We return this morning to our study of the New Testament book of Luke. As a congregation, we have been studying this Gospel for several months and now find ourselves in the eleventh chapter. It has been my goal to go through each verse and provide an explanation and interpretation for each verse. It would be a valid question to ask why we should study the Bible in this way. I think it is important for us to know what the Bible says and what the Bible means by what it says. In determining what the Bible says requires that we employ the science of interpretation known as biblical hermeneutics. I believe God said what He meant to say in Scripture and our task is to discover what He intended to communicate to us. I use an approach called the literal, grammatical, historical method of Bible interpretation. I think the Bible is to be taken literally, that is, that the Bible tells me what it means. God has chosen words that have specific meanings and He did so intentionally. We discover the Bible’s meaning by finding the definitions of these words and how they were used historically and in the context in which they appear. We must be diligent in our study so that we remain true to God’s Word.
The book of Luke has twenty-four chapters and is one of two books written by Luke (the other being Acts), whom the New Testament declares was a medical doctor. (See Colossians 4:14) He began with the birth of Jesus Christ and painstakingly noted the Lord’s genealogy. From chapter four through nine, Luke provided historical details about the Lord’s Galilean ministry that covered roughly two years of His three-year earthly ministry. There is a turning point in Luke’s gospel in Luke 9:51. There, Jesus determined to leave the region of Galilee and make His way to Jerusalem, where, ultimately, He will be crucified, buried, and rise from the dead. Now, as we restart our study, we are in Luke eleven.
We were here last in May, when we looked at Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan and we closed chapter ten with the story of Martha and Mary. You will remember that Martha had become distracted with preparations for a meal for Jesus and His disciples and, instead of helping her sister, Mary decided to sit and listen to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus called Mary’s devotion to learning the truth “the good part” that would “not be taken away from her.” After that dinner with Martha and Mary, Jesus’ journey toward His destiny in Jerusalem continued. As Jesus and the disciples traveled, Jesus stopped in a “certain place” to pray. This was not unusual–the disciples had often seen and heard Jesus pray. They were all familiar with prayer because they had grown up in the Jewish community where prayers in homes and in synagogues were routine.
In Old Testament passages too numerous to mention during a Sunday sermon, prayer and praying are very common. I will mention two passages. Psalm 91 extols the blessings of God’s protection of His people. That psalm opens, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.” Verse fifteen of that Psalm God says, “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” “Calling” upon the Lord is prayer! God promised to provide answers to prayer and to rescue His people in their trouble.
In Psalm 50:15 the Lord invites His people to “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” God wants His people to pray to Him and we often find examples of God’s people praying in the Old Testament. Moses prayed, David prayed, and Abraham prayed. We are told the prophet Daniel prayed three times every day. So, Israel had a rich heritage of being a people of prayer. It is not unusual, then, that Jesus spent much time in prayer and that His prayers were noticed by His disciples. We find, therefore, the disciples were not only interested in Jesus’ prayers, but that they also wanted Jesus to teach them how to pray.
PRAYER’S PATTERN EXPLAINED. Luke 11:1-4
Adoration. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus gave a similar pattern of prayer in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, but this version of that pattern in Luke 11 comes at the specific request of the disciples. The two different settings explain the differences in the content. Jesus gave His disciples a model of prayer rather than a model prayer. He did not design this prayer to be prayed repetitiously. The disciples did not ask for a prayer to recite. Instead they asked how to pray. And, there is no record in the New Testament that anyone recited this prayer. The pattern of prayer Jesus gave to His disciples provides bullet points of items that properly fit into genuine prayer. I have used four words as bullet points that will be helpful to remember as we pray. They are adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Prayer must come from the soul of the believer and it must have content and meaning to the one praying. We begin with adoration
All believers enjoy a close family relationship with God the Father. Jesus invites believers to address God as “Father.” In the previous chapter, Jesus addressed God as His Father. (Luke 10:21) The word is Pater in the Greek and in Hebrew it is Abba. It speaks of a close, family relationship. It affirms that all believers live in God’s eternal family. Those who are unsaved live in a hostile relationship with God and do not enjoy any family relationship with God at all. However, when a person comes to trust in Christ as Savior, they are immediately adopted into God’s family. This is revealed clearly in Galatians 4:4-6, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Because the Lord Jesus is in a loving, eternal relationship with the Father, when a person receives Christ as Savior, he or she is granted entrance into God’s family along with Jesus. Therefore, we have the privilege of calling God our Father and that relationship is the foundation to our prayers. Jesus made that clear, when, after His resurrection He told Mary Magdalene that His Father was her Father as well, “Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”” (John 20:17)
Our first response in prayer is to offer the Lord our adoration with includes reverence and worship. God’s name is sacred and, because He is sacred or hallowed, we cannot treat Him with lack of respect or dishonor. We cannot treat His name as profane or commonplace. To use His name as profanity is to dishonor and dis-respect Him, something a Christian would never do. His name must be set apart and above everything common, profane, earthly, human, and temporal. We must treat the Father with reverence.
Praying for the Father’s kingdom to come is to proclaim loyalty to Him and His kingdom. It is an expression of hope that God’s rule through Jesus Christ will come and come soon. We want His kingdom to come so that evil will be defeated and righteousness will prevail. More than anything, our world needs the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ to come and to come quickly.
Confession. Confession means that we agree with God regarding our sinful thoughts, actions, attitudes, and habits. We have already found eternal forgiveness in Christ, but our sins sever the continuity of our relation-ship with the Lord and must be restored. That restoration comes when we agree with God that we have sinned, choose to repent from our sins, and ask God to forgive our sins. Everyone faces the dreadful problem of sin and the only cure is forgiveness and only God can forgive sin. Failure to confess our sins means that they are not forgiven and we bear the burden of our sins. Only through confession can we enjoy the freedom of living the forgiven life.
