How are we to approach God?
Man, Blessed be the Name because we stand here in victory. I tell you, two amazing songs of praise for us to just praise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, ’cause it truly is a Name that we should bless. It’s a Name above all Names. Because we have victory through Christ Jesus. That same power lives inside of us. And that’s just such an amazing truth in both of those songs as they are unified together to lead us in worship this morning.
Let me invite you to take your Bibles and turn to Luke Chapter 11. We’re going to wrap up, I think, we may go a little bit further, but I think today will be the last Sunday. We do a session or a series called Lord, Teach Us To Pray. We’ve been examining how Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray. If you think back, we saw that Jesus is always praying. He is a man who puts prayer at an extremely high priority for His life and for His ministry. On this occasion He’s been praying and the disciples go up to Jesus and say, “hey teach us how to do this. Because what you’re doing, what we are seeing You do is vastly different than what the Pharisees are doing. It’s vastly different than what we were taught growing up. Teach us how to pray. Teach us how to be prayer warriors so that we can be powerful preachers. So that we can be healers and disciple makers.” They realize that it is the power of prayer that sustains and strengthens them to do the ministry that they have been called to do.
We defined prayer as communicating with God, because we are dependent upon God. We’ve looked at that throughout Luke’s telling of the Lord’s Prayer. We learned that we are praying to our Father. That we are to pray that our lives and everything we do honors His Name because His Name is holy. Then we should pray those that hard, hard prayer of Your Kingdom come. Father, help me to build Your Kingdom not my Kingdom. Help me to follow Your will not my will to be done.
We prayed that He would give us each day what we needed for that day. That He would forgive us of our sins and that He would lead us not in to temptation. That is His explanation to His disciples’ request. Lord, how do we pray? Here’s the pattern.
But then He takes this teaching a little further. After the explanation, He’s going to give an illustration. He’s going to tell a story, and that story is going to show the disciples how they are to approach God.
Now, have you ever noticed we approach people differently in life? I just did this this morning and I was sitting there singing that song and it occurred to me that I had done this. See, I approached some teenagers with my what I know to be the coolest handshake that I’ve ever developed in my entire life. And all of them are like “no”. But then I went up to some of the adults and I gave that firm strong handshake, you know. Have you ever noticed how we approach people differently? Well now we know how to pray, but how are we to approach God? What is our attitude? Or what are we supposed to do? What is it supposed to look like? So He tells this story starting in verse 5.
“Jesus says, suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight.” He might not be a friend after that, but anyway, just kidding. Just kidding. See, I do want to stop here. Midnight is the middle of the night. No electricity. So when we say midnight, it’s dark. The thing about this culture is when the sun went down there’s nothing to do. They go to sleep. So these people have been asleep for a while and it’s in the middle of the night. It’s pitch dark. But he’s our friend alright?
““Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend” ’cause that’s how you would do it if you’re going at midnight. “Friend, lend me 3 loaves of bread.” Why do you need three loaves of bread for when he explains it? “Because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed.”
Now this is a different culture. Somebody knocks on my door at midnight, I’m going to the door, but I’m going with something, OK? This guy just don’t wanna get out of bed because it’s a one room house or it’s a multiple room house but one bedroom, mom, dad, all the kids, the dogs, they’re altogether. Everybody is asleep and the guys like ‘what could you possibly need.’
Parents of teenagers. I don’t know if this happens anymore since we don’t have landlines anymore, but I remember a time when the landline existed and a girl would call at like 1:00 o’clock in the morning. That’s what we’re talking, wakes the whole house up. My mom, she would answer and make fun of me, and then make me hang up. So anyway, that’s neither here nor there.
This guy is in the bed, the whole family is in the bed, doesn’t want to be bothered, don’t want to get out, the door is already locked, and children already in bed. He says “I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s shameless boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”
That is a pretty powerful picture of how we need to approach God. Hospitality in the Middle Eastern culture was one of the most important, if not the most important things that existed. During the day, the doors would stay open in these houses and people were free to come in and out, and if you had a visitor, it was customary to feed them. If somebody showed up, you need to have food and you needed to provide for them. By the way, you see this today in places like Ecuador or Honduras. I remember going to Honduras and we went into this lady’s house and she was poor. But because we were guests, we were visitors, she felt the need to give us something because of her hospitality. We were like “we’re here to serve you.” She goes “you are my guest.”
