Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ask him! Luke 11v1-13


Ask Him - Dave Bish, mp3


Prayer. Its one of those things that many of us think we should do more. Like visiting family or going to the gym. The mere mention of the word makes some of us feel guilty. Normally we run from things that make us feel guilty, but when I come to a passage like Luke 11 and feel guilty it's probably because I don't pray like I should.

Jesus shows us here how important it is. And gives good reason for us to think ourselves strange for not being more prayerful. Whatever is behind us, if you feel guilty when the P word is mentioned, confess it to God and listen to Jesus.

In Luke 10 Jesus and his disciples were preaching the kingdom of God. Jesus told us that he delights to reveal himself to little children, ordinary people like us. This is God's truth to warm our cold hearts.

The same themes continue here. Jesus disciples come in 11v1 to be taught by Jesus. And the subject is praying the kingdom of God. Now as we gather around God's word we can eavesdrop on their conversation. What do they ask for? What will Jesus say? They ask about prayer and receive a stunning answer. A framework for prayer and then two principles to send our expectations through the roof.

The prayer v2-4 is not an exhaustive model. It's a framework. The words are familiar not least because they form the Lord’s prayer that you’ll find on the service card. It's not a magic formula or mantra to chant. It's a prayer that fits with what has already happened. It's a kingdom prayer – the kingdom is preached and now a prayer asking “your kingdom come”.

Three things to grab hold of when praying.

V2. Kingdom come.
Christian prayer asks for God's name to be hallowed, to be made famous. How will it happen? Through the answer to the other request in v2 – “your kingdom come”. The kingdom comes not through war and politics but by Jesus revealing himself to ordinary people as they hear his word. Now we ask for him to do that.

Next, V3, Kingdom gifts.
It has always been God's way to provide for his people. We think Sainsburys provides what we need but in reality we're dependent upon God. Asking for him to provide is our admission that he is King. The whole world belongs to him and we want to receive it with thanksgiving.

V4, Kingdom life.
Third request. This is all about living with Jesus as king. It’s a request for forgiveness and to avoid temptation. We sin and we want to sin. But because of the death of Jesus in our place God will forgive us. And he'll change our lives.

Hold these three requests in your hand when you pray.

This is a kingdom prayer.
A prayer for those who want to live under the rule of King Jesus.
A prayer to use when you know your name is written in heaven.

Then come two principles for prayer.

1. Those who ask receive. (v5-10)

Jesus’ first illustration in v5-8, - a man is bold enough to wake his neighbour in the middle of the night so he can feed an unexpected guest. Because he has the cheek to ask, his neighbour helps him. So, v9, we're told we just need to ask of God. Don’t argue your case. No just ask. Have the cheek to bring your requests to God. Be bold!

Jesus gives us six promises in v9-10 to make us bold.
v9. Ask. And it will be given to you.
v9. Seek. And you will find.
v9. Knock. And the door will be opened.
v10. Those who ask, receive.
v10. Those who seek, find.
v10. Those who knock, the door is opened.

All we have to do is ask! If we believe these six promises we will pray. If we don't, we wont. Whatever our prayer life has been like before, today we're invited to pray boldly.

Two problems with this…

1. God isn’t my next door neighbour. He’s the holy God. He who, 12v5, can cast people into hell. But remember Luke has told us in 9v51 that Jesus is on the road to his death. A death that opens the way for people who deserve hell to knock boldly on the door of God’s house.

2. It doesn’t work. What about unanswered prayer? If we’ve not experienced unanswered prayer we probably haven’t prayed at all. This experience is partly why Jesus says what he says next in v11-13.

2. Those who ask receive the Holy Spirit (v11-13)

Another illustration, v11-12. About the response of human father's to their children. In passing, human beings are branded as evil, v13. Not just fathers but all of us. We all ought to be cast into hell for our evil hearts.

