Day 6 – Principles of Prayer
Luke 11: A prayer, a parable and some principles
First of all a prayer to use, a parable to understand, and then some principles to follow. Now the prayer is the Lord?s Prayer ? we?re going to come to that ? but the parable is the story of this persistent friend. In His description of this parable, Jesus talks about the necessary elements of effective praying. I?m going to go through these with you. Here in this parable we find the necessary elements of effective praying.
Let me just refresh your memory on the parable itself. Luke?s gospel chapter 11, verses 5 to 8, He teaches about the Lord?s Prayer, and then He comes on to talk about how this man comes who has a need and he says, ?A neighbor has come. Give me some bread,? and he is concerned that as he does this, the man is not going to listen to him. He is concerned that he is going to be thrown out.
So in this parable the man prayed because this urgent need arrived unexpectedly. It was at a most inconvenient time. And isn?t that exactly how disasters and crises happen? We say, ?I don?t need this right now, Lord. Can you postpone this test? Can you postpone this trial?? So this suggests to us that when we come to pray, it is the response of an immediate need. That?s a very important prayer principle. We are called to respond in prayer to our immediate needs.
So God will present us with a need. It may be our own need; it may be somebody else?s need. You may feel, for example, in the Spirit that you should be interceding for somebody, that there is somebody that you know with a need and the Holy Spirit may reveal it to you. That?s where exciting prayer really develops. You cannot truly pray unless you do have a sense of need. That?s the purpose of prayer ? to come to God with a need. So this suggests that God will touch us with something special, a recognition of our own need, something will happen to us, or somebody else?s need?so it begins, first of all, with a need.
Then a second principle we learn is that prayer must come out of a necessary relationship. Now in this parable, this man is going to his friend ? a man visits his friend who in turn called another friend (it?s full of friends, friends everywhere in this parable) ? and this suggests to us that prayer is an expression of relationship, and that we should focus mainly on praying for people who are known to us.
We should focus mainly on praying for people who are known to us.
Now, okay, you say, ?Well, what about prayers for who we don?t know?? How can you really pray about the things you don?t know? Of course, the Holy Spirit may show you, in which case the relationship is a spiritual one and the Holy Spirit is giving you that burden. Jesus seems to follow this principle and He describes that He prays for us; He prays for His friends, and we are to pray for one another.
And so it is important to pray about that which you know, where there is a relationship involved, not just for you and your family and just a handful of people, but that means that we should be in relationship with others in the Body of Christ and develop spiritual relationships with people so that we can pray for them. We must know and understand their needs. Even if these people are living on the other side of the earth, we should be very clear about this relationship.
But also this suggests to us that our relationship with the Lord has got to be right if we are going to pray. Prayer flows out of our relationship with Him, and so this is why prayer is such a wonderful thing. You learn so much about Jesus when you pray and develop a life of prayer. The intimacy, the fellowship, the relationship with Jesus?in fact, you cannot have a relationship with Jesus unless you pray and develop your prayer life.
You learn so much about Jesus when you pray and develop a life of prayer.
Another principle that this parable shows us is there is an obvious love that is operating here. In the parable, the man took his tired and hungry visitor home in the first place. He didn?t make an excuse that there was no food, that it was too late. He gave up a night?s sleep and his comfort and probably even his bed, and he even risked his popularity with his neighbor by getting him out of bed so late at night. Why? Because he loved the visitor. And if you love, you are going to pray. If you love, you are going to bless other people with your praying, and that should be one of the main motives behind prayer. True love gets us out of our beds and onto our knees. That is why you do it. It?s love when you pray for other people.
True love gets us out of our beds and onto our knees.
We also notice that the principle here is that there was a helplessness. There was a helpless state. The man in the parable had no resources of his own with which to feed his friend. Often, great love is powerless. Have you noticed that? In the sense that just because you love somebody, it doesn?t mean to say that you have the resources to meet that need. But if you love somebody enough, you will go to the One who has the resources, and because there is a great need and a helplessness that will drive you more and more to your knees in prayer, and so when we come before the Lord, we acknowledge that there is a helplessness on our behalf.
