The Foundation Of Our Prayer.
If our need for prayer is rooted in us – our inadequacy and need… the foundation of our prayer is found in the character of God. Specifically, the prayer life of a faithful pastor is erected on the foundation of God’s power and his Fatherly love. Let’s consider each of those things in turn. And in order to do that, please look with me at the little story that Jesus tells in Luke 11:5-13. If you remember the context, Jesus has just finished instructing his disciples in what we call the Lord’s Prayer… and now he wants to motivate them to pray more. Let’s read Luke 11:5-13 “And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Can you see that everything that Jesus says depends on the truth that God is the only one who can help us. Jesus alludes to that back in the Lord’s prayer when he prays for the Father’s kingdom to come. God is our king. He is sovereign over all things. And so he’s the one that can help with our needs. And look there at verses 9-10. God is able to promise to answer our prayers because he knows that he is able, that he is powerful enough to do what he says. He invites us: ask, knock, seek; you won’t be able to exhaust my resources or find something I am powerless to accomplish.
Friend, the fact is: God is completely sovereign over all things. The very act of prayer acknowledges that God is in control. You wouldn’t pray to someone without the power to help, right? You wouldn’t ask me to bless your church and bring many people to Christ… because I don’t have that power. But God does! We pray because God has a good plan. We pray because God is sovereign and powerful, able to accomplish all he promises. We pray because God promises to hear us and he is able to bless us.
My brothers, is there any situation in your life that seems hopeless? Are there problems or cares that you’ve simply stopped praying about, or maybe you never prayed about them to begin with? Do you realize that God is not lacking in power to help you? He is never caught in a situation where things have gotten out of hand. You can be sure that whatever you face, God can help you. Take it to him in prayer because he is a sovereign God. The belief in God’s great power and sovereignty is the only way that we can pray for God’s kingdom to come. When I pray for my friend to come to Christ, when I pray that God would help me get rid of sin in my life, when we pray that God would cause our church to grow in love… I’m praying for things that I can’t do, but I know he loves to do. God has a kingdom that he is extending. When I pray, I’m just jumping on board. If we understand God’s power, if we understand that he has a good and gracious plan, then we will go to him boldly with all of our concerns and desires.
God is sovereign and powerful, otherwise there would be not point praying to him. But there’s something else that we must believe about God if we are to be faithful in prayer… and that is: that he is our loving Father. Can you see that? If God is powerful… but he is not on our side, he is not for us but against us, if he is indifferent or distant… well, then we will never want to go to him. But remember how Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer: our Father in heaven. That’s the very first thing Jesus says about prayer. He teaches us to call God our Father. That’s intimate. Father. This is perhaps the most important part of prayer. Prayer is most basically an expression of our relationship as sons and daughters of God. That’s why Jesus prayed so much, right? He was God’s son. He had to talk to his Father often.
To encourage us to pray to our Father, Jesus tells that little parable there in Luke 11:5-8 that we read a few moments ago. It’s not too hard to understand. In those days, a lot of people traveled at night. It was too hot during the day. And there were no telephones or email, so communication was pretty much non-existent. So it wasn’t unheard of that a friend or family member might show up in the middle of the night. You didn’t know they were coming, but here they are. And that was a hospitality culture. It was absolutely unheard of to refuse hospitality to a guest or traveler. So this guy in the parable has unexpected, late night visitors. The problem is, they’ve eaten all of their bread. Bread would have been baked once a day on a common fire in the middle of the neighborhood, so there’s no way for this host to get bread for his guests except to wake up a friend and ask to have some of his.
So Jesus imagines this little incident where the man knocks on a neighbor’s door late at night. The neighbor has locked up; he and his family would have all been sleeping on a platform at the far end of the small, one room house. And so Jesus asks, isn’t that guy always going to get up and get bread to give to his neighbor, even though the guy is rude? He’s not going to do it with love and good feelings. He’s going to do it because the guy was rude enough to come knocking.
Now, here’s the thing that you’ve got to see if you’re going to understand God and prayer: Jesus isn’t saying God is like that grumpy neighbor being woken up. He’s saying, look, if your grumpy, tired neighbor will give you what you need because you’re rude… HOW MUCH MORE will God, who loves you and cares for you… how much more will he give you what you need.
In verses 9-12, Jesus pushes it a little further. He asks: who among you doesn’t understand a Father’s love? Fathers give good things to their children. Kids don’t have to worry about whether their dad will take care of them. They’re not anxious and worried about whether Dad is going to take care of them. That’s the great thing about being a kid, no worries! No father is going to give his child a snake or a scorpion, right? And so Jesus again says… look, if that’s true of you, and you’re a sinful human being… how much more will God, your perfect heavenly Father, only give you good things?
My friend, do you believe this? That the God who controls the universe loves you and hears your prayer like a father hears his son’s request? This is how we make sense of prayer. God doesn’t always answer according to our exact wishes. There are times when we are asking for a snake or a scorpion and we don’t know it. And so God may graciously NOT give us the things we ask for. He may give us something unpleasant, something that seems like a snake or a scorpion, like a blister on our foot or even illness or death. But you can be sure that it is good. You can be sure that if you knew what God knew and loved like God loved, you would do the same thing.
Pastor, do you trust that God is your Father? When you think of God, do you think of Him as a loving Father, anxious to care for you and love you and meet your needs? Or do you walk around like an orphan? Always worried about how you will provide for yourself and your church? A Christian is one who has God as Father. And, Jesus says here, to have God as Father is to have a wonderful provision for everything you need. And that is to be a wonderful incentive to prayer. Pastor do you believe, not just with your head, but do you know it in your heart… do you believe that God is your loving Father? The Bible tells us over and over again: you’re an adopted child of the King… and that the churches that we serve are full of adopted sons and daughters.
In Ephesians 1: In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace. (Ephesians 1:4b-6a). This was God’s plan from before the beginning. In Romans 8, Paul makes a connection between our adoption and our prayers to God our Father: you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15) The doctrine of adoption must inform our prayer life.
Jesus assumes here in Luke 11 that it will. Children go to their Father in order to have their needs met. It’s not all that complicated. Can you see the boldness and the confidence that we can have as we go to God in prayer? You are not annoying God when you pray to Him like he is your loving Father. He is not reluctant to hear you plead for the souls of the lost and for the holiness of your church. He insists upon it! In fact, he graciously commands it! And so the prayers of a pastor are built on the foundation of God’s character – his sovereign power and his Fatherly love. That brings us to the third thing for us to look at together – the priorities of prayer.