So that’s something that we don’t really relate to today, because we in here don’t have that same kind of attitude. I mean, we’re hospitable people, but it’s not that same kind of hospitality that they showed here. So when this guy has somebody show up at his house, he better have some food. But he doesn’t because in the middle of the night and there’s no 24-hour place to go buy food. I mean, Taco Bell is not open for 24 hours here. They closed early. There actually don’t exist.
So now the guys got a tension. Do I sacrifice the hospitality that I have to show my guests? Or do I go ask for help? Asking for help means waking an entire family? What’s the tension? What would we do? So we see this dilemma and Jesus is using this story, very specifically, to teach the disciples that when we approach God, we need to do so with boldness.
That phrase that says “the friend’s shameless boldness”, it could be read shameless, or it could be read as boldness. Some translations say persistent. It’s really bold. Because think about how much nerve it takes to go knock on somebody’s door in the middle of the night when they’re asleep. When we approach God in prayer, we’re to do so with big, bold prayers. We’re to do so without withholding anything. Now, I want to say this, God will accept those big bold prayers. A confusion with this story is that God is maybe portrayed as a grumpy, old man who’s not going to get out of bed unless you keep knocking. But that’s not what Jesus is doing in this story. He’s not comparing the guy in the back with God, he’s contrasting the two. What Jesus is saying is if the old, grumpy guy in the back of the house will get up, how much more is God going to get up immediately for the bold request? When we pray, don’t be afraid to pray big, bold prayers. Don’t be afraid to go to God’s door and say, “this is a problem and I need a God sized solution to that problem.”
As a church, we need to be praying. We need to be going to the Lord. By the way, it’s midnight so anytime, God is always there for us. Noon morning night. But when we go, we go with bold big prayers. Prayers like Father, help us to baptize 100 people in a year. Help us to have the money to support more and more Bibles to go to Tanzania that will spread the Gospel. Pray big, bold prayers that the people of Tanzania will hear the Gospel, receive the Gospel and repent and believe. Big, bold prayers.
September the 12th is Fill The Tank Sunday. Baptist churches around the state of North Carolina are going to fill their baptismal pools and they are going to baptize people. This is done in faith today. As we are making plans to fill the tank because we know God is going to reach people and so we pray big bold prayers. God, we don’t know who needs the Gospel. We don’t know how many people we’re going to reach, but let’s pray the big bold prayers that on September the 12th, or before or anytime in between or after that, we are baptizing people. That the Gospel is being proclaimed, and the reason that’s a bold prayer is ’cause people don’t want to hear it, people are scared to proclaim. But that is how we approach God. Big, bold prayers.
But then Jesus continues to teach on how we should approach God. Look at verse 9. “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, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” We approach God with boldness and persistence. But I don’t want you to misunderstand what persistent means. It doesn’t mean that we have one prayer request and we’re going to pray the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over until God answers it. It’s not how God works. The idea of persistence is that we are going to pray continuously about every single thing in our life. We don’t just approach God with this one big bold request. We approach God with every request, every bold prayer and we do it over and over and over. God doesn’t want us to communicate with him once a year or once a week. He wants us to pray all the time.
The Bible teaches that we are to pray continuously giving thanks always. That is the persistence, and with that command comes a promise. For everyone who receives everyone who asks receives. Is it possible you have not received that big, bold prayer because you haven’t asked? Is it possible that thing that’s been aching at you and bothering you? Is it possible the church hasn’t been baptizing people because we haven’t asked for Him to give us people to reach? Is it possible we can’t raise enough funds to do these other things because we haven’t asked for it? Not just this church, any church. If we ask, we will receive.
Now let’s just be honest. Let’s go back to the Lord’s Prayer. We’re going to receive our needs, not our greeds. If you ask for a brand-new convertible, I’m not going to say God is going to give that to you. He might, if it serves His purpose, but I doubt it. But we still take these prayers to Him. Anyone who asks receives. If you knock, the door will be opened. Very much different than the guy in the story. Like, I’m not going to get out of bed, but God says if you ask, I’m gonna get up. I’m going to help you because I’m actually waiting for you to not. I’m waiting for you to talk to Me every day, every moment of every single day when we approach God, we do so with persistence.