And I often pray, ?O God, I am asking you to do something that no one else can do. I?m coming to the right person because You are the only one who can do this. Lord, I need a miracle. Do, Lord, what only You can do.? And often, even if we pray about the things that we have some power to change, our prayer is a request in that direction, and a prod in that direction, so that if there is something we are praying about, we?ve got the answer, ?Lord, bless this person,? and the Lord says, ?Yes, write a cheque for ?100. That will do nicely. Thank you very much. If you have the means to answer the prayer, you do it, and your praying is a submission to that process. But there comes a time when you can?t do anything practically; all you can do is pray, and you need to cry out to the Lord.
There is a helplessness on our behalf. “Do, Lord, what only You can do.”
And that will lead you to this next principle ? and that is, to pray the prayer of faith. The man in the parable was sure that his friend would help. Whatever confidence did he have? He didn?t go knocking on the door and saying, ?Come on, give me some bread. Give me some bread.? He knocked on the door in confidence that his friend would not mind being woken up at midnight. You call it whatever you want, but certainly we need to be as confident as that, that we can go to the Father every time, day or night. He doesn?t have certain visiting hours and certain office hours. God doesn?t keep intercessory hours. The Lord who keep Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.
There is a story of a church that had a series of prayer meetings and the pastor was talking about the subject of prayer, and the title of the sermon series was God Answers Prayer, and outside of the church was a notice board saying, ?God Answers Prayer every Wednesday at 8 o?clock.?
Well, God is open for prayer business not just at 8 o?clock on Wednesdays or the traditional church meetings times. No, no, no. We come to the Lord at any time knowing that He is open, His doors are open, and He will hear us, He will answer us, He will listen to you. He is not unable, unlikely, or unwilling to meet your need.
God is not unable, unlikely, or unwilling to meet your need.
Now after telling this parable, Jesus, in Luke 11:13, went on to teach that the Lord is ready, poised to give eagerly, deliver good things, especially the Holy Spirit, to those who ask. And it says in Luke 11:13, ?If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?? Oh yes, oh yes. John 14:16, another confident prayer, ?And I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with your forever.?
Yes, we know that Jesus promises the Holy Spirit into our lives and that the Holy Spirit is going to be the Spirit who will help us to pray. We will give one whole session over to the Holy Spirit and prayer. So we can be absolutely confident that the Father will hear us when we come before Him to pray. That?s the prayer of faith.
Now linked to this is another principle of boldness, the vital boldness that is needed. Now there is a twist in this parable because the man?s hopes were dashed. His friend would not help, ?Go away. The kids are in bed and the lights are out. Don?t bother us.? This is the point of this parable. At this time you?re saying, ?Well, look, he?s gone to his friend. What?s happening? What?s happening? Why is this man not listening? Is that what God is like??
No. God is talking to you about a characteristic He wants you to develop in your spirit. It?s called ?holy boldness.? You see, what was the problem? The man might have said, ?I?m not going to wake him up; it?s midnight, it?s too late.? He had to be bold; he had to break all protocol, and he had to deal with all the surrounding difficulties and God wants you to rise up out of all the difficulties that hold you back in your life of prayer and intercession and to be bold. This man had to be bold to wake his neighbor up at midnight. I don?t believe he knocked on the door going, ?Hello? Hello? Anybody there? Are you awake? Oh no, you?re asleep. I better go home.? No. He banged on the door ? crash, crash, crash, crash, crash, crash ? ?Come on, wake up. Hi, Jeffrey, wake up! Are you awake? Are you awake??
God wants you to develop “holy boldness” in your spirit.
?No, I?m trying to sleep. Go away, Frederick,? or whatever names they had in those days.