Since, as believers, we know the meaning of God’s forgiveness, we can display God’s grace through our lives by forgiving others. Failure to forgive others leads to bitterness and anger. Failure to forgive others imprisons people in their past and makes those they refuse to forgive their jailers. Failure to forgive others slows and even stops our spiritual growth. Our Savior has forgiven us, we must forgive others.
Thanksgiving. Asking the Lord to give us our daily bread shows our faith in divine provision, which means we know our God provides for our needs. Jesus said these words to grown men who had spent their lives working for a living. Yet despite the fact that they had skills and talents for which they were paid, they still needed to realize that God provided their needs.
In fact, they must declare their dependence upon Him for the things they needed. We, Jesus’ modern disciples, also need to express trust in the Lord and confess that God provides for the things we need. Along with the recognition of God’s provision for our needs and our dependence upon Him, we must worship the Lord by being thankful for what He provides.
Supplication. Supplication is a humble request we ask of the Lord. It reflects the believer’s humble sense of weakness, knowing that the evil, fallen world is a hostile and dangerous place and we need God’s help and protection. This world is full of physical dangers and spiritual dangers and we are completely dependent upon God’s guidance. In addition to asking for God’s provision in our lives, we must intercede on behalf of the people around us. We should pray for one another, for our families and neighbors and our friends.
PRAYER’S PERSISTENCE EMPHASIZED. Luke 11:5-8
The Guest Who Came at Midnight. In ancient times it was not unusual for people to travel at night; sometimes arriving at their destinations long after sunset. This was more common in arid regions when the desert sands were blazing hot in the daytime. It is likely the traveler sent advanced notice that he was coming, but it was impossible to determine the exact arrival time. Once in the area, he continued to the man’s house despite the lateness of the hour. Upon greeting him at the door, the host evidently asked the man if had eaten and discovered he was hungry. Without refrigeration, just enough food was prepared for the day’s use and there was nothing left over. All the food supplies required preparation and that would take time. There were no convenience stores or restaurants, yet the host was compelled to provide food for the traveler despite the lateness of the hour.
The Persistent Neighbor. So, the host went to his friend, who had a few small loaves of bread left over from supper and that would be enough to feed the traveler. He asked his neighbor for those three loaves. But the man did not want to get up in the dark to find the loaves and give them to the host. Evidently the friend thought that was the end of it, but the host persisted in asking. In fact, he was so persistent that the man finally got up, and brought the bread to the host so that he could feed the traveler.
Persistence In Prayer. Persistence in prayer is spiritual determination. Disciples of the Lord Jesus must not view prayer as insignificant. It is an essential spiritual ministry to which we must invest our time and energy. Sometimes prayer projects must continue for years. When my father moved to South Florida, he met a Christian man who discovered my father was unsaved. This Christian made a commitment to pray for my father, which he continued for nearly twenty years. Ultimately, my father came to receive Christ as Savior. In Jesus’ illustration, the host became the intercessor for the traveler’s needs. In this way the Lord taught that prayer is often intercession on behalf of the needs of others, not just for our own needs.
PRAYER’S PROMISE ENVISIONED. Luke 11:9-13
Three Requests and Three Promises. Using three present tense imperative verbs–ask, seek, and knock–the Lord commands believers to be assertive in their prayers. They can come boldly (not as beggars) before His throne of grace. In those three verbs there is an increase in intensity showing the deepening focus the Christian should have on prayer. Jesus told us in verses two through four what we should pray for, now He instructs us how we should pray. Asking implies dependence upon God, seeking speaks of a sense of urgency that causes us to search until we find. Knocking carries the idea of appeal –the attitude of seeing that only God will supply all of our needs.
God Answers Graciously. Using the illustration of a human father and son, Jesus pictured a hungry boy coming to his father and asking for a fish and an egg. What kind of father would give his son a scorpion or a snake instead? No decent father would consider such a thing. If evil people (evil because of their sinful nature) would respond with grace, how much more will the Lord respond to our requests. God in His gracious wisdom always gives us the best answers to our prayers.
God Gives the Holy Spirit. It is interesting that when speaking of the Father’s answers, Jesus does not say, “Your heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask Him.” Instead, He says that He will give the Holy Spirit. Jesus did send the Holy Spirit. He told the disciples to wait at Jerusalem until He could send the Holy Spirit to them. The disciples did wait at Jerusalem and in Acts 2, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to fill and empower them. The Holy Spirit has been given in answer to our prayers. He convicts of sin, gives the knowledge of God, frees believers from the law of sin and death, indwells them, fills them, intercedes on their behalf, empowers them to become progressively more like Jesus Christ, pours out God’s love into their hearts, and gives them hope.
Prayer is a vital part of the Christian’s spiritual journey and is essential to spiritual growth. I have heard people say that prayer changes things, but I do not think that is as accurate as saying, “Prayer changes me and through my Christian life, the Holy Spirit changes things. Prayer is not so much a matter of changing things in my life externally but a matter of miraculously changing my inner nature to conform to the image of God’s dear Son.
God often brings difficulties in our lives to cause us to pray. We have all been experiencing numerous difficulties through this COVID-19 pestilence. I am certain, at least in my life, that God has used these circumstances to cause me to pray. The greatest resource for strength that we have during such difficult times is prayer. I urge you to devote time every day to prayer.
Updated by Pastor Vernon Welkner, 9/15/2020