Teach Us to Pray
Text: Luke 11:1-13 | Listen to Message
The attached sermon unpacks 6 “P’s” of Christian prayer from this text of Scripture: The Priority, The Privilege, The Pattern, The Persistence, The Promise, and The Presence of it. While these are all important for a comprehensive understanding of the whats, hows, and whys of prayer, let’s just focus on just the last two here.
The Promise of Christian Prayer
In verses 9-10, Jesus tells his disciples, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
On the surface, it might sound as if Jesus is giving us a blank slate: “You pray for whatever you want – the sky’s the limit – and I’ll give it to you!”
But, no. God is not our genie in a bottle granting our every impulsive wish. He’s not a vending machine spitting out the exact treats we selected after dropping our quarters in the prayer slot. Nor does He treat us like Pavlov’s dog – programming us to expect trinkets as an immediate and proportional result of how many times we pressed that button of prayer.
See, God isn’t interested in transactional prayers. And He certainly isn’t interested in shaping your “faith” into something that’s cheap, shallow, flimsy, demanding, and self-centered. If anything, He’s doing the opposite in your life: He’s forging a gritty, enduring, settled trust that can stand up to the pain and suffering of the real world.
So the promise is simply that God will answer our prayers with something that’s ultimately good for us. Tim Keller puts it like this: “God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows” (Prayer, p. 228). And, oh, how often He does the latter of those two things! How often He’s willing to disappoint us in the short term in order to love us as we truly need to be loved and to lead us as we truly need to be led!
The Presence of Christian Prayer
This is verse 13: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give _____________ to those who ask him!”
When you read this, what words do you expect to be there in the blank? Read it again. If we know how to give good gifts to our children, then how much more does the heavenly Father know how to give good gifts to His children! But instead of “good gifts,” Jesus says the Father knows how to give you “the Holy Spirit.” And at first glance, that might seem anticlimactic. I mean, the Spirit is great and all, but we really just want what we want, don’t we?
But think about why the gift of the Spirit is the greatest possible news you could ever hear about your prayer life! Let’s say for the sake of illustration you were hungry, so you were praying for an egg. Instead of giving you an egg, God gives you a chicken. Would you be disappointed or angry because you got something totally different than what you were asking for? Or would you praise God’s abundant wisdom and grace in giving you the source of eggs rather than a single egg?
Isn’t this kind of what God is doing by giving us His Spirit?
- We ask for a gift, Jesus gives the Giver!
- We ask for help, Jesus gives the Helper!
- We ask for counsel, Jesus gives the Counselor!
- We ask for comfort, Jesus gives the Comforter!
- We ask for a cup of water, Jesus gives the Fountain!
Do you know what Jesus is ultimately showing us? Prayer is less about getting what we want from God, and it’s more about getting God Himself!
So, stop seeking God’s hand and learn to seek His face! Ask for His presence in your life – and persistently keep asking. In the end, what you’ll find is that often in place of good gifts God chooses to give you the best gift: Himself!