He had boldness to do it, and that?s the word in Luke 11:8, ?I say to you though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his boldness he will rise and give him as many as he needs.?
Now some of the translations, including the New King James, which I use, translate this as ?persistence,? and that?s implied, but the real word is ?boldness.? It literally means ?shamelessness, cheek or nerve.? You need to be holy cheeky. You need to have a holy nerve. You need to be shameless in your approach to God. This is the boldness and determination to think, ?I need this provision, and I will not be put off until I have obtained it.? We need this righteous audacity, this holy boldness, based on the strength of our relationship with God, to ask Him with nerve and cheek.
And of course there is alongside that an essential persistence, because in the verses that follow, verses 9 through to verse 13, there is a Greek tense which is used and best understood, used of when you want to convey that you keep on doing something?ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking?and if the man is persistent in calling his friend, the man will get up, and if he gives up, he will return empty-handed.
It is exactly the same in prayer. Some of the prayers don?t get answered immediately. Some of them are instantaneous, sometimes before you call He answers, but often He calls you to make a long, persistent effort to keep on praying. And how long do you keep on praying? How long? How long? Until He answers. And if we give up before that, we won?t get the answer. We will go home empty-handed. So we should keep on praying boldly until we receive God?s answer.
And then out of that comes a very clear and a certain result. The parable has a happy ending. The man got those loaves, and it doesn?t matter whether he got it because of the friend or because of his persistence or because of his boldness. It doesn?t matter, because at the end of the day he got bread in his hands, and that is what counts. We need to know that as we persist, God will give us ? absolute certainty ? God will not turn us away. He will give us what we need when we learn to pray like that.
Now we?re going to go back and have a look at the Lord?s Prayer. We?re not going to do it in Luke?s version; we?re going to do it in Matthew?s version ? Matthew chapter 6 ? because in Jesus? teaching on prayer He actually begins with a prayer to follow, a prayer to follow, which is the Lord?s Prayer. ?In this manner, therefore, pray.? In this manner, therefore, pray.
In other words, He is showing us the manner in which we should pray. The manner in which we should pray. Now this is, after all, our model prayer, the prayer that we pray each day, ?Give us this daily bread.? It?s a daily prayer, and we learn in praying like this how to pray on a daily basis. And when we pray like this, we find everything, everything that the Lord Jesus ever needs us to pray or ever wants us to pray. The model prayer, Matthew 6:9-13.
It is the most well-known and frequently used prayer in all the world, and yet most people miss the point of this prayer ? Jesus giving a framework for all praying, rather than a set prayer to be prayed over and over again. Now this model prayer, He sets the scene in the verses that come up to that ? verses 5 to 9 ? He doesn?t want us to pray in a hypocritical manner; He doesn?t want us to pray just to make an impression on others; He doesn?t want us to pray publicly at some enormous great length.
the Lord?s Prayer, a framework for all praying
He also explains that when we approach God He already knows our needs and therefore we don?t need to educate Him about our circumstances, ?Lord, I just want to let you know in case you haven?t noticed. I?m going through a difficult time.? No, He knows your needs even before you come, so when Jesus says, ?Pray like this,? He?s saying, ?I want you to pray by focusing on the real issues, understanding that God is ready to hear you, understand that He knows you and knows your needs. You don?t have to pray because God is ignorant or unwilling. No, no, no. Come and pray like this.? And so we see all these prayer principles encapsulated in the Lord?s Prayer.
Now it is, for us, a kind of prayers skeleton. We must flesh it out. One way of thinking about it is it?s like a kind of form that you need to fill in. If you go to the Post Office or apply for something, there is a form they ask you questions and you fill in the bits with your specifics. That?s what we have ? a form which we fill in with the specific details which are relevant to our situation.
I don?t think the Lord ever really intended us just to recite this prayer as a prayer. That?s just like filling out a form. The Lord wants us to fill in the gaps so that it becomes specific to us. And when you learn to pray like that, you learn that these principles govern your praying and govern all that you need to do in prayer.
