Application Of The "Lord's Prayer"
April 07, 2019 | Randy Smith
Application Of The “Lord’s Prayer”
Sunday, April 7, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
As we work through the amazing Gospel of Luke, we have before us a very fascinating account in verses 5-13. It is basically two parables, stories, taught by our Lord on the subject of prayer. Clearly that’s the context as they follow verses 1-4 commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer” that we studied last week.
“The Lord’s Prayer,” probably better titled “The Disciple’s Prayer,” is a model prayer. It provided for us a skeleton, organization of our thoughts, subjects we should include in our prayers.
As I also mentioned last week, our pride and prayer don’t mix very well. The lack of prayer or the subjects we pray about is often an indication of how self-focused we really are. I believe that is why Jesus gave us “The Disciple’s Prayer.”
For instance, we are told to pray that God’s name be hallowed. Our natural tendency is to champion our name, our feelings, our desires. We are told to pray that God’s kingdom come. Our natural tendency is to champion our little world, agenda and plans. Continuing, why ask for daily bread when I work hard to put food on the table? Why ask for God’s forgiveness when I believe I do more good than bad? Why ask for protection in temptation when I believe I am able to overcome the evil one in my own strength?
So verses 1-4 is a skeleton for our prayers – straightforward instruction. Now verses 5-13, the two parables, are the skin for our prayers. In this section we are given an understanding of who God is, what He feels about our prayers and how He answers our prayers. So last week was what we should pray. This week is why we should pray.
That is where we are going. Let’s begin with the first of two parables.
The First Parable (verses 5–8)
Since a parable is an earthly story with a spiritual meaning, let me first paint the earthly picture so we can rightly understand it from a heavenly perspective which is what really matters.
Back in the first century people would travel on foot. Since the inns were rare, corrupt and expensive, they would often stay at another’s house. Hospitality was key and it was expected that you would provide shelter and food for a visitor.
In this particular situation, a traveler comes to a friend’s house late in the evening. Most traveled during the day so this visit is clearly unexpected. The friend takes him in, but realizes there is nothing to food-wise to provide for his guest. Back then food was available often only on a daily basis [Disciple’s Prayer]. There were no 24-hour market open down the street.
So realizing he cannot provide for his guest, at midnight (verse 5 says) the host starts knocking on his neighbor’s door saying, verses 5 and 6, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’” Don’t think of three loaves in terms of our understanding. Three loaves would be three pieces of bread – basically enough for one meal.
Verse 7, the neighbor responds as we would expect. “Do not bother me!” In other words, “We are all sleeping. This is an insane request at this hour of the evening. Your friend will be just fine without his midnight snack. Go away and feed him yourself in the morning!”
Actually his excuse is recorded in verse 7. “Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” It was probably a one-room house with the entire family sleeping together on a mat on the ground. “The house is locked and we’re all trying to sleep!”
Now in verse 8, Jesus says, “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence [anaideia] he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”
So based on that, we can conclude that the sleeping neighbor has no desire to help provide for this need. Moreover, even their friendship is not enough motivation to be inconvenienced. Yet because his neighbor is “persistent” in asking, he breaks down and provides three loaves of bread.
In other words, “Leave me alone! No friend of mind would bother me at this hour. Would you stop knocking on my door! Great, the wife and kids are all awake now. Go away! You are not going to stop asking, are you? For the sake of peace in my home and the appreciation of the rest of our neighborhood, I’ll give you what you want just to get you off my back. Since you wore me out, here’s your bread. Now let me go back to sleep.”
So what does that early story teach us about prayer? At face value, based on all the sermons I’ve heard it’s very simple. This is the traditional interpretation. Be persistent in your prayer. Verse 9, keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking. If God is reluctant to respond to what you want, wear Him out. And through your persistence in prayer, God will eventually meet your request.
I thought about that this week and it just didn’t sit right with me. I know the context is asking, seeking and knocking. I know we should be persistent in prayer. But is the point of the story our need to wear God out until He responds in the way we request?
Is it that God will eventually grant every request of His children? Is it that God changes His mind in regard to our prayers? Is it that God is making His plans along the way? Is it that I can change the will of God? Is it that I want to change the will of God? Is it that God is obligated to give me everything I want? Is it that I can provide God more information? Is it that God needs to be awoken from His sleep? Is it that God is grouchy and reluctant to answer? Is it that God answers prayer when we wear Him out? I’d have to say “no” to all of these. Through the grid of good theology, the traditional interpretation just does not stand.
The pagans approached their gods in this manner. They sought to “fatigue the gods” to answer. They believed the gods were reluctant to answer. They sought to control the gods by using the right words and formulas. This is not the God I know!
After further study I realized that Greek word translated “persistence” (anaideia) was rarely, if ever, used in a positive way back then. It was most often translated negatively with words such as disgrace or imprudence (ESV) or shamelessness (NIV). But if that is true, how do Christians go imprudently or shamelessly before God in prayer? Maybe the subject of this word is not the one requesting (as it is often thought), but rather the one who is being requested – the sleeping neighbor.
