Ask… and ASK… and ASK AGAIN
Notwithstanding that these verses in 2 Timothy…
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
… indicate that all Holy Scripture teaches important lessons, these verses from Luke’s Gospel teach a couple of very important lessons:
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 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, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ “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.’ I 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. “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; he who seeks finds; and to him 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!” (Luke 11:1-13)
Throughout the Gospels, it will be observed that Jesus was often in prayer in places apart from His disciples and from others. Herein lies the first lesson: Jesus had an intimate prayer relationship with the Father. As believing Christians, we would do very well to have the same, and on a daily basis we need to arrange for the time required.
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He responded with the greatest economy of words that has ever been, or will ever be, spoken: the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s take a closer look at what can be asked for in a mere 34 words:
1) We address the Father and hallow His Name.
2) We beseech the Father for the coming of His Kingdom.
3) We ask for our daily sustenance.
4) We ask the Father for forgiveness of our sins.
5) We ask the Father for courage and strength to forgive those who sin against us.
6) We ask the Father to keep us from temptation to evil.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus comments on prayer:
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. (Matthew 6:5)
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7)
It can be seen from the Lord’s Prayer, and from the comments of Jesus regarding what is appropriate regarding prayer, that prayer that pleases God does not have to be lengthy, showy or liberally sprinkled with fancy words. Every saint of God has time for prayer, and there is no excuse for any saint of God not being in prayer, as prayer has the power to change eternity itself. Herein lies the second lesson: prayer is an attitude of the heart (submission and obedience to God) rather than an attitude of the body, and is to be offered with an expectation of God’s attention and response, because Jesus said…
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)
It is critically important to understand that before we even start to pray, the Father knows what situations we are facing, and what problem resolutions we truly have need of.
The story that Jesus tells His disciples seems a little strange, in that He says that while the person in the locked house would not get up and give his friend bread based on friendship , he would get up and and give his friend bread based on his boldness in asking for it. Jesus went on to state a supreme, enduring truth: ASK… SEEK… KNOCK to RECEIVE… FIND… HAVE DOORS OPENED. Herein lies the third lesson: prayer that is answered is bold and persistent prayer that expects God to answer. A classic example of bold and persistent prayer is found in the book of Genesis, where Jacob wrestled with God:
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon. (Genesis 32:22-32)
A critical point to understanding what prayer achieves is that what it achieves is in the hands of God alone: An answer will be given, but He alone will decide what the answer will be, and He alone will decide the time frame within which the answer will be given. The answer will be “Yes”, “No” or “Not yet”, and may come immediately or any number of years later, if at all in the lifetime of the petitioner. We can be assured that whatever the answers to our prayers are, they are for God’s greater glory, and for our ultimate good, for God can only do right. But we can… and we must… pray to God boldly.
Finally, Jesus comments on the infinite generosity of the Father. He says to look at what we do with regard to our own children… although we have a sin nature, and although we are predisposed by it to commit evil acts… we actually give good gifts to them! We should be astounded at this, because if evil people can give good gifts… how much greater is what can be given by a perfect, sinless God!! However, note what is given by the Father; it is not ‘good gifts’. It is the greatest, purest gift possible, and herein lies the fourth lesson: the Holy Spirit, the unrestrained power of God, is given in prayer.
Prayer is made possible in every circumstance, and especially in difficult circumstances for which we have no words, by the Holy Spirit, as is witnessed to in Holy Scripture:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27)
Pray boldly to God the Father Almighty in the Name of Jesus Christ, as He will hear you and answer you, blessing you with the presence and providence of the Holy Spirit.