So this prayer is, of course, as we say, the Lord?s Prayer. It?s not the prayer that He prayed; it?s the prayer that He taught us to pray. It?s both personal and corporate. It?s clearly a personal prayer that can be used privately, but it uses ?we? and ?our? throughout. This is another reminder that when we pray ?we,? when we pray ?our,? that all prayer is corporate, in a real sense.
Just think about it: Whenever you start to pray like that, you are joining, as it were, many, many, many people who are praying the Lord?s Prayer and something similar right across the world, and you really are joining them in the Spirit as you say, ?Our Father.? You are also remembering that when you pray for yourself, you are praying for others who have very special needs in exactly the same way.
So we begin ?Our Father.? That?s how it begins, ?Our Father.? We remind ourselves that God is our father, and the basis of our fellowship with Him and with others is this relationship, and we share with Him in fellowship and we love Him and walk before Him, and we should begin as we pray to acknowledge Him as father, for that relationship, that we are His children, we are in a father/child relationship with God, and that should make us thankful for the intimacy that is involved in that.
And the next petition or the next part of it goes on to remind us that our father is in heaven. Our father is in heaven. Our prayers should be governed by this realization that God is in heaven. He is the great God of the universe. He is in total control. We can ask Him to help us because He has the power to do it. To be aware of His greatness and His presence.
?Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.? Hallowed be your name. This part of the prayer reminds us that God?s glory and His holiness belong to Him and His name as we recognize and we can experience this. God is a good father who delights to give us good things and reveal different aspects of His names, but His name, altogether, is to be hallowed. He is the holy God that we approach. We approach in humility, but thank God for all His glorious names: Healer, Provider, Deliverer, Guide, Creator, Savior, Shepherd, and on and on and on and on. There is a name that belongs to God that will meet your need on every?in every situation you find yourself.
So when you hallow His name, you are saying, ?Lord, I honor You for who You are, the holy God of the universe. You are the God who will provide for me in my every need?Jehovah Jireh. You are the God who will heal me ? Jehovah Rapha. You are the God who will touch me and deliver me. You are the Lord who is my righteousness. You are the God who is present with me.? And as you learn the names of the Lord, you will be able to grow in your faith and your appreciation of who He is and what He can be to you. That?s what His name means: Who am I and what I will be for you.
Then the petition comes, ?Your kingdom come.? This is a helpful reminder that God wants to establish His rule on the earth and extend His rule throughout the world by people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. ?Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.? That?s how the kingdom comes. It is submitting to His will, and what you are saying when you pray this is, ?Lord this little bit of earth submits to your will today. Let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done on this little bit of earth called Colin Dye today.? And that is the coming of the kingdom where God?s will that is done perfectly in heaven is revealed here on this earth.
And then we come to the second part of the prayer, where the Lord Jesus takes us now, having focused our attention first of all in a God-ward direction, then we move into our needs, and He says, ?Give us this day our daily bread.? In other words, it is right and proper that we should pray for the physical needs of our daily life. It is God?s intention that we should all receive the provision for our need in every way whatsoever, so we can pray for our physical needs, for the provision that we need, on a daily basis.
Then the next petition: ?And forgive us our debts.? Forgive us our debts. We need to pray for spiritual forgiveness from our heavenly Father, and for financial forgiveness from merciless and unjust human creditors. I believe Jesus is thinking of both here, because He wants to see us set free. ?Forgive us our debts.? Of course, primarily we need the spiritual forgiveness of our sins. Now that has happened to us judicially. We were set free, we are justified. We will never stand before God as judge, and here we don?t say, ?We come to the judge of all the earth and ask forgiveness.? That has happened when we accepted Christ as our Savior.
