just the same. Consider the saints listed in Hebrews 11.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them
.. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised." (Hebrews 11:13-16, 35-40)

Do you imagine these Christians stopped praying for deliverance? for their loved ones? for peace? for their captors? We are not usually told why our prayers remain unanswered. Prayers are answered on a need to know basis. And for most of the time we don't need to know. We are like the young train spotter watching the trains go by at Clapham Junction. He hasn't a clue why this train is on this particular line and stops or why that train is going in that direction and doesn't stop. Why this one is stationary and that one is in the sidings. But if we were invited into the control room above the station. If we could see the giant screen showing every line, every signal and every train within 10 miles then we might begin to understand. One day we will enter the throne room of God and all will be revealed. Until then, like Daniel, like Job, like the saints who never saw their prayers answered as they hoped we live by faith and not be explanations.

1. Because God has said so.
2. Because we can't see the whole picture.

3. Because the war isn't over yet (Ephesians 6:10-13)
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."

Are you really surprised at the brutality of the civil war in Sierra Leone? Is it explicable in purely human terms. Listen to the press report from Friday and Saturday.... How ironic that the colony was created to provide a safe home for released slaves. That's why the capital is called Freetown. It is merely a microcosm of the global battle going on between demonic and divine forces. I am proud that it is British troops who are bolstering the UN peacekeeping force. But we can't leave it to the UN. They will not be able to root out evil there any more than they could in Rwanda or Kosovo or Chechnia, because the problem is not political it is spiritual. The war between good and evil is not between races or political systems, its being fought out over every human soul. It is there that the battle must be fought and won, and only Jesus Christ can do it.
"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul" (1 Peter 2:11). Only when people surrender to him can they become peacemakers. That is why God commands us to pray for those in authority, to pray for leaders, to pray for peace.

Why? Because we are still at war. Jesus has won the victory but the battle is not over.

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Without Jesus our world is without hope. So persevere in prayer. Why?
1. Because God has said so.
2. Because we can't see the whole picture.
3. Because the war isn't over yet.

4. Because we are not yet perfect (Philippians 3:12-14)
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Because of this conviction, Paul prayed for the Philippians in this way.

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
.. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:3-6, 9-11)

I need you to pray like that for me. You need me to pray like that for you. Why? Because we are not yet perfect. It is as we pray that our prayers help shape our attitudes and behaviour. Persevering in prayer we are increasingly shaped by what we pray for.

Summarise four reasons.
1. Because God has said so.
2. Because we can't see the whole picture.
3. Because the war isn't over yet.
4. Because we are not yet perfect.

Four reasons why we should pray and why we should persevere in prayer. Lets do it. Lets pray.