Yet even we know how to give good gifts, v11-12. A child asks for fish they'll get fish not a snake. An egg not a scorpion. What's the point? v13. If you then... If sinful people behave this way, how much more will God give good gifts to his children. He is our perfect Father. Let us ask!

When we ask and don't receive what we're expecting then he is still working for his kingdom. He will give us what is best for his kingdom. Sometimes we ask for the wrong thing, but he remains committed to his kingdom and that is good for us. It takes wisdom that is beyond us, to pray rightly at all times. But he wants us to ask.

Imagine you’re running for the train at Wokingham station. You stride towards it and see the doors starting to close. Our wisdom says the only good option is to catch the train – but we don't actually know that that's the best thing. God knows what's best. He will give what we need. It would seem that he is more concerned that we ask than with what we ask. The Son of God Jesus says that God the Father loves to give one thing above all else : v13, God the Holy Spirit.

Why the Holy Spirit?

In Luke's writing, having the Holy Spirit is synonymous with having salvation. To have the Holy Spirit is to have eternal life. To have the Holy Spirit is to have your name written in heaven. Jesus died on the cross so that his kingdom would come. That means us receiving his Holy Spirit. God with and in us forever.

If you’re not a Christian then Jesus invites you to have this life. King Jesus has the authority to put this offer on the table. No interview required. No performance to be taken into account. No paperwork. We skip the tournament and are offered the prize. Just ask to receive it. Why not do that today? Ask for the Holy Spirit.

Pray the kingdom prayer. God's plan is to give us a new heart and put his Holy Spirit in us. He changes our purpose in life to make him famous, rather than serve ourselves. Just ask. As we pray we take hold of the gifts that God promises to us.

If you are a Christian then you already have the Holy Spirit living in you. What's that like?

Remember, Luke organizes what he writes very carefully to give us certainty about Jesus. What he records here is just one of four references to the Holy Spirit, in close proximity.

1st, 10v21 – Jesus full joy through the Holy Spirit.
2nd, 11v13 – this promise.
3rd,12v10 – blaspheming the Spirit which I don't really understand yet.
4th, 12v12 – the Spirit will teach us to testify about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is a big theme in Luke's book and he gives us a window on what it looks like when God moves into our lives.

i) 10v21, GOSPEL-JOY
We see Jesus full of joy through the Holy Spirit. This is a far cry from the idea of Christian life as dreary duty. Christians are like Christ. They stand out because of their joy. This joy isn’t Teflon smiling, it's joy that comes from God's good news. That's what made Jesus rejoice - his disciples have their names written in heaven.

Good news makes people joyful.
Venus winning Wimbledon.
Alan Johnston set free.
A mother with her newborn.
The man with a new job.
And : The Christian who knows that God has moved into their life.
Doesn't that make you want to rejoice?

ii) 12v12, GOSPEL-WORDS
A Christian is pressed to testify about Jesus. Under the spotlight what should they say? Here Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will teach us about Jesus so we can speak.

We can be ready for that happening by reading the book that the Holy Spirit has written – the Bible. Sometimes, like the situation in Luke 12v12 we get caught off guard. Then too, the Holy Spirit will teach us what he's already saying in the Bible. Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will teach us about himself.

What difference will that make? Think about it. Why do we avoid situations with family, friends, colleagues where we might need to speak about Jesus? Isn't it because we're scared that we wont know what to say. No more!

The Holy Spirit sets us free to live boldly and risk being questioned about Jesus the source of our joy. Jesus promises that the answer to the prayer your kingdom come means that the Holy Spirit comes to live in us.

We could sit around feeling guilty about prayer, or we could get on with it. The application this morning is simple: As kingdom people who have the Holy Spirit let's pray boldly and live boldly.

John Calvin says we should pray so that our hearts will be: “fired with a zealous and burning desire to ever seek, love and serve him while we become accustomed in every need to flee to him as to a sacred anchor”

All we need do is ask him!


With thanks to Stuart Dean, Michael You, John Calvin, Etrangere and Trainspotter. for their wise comments that helped me immensely. P graphic from funkypancake.

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