When Jesus Christ becomes Lord or our lives, we are set free from our sin and we will never stand before God as judge again. All our sins are completely forgiven. That?s what it means to be justified, declared righteous before the court of heaven. That is judicial forgiveness. That is once-for-all. We won?t ever need that again. All our sins are gone, washed away.
But what He?s talking about here is parental forgiveness. In our relationship with our Father, there are things that we need to confess and ask for forgiveness. Same as my children. When they do something wrong, they come to me as father and ask for forgiveness. The relationship is not broken. Fellowship is broken, but the relationship is not broken. Just because they sin, they don?t cease to be my children.
Don?t you think it?s the same with our heavenly Father? When you sin, you remain His child, but you need to come before Him and say, ?Father, I have sinned,? and if you don?t, He will chastise you and He will deal with you until you do. That?s the glory of this relationship. Jesus says once your sins are forgiven, you never come to Him as judge again. You come to Him always as Father. The relationship is intact, but the fellowship is broken and we need to restore that fellowship and ask for that forgiveness.
Jesus says once your sins are forgiven, you never come to Him as judge again. You come to Him always as Father.
So there is this need for daily cleansing to maintain our personal communion with the Lord, and as we forgive others?He says, ?As we forgive our debtors. Forgive us as we forgive our debtors.? This shows us that Jesus is serious. If you don?t forgive others, your father won?t forgive you. It doesn?t mean to say that you?ve lost your judicial forgiveness, but it means that that fellowship link is broken and you will not be walking in a relationship with your Father and you will be missing out. You will begin to lose your reward, you?ll be under the chastisement of God your Father, so release?release other people from the sins that they have committed against you so that you will also be forgiven in you relationship with God as Father.
?And do not lead us into temptation,? Jesus says. This phrase shows that we should ask God to keep us from falling into sin and to help us overcome the trials of our lives. The Greek word for ?temptation? means both trial and temptation, and probably Jesus means both here. ?Deliver us from temptation, Lord. Help us that we don?t fall into temptation where we are likely to stumble and fall and sin. Also, Lord, deliver us out of trials, deliver us out of trials, Lord,? and God will. He knows how to deliver the godly out of trials and deliver us and strengthen us.
Then He focuses on the real issue: ?But deliver us from the evil one.? Not just saying, ?Deliver us from evil.? The Greek here is ?evil one.? The evil one. We need to be involved in a spiritual struggle ? well, we are involved in a spiritual struggle ? but we need to be victorious in that struggle, to be set free from the enemy.
And the Holy Spirit promises that as we seek God?s face and as we pray, we become strong in our stand against the evil one, and that?s how we fight our battles; that?s how we win those victories; that?s how we overcome our tests and trials.
as we seek God?s face and as we pray, we become strong in our stand against the evil one
And then Jesus? model prayer ends with this phrase taken from 1 Chronicles 29, ?For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.? This shows us that our praying must be packed with praise and triumph, so we can end our praying by thanking God for His power and for His victory in the specific situations that we have prayed about.
And that?s how we can move on a daily basis in prayer ? beginning with acknowledging God for who He is, and going through addressing Him with all that He is and all that He means to us and then asking Him for our specific needs and requirements, and ending up with praise and thanksgiving. In these six short petitions you have prayer principles that will govern you in every part of your prayer life. Every prayer you will ever need to pray is found here in the Lord?s Prayer.
That?s why I wanted to close this session on the Lord?s Prayer. Next time when we come back we will be going back to some material that I skipped through here on the great high priestly prayer of Jesus, or at least the great intercessory prayer of John 17. We will pick that up, but I wanted to end today on this note of praising God and glorifying God for all that He?s done for us.
So when you pray, know that not only does the devil tremble, but the Father rejoices. When you pray, not only do you have a place where you can go to express your needs, but you stand before the very throne of God, before the God of the universe who hears you, who answers your prayer, and there is nothing that is beyond His power and possibility. For all things are possible to Him, to God and to those who believe. So take this message with you and learn to pray like this on a daily basis.