So we look a little deeper at this story. Jesus makes it clear that the neighbor answers the request for bread, not because he’s a friend, but because of shame (his own anaideia). Or we could say, to avoid shame.
What does the culture back then teach us about this? Unlike today, hospitality was huge. It was the epitome of disgrace if you did not adequately provide for your guest. Think about it. Apart from being insane what in the world would motivate a guy to knock on his neighbor’s door at midnight for some bread? There is no way I would do that! I don’t care if you came to my house and you hadn’t eaten for a week. I’d be like, go to bed, you’ll forget about your hunger and we’ll get you something in the morning!
But it was different back then. Whether your guest asked or not, you provided. And if you don’t have (which most didn’t have daily bread), you find someone who does. And (listen!) if someone knocks on your door needing food for a guest you are obligated to provide for them so they can provide for their guest. Motivation by shame! And when you live in a shame/honor society it is indeed powerful motivation!
As this parable was understood back then, the shame was not asking a neighbor for bread at midnight, the shame was not attempting to provide food for the guest who just arrived. Great shame that would have spread throughout the village would have been on both the host and the neighbor. If this neighbor did not provide the host would go to someone else and the neighbor’s reputation would have been disgraced. The neighbor gives in the middle of the night to protect his good name.
Here is the spiritual point – So is God grumpy and selfish? No! Rather if a grumpy, selfish neighbor won’t serve a friend, but does act to preserve his reputation, how much more will a good Father in heaven act on behalf of His children to protect His reputation?
Staying with the “Disciple’s Prayer,” if God (verse 2) is indeed our “Father” and He desires His “name” to be hallowed and great, what does it say if we pray according to His will and promises and He refuses to answer our prayers? Is that a good Father? Is that a trustworthy God?
Though people struggle with the sovereignty of God in all things it is because God is sovereign and foremost in His own affections that we do have motivation and hope when we pray. Praise God that He and His will are more important than ours! Praise God that He answers prayer according to His wisdom and His goodness. Our prayers come with power when we do pray, “Hallowed be your name [and] Your kingdom come.”
“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 Jn. 5:14).
The Second Parable (verses 9–13)
That takes us to our second point, the second parable. If God is not like the grumpy selfish neighbor, so when we come to Him with a need what is He like? As we saw last week in the Disciple’s Prayer, as I already mentioned in this sermon and as we will see right now, He is a loving and caring and wise Father.
Verse 9, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” And it is repeated in verse 10. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”
This is not saying we should keep bothering God so we can wear Him out to give us what we desire. Of course not! If my son asks me for something unwise, unspiritual, damaging to his health, would a good father eventually give in just to get the kid off your back? That’s shame for the child and shame for the parent!
Furthermore, this is not a black check whereby God is obligated because of His reputation to give us everything we want. Oftentimes our prayers are not according to His will, either His will as to how He wants to run His world or His will as to giving us only what is best. Yes, as a loving Father God always answers our prayers, but it is not always with a “yes.” Sometimes He answers with a “No, I love you too much to give you that” or a “Great request, but now is not the right time.” As one author said, we don’t bend God’s will by bending His ear. Why would I want God to give me what I think is best?
We are commanded to come before God in prayer. We ask, seek and knock. We persist. We come boldly. We storm the gates of heaven in desperation for His grace to help us in our time of need, knowing that He is a wise and loving Father. Technically, it’s not so much about our asking, seeking and knocking as it is a heavenly Father that responds to our asking, seeking and knocking. This is God-centered, mot man-centered.
Verses 11–12, “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?”
Is a loving father going to give his child something that might trick him when he asks? Is a loving father going to respond to a good request by providing something dangerous?
Verse 13, Therefore, “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?”
In other words, good parents give good gifts to their children who ask, but compared to God’s goodness, even the best parent is evil. So if evil people know how to give good gifts, how much more does a perfectly good God? According to “The Disciple’s Prayer” (verses 3-4), He gives food, He forgives sins and He provides spiritual strength. Those are just some of the truly good gifts we should desire.
And He doesn’t just give good gifts. According to verse 13 He gives the Source of every good gift, the Holy Spirit Himself who takes up residence in our lives.
Children who trust their parents do not hesitate to ask and they believe when they ask, their parents will provide what is best. This might not always translate to our early parents and to some degree we all fall short, but God is always faithful to respond.
Prayer glorifies Him. It expresses our dependence. It expresses our trust. It expresses our desire to see Him glorified. Bending God’s ear does not motivate us to pray. But God desiring to glorify Himself truly does.
Prayer is yearning to see not my will, but God’s will done. Prayer is about aligning myself with Him. Prayer is about knowing that God has ordained all things – not just the end, but also the means by which they come about. And it’s about knowing that my prayers are part of those means.