It is hard for me to ask for help. Perhaps pride is an issue and I think I can handle life on my own. But, an even greater issue is being ‘polite.’ I think to myself, “If I ask them, it may create an inconvenience. What if they have to adjust their schedule?” I wonder how many times I have stolen a blessing from myself or someone else because of some mistaken notion of politeness? I love to come alongside of others, to lend a hand, to give a listening ear, to pray with them – so why do I think that expressing my own need is a problem? In the last two years I have learned to receive love much more readily, learned to let others help, learned to lean!
Jesus disciples heard Him praying and approached Him with a request, “Teach us to pray!” I wonder what it was like to hear the perfect Man communicate with His Father? Whatever they observed, it made them want to know how to come into God’s Presence. Jesus taught them the Model Prayer which we still pray that begins, “Our Father is Heaven …” and then He told them a parable. The story is a little shocking to me. It isn’t a ‘feel good’ tale. Jesus told those men that prayer was not the time to be polite! Read on – “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.” (Luke 11:4-10, NIV)
Jesus tells us to pound on heaven’s door, like a desperate neighbor at midnight. I would not be very happy if my neighbor came over asking me for some bread in the middle of the night, would you? I would be tempted to ignore the knocking. If he kept it up, I would get up and go to the door, but I probably would not be smiling when I handed over the bread. How about you? Yet, this is exactly the story Jesus told those men when they asked for a prayer lesson. Did Jesus intend to teach us that God does not like to answer us? Not at all! The real point of the story is that we cannot be polite, that we should not hesitate to ask boldly, often, and with great faith.
We need not be concerned about going to our Father too often or asking too much of Him. “Ask … Seek … Knock …” Jesus said. Do you pray ‘polite’ prayers? Do you apologize to your Father for asking too much, or timidly frame your requests in vague words to avoid offending Him? I love the honesty of a child who has not yet learned to hide his desires behind the veneer of social propriety. It’s a Mom’s nightmare when little Johnny just blurts out what he wants, want he does not like; his true feelings. Yes, of course, manners are important in our human interactions, but not in prayer! Jesus holds open the door to the Throne Room, wraps us in His goodness, and invites us to “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16, NLT)
Jesus told another story that reinforces this truth. Luke 18 is the record of His parable about a corrupt judge who ignored the pleas of a widow who needed justice. She had no influence, no leverage in his court. But, she was persistent! “The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’ ” (Luke 18:4-5, NLT) Again, let’s be clear. Jesus is not saying God is unjust or without concern. His point is our persistence, our willingness to keep pressing on in prayer. He concludes His story with this summary – “I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” (Luke 18:7-8, The Message)
There is an unseen battle that goes on around us. Evil resists the work of God. Our sinful nature rises in us to foil, where possible, the work of the Spirit. Worldly systems are corrupt and not easily or quickly changed to serve the purposes of the Kingdom of Heaven. So, we must persist, keep faith, pounding on Heaven’s door. Shocking? Perhaps, but the lesson Jesus gave to us about our prayers.
Here is a word from the Word. May the promise inspire us to keep on asking, to seek, to knock – and to receive His will. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” James 5:16-18 NIV
“A prayer of David.
Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea; listen to my cry.
Give ear to my prayer— it does not rise from deceitful lips.
May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.
Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing;
I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.
As for the deeds of men— by the word of your lips
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent.
My steps have held to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.
I call on you, O God, for you will answer me;
give ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show the wonder of your great love,
you who save by your right hand those
who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 17:1-8, NIV)
Jerry D. Scott, Pastor
Faith Discovery Church
Washington, NJ 07882