And then He continues to build on this in verse 11. “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Just think about it if you have kids. My daughter says, “hey, make me some scrambled eggs.” I’m not going to go out to the backyard and scramble some scorpions. I don’t care how mad she’s made me. I don’t care what she’s done to disobey me. I’m not gonna make her scorpions. I’m not gonna go pick up a snake and say, oh you wanted bread? Here you go. Jennifer would kick me out of the house if I brought in a snake. How much more does God provide for the needs of His kids, of His children? If we will treat each other and if we will provide for our children, how much more does God desire to answer our prayers.
Now listen very closely, some of you, metaphorically or as in illustration, have been praying for snakes and scorpions and you haven’t gotten them, and you’re pretty mad about it. Some of you have been praying what you think you want, but God knows that thing is a snake or scorpion, so He’s not going to give it to you. And we’re pretty mad at God about it. But what you’ve got to see in this story is that we are approaching a God who knows what’s best for us. He knows that we don’t need that thing we’re asking for.
Now some of that stuff we don’t understand, and there’s been all of us have experienced times where we have prayed and those prayers have not been answered and we don’t get it. It’s been things have been very painful for us. We paid, prayed for a loved one that loved one has passed. We’ve prayed for this we’ve prayed for that and we haven’t gotten it and we don’t understand. But listen to me, God does. God knows what we need and He will give us what we need. And here’s what’s so amazing when we really get in tune with God and when we’re really reading the scriptures and praying and praying that prayer “Father, Your will be done,” then those bold things we ask for will be exactly what God wants us to ask for. And He will give us the answer to those prayers.
So we approach God with boldness. We approach God with persistence. And we approach God with trust knowing that He has our best interest at heart. Do you trust Him enough to pray the bold prayer over and over? Do you trust Him enough to come to Him every day? Do you trust Him to say no to some of those prayer requests? Because He knows what’s best for you.
In the late 1700s there was a man. He was a nobody; no big education and he was young. He was a young man from nowhere. But he had a bold idea and a bold vision, and this man prayed some really bold prayers. This man goes to a meeting of other pastors who are much older, much more educated much more experienced, leaders of the church in the day, and he stands up and he proclaims that his bold vision is to take the Gospel to the world. You’re like, why is that bold? We do that. In the 1700s, the Protestant church, the foundation of our Baptist faith did not take the Gospel to the world. They did not believe in missions. They did not believe the Great Commission applied to them. They believe it applied to the disciples and only the disciples, but this man, this young nobody with no education stands up in a room of these elite pastors and says we are going to take this message to the nations because Jesus said so.
One the old pastor stands up and he looks out, he says, “sit down, young man. When God wants to convert the heathen, He will do so without consulting you or me.” His boldness was silenced. So he sat down in the meeting but he didn’t shut up. He kept praying and he kept preaching. And anybody who had listened, he told this bold vision he had. And one day this man went to India. And started translating the Bible into their language. Most of his children died. His wife went crazy and left. And for seven years he worked in the mission field with nothing to show for it and then one day after the bold prayers and the bold action someone got saved. Then another person got saved and then another person got saved and then another and then another and another.
Today we Southern Baptists follow the model that William Carey developed in the 1700s for missions. The boldness of a vision, the boldness of his prayers and the boldness of his actions will be remembered for an eternity. That’s amazing. Will you pray the same kind of bold prayers that William Carey prayed? Because after him was Hudson and all the other great missionaries that we know about because one man prayed the bold prayer. What will your bold prayer be for your life and for this church?
Is it to baptize 100 people in a year? Or 50 people in a year. Or 200 people in a year? Is it to plant churches somewhere? Is God calling you and your family to be missionaries to plant a church somewhere. What’s the bold prayer? Is it to give more? Is it to do more? What do you need to boldly pray and persistently trust God with today? Think about it.
Father, we are so grateful. We’re so grateful for Jesus. We’re grateful that He is teaching us and showing us how we can talk to our Father. We’re grateful that He shows us that God desires big, bold prayers because He is a big, bold God. But He also cares about all of our prayers and He wants to answer everything for His glory and for our good. Help us to develop a prayer life that is completely in line with the will of God. Show us the bold direction that You would have us to go. Show us the bold prayers that we need to pray and the bold actions we need to take. And we love You and we thank You and we ask all this in Jesus’ Name. Amen, Amen.