#376 - ASK, SEEK, KNOCK (21/6/21)
There are things that it is easy to be persistent in. Breathing is something that we are all really good at doing on a regular basis! Drinking and eating is something that we are all devoted to doing every day. However, why is it that we find prayer so difficult to do faithfully. Forgive me if it’s just me, but prayer requires a choice and discipline. something that is the greatest privilege - talking to our heavenly Father - is difficult. Tim Keller wrote in his fantastic book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God,
‘I can think of nothing great that is also easy. Prayer must be, then, one of the hardest things in the world. To admit that prayer is very hard, however, can be encouraging. If you struggle greatly in this, you are not alone.’
The New Testament is full of encouragement to pray faithfully because God knows that praying is something that we need constant encouragement with. This week’s section in The Sermon on the Mount begins,
“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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
We must learn to be persistent in prayer if we are to enjoy all the good things that the Father has for us (See 7:10). We are not to presume on the Father. The Christian life is not to be passive. We are to ‘seek first the Kingdom’ and this involves prayer. Jesus taught His disciples to pray (see 6:9-13) and He continues to teach His church to pray if we will listen. To quote Tim Keller again,
‘The infallible test of spiritual integrity, Jesus says, is your private prayer life. Many people will pray when they are required by cultural or social expectations, or perhaps by the anxiety caused by troubling circumstances. Those with a genuinely lived relationship with God as Father, however, will inwardly want to pray and therefore will pray even though nothing on the outside is pressing them to do so. They pursue it even during times of spiritual dryness, when there is no social or experiential payoff.’ (Keller, Timothy. Prayer)
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
Jesus told this parable to teach us persistence. It begins,
‘Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.’ (Luke 18:1)
Jesus wants us to pray perseveringly - to keep ‘asking, seeking and knocking’. We are to persist generally but also for specific things that we want. He continues,
‘He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” (Luke 18:2-5)
Jesus is not saying that God is like an unjust judge who will only respond because we keep bothering Him. No! He's saying that even the unjust will do what you want if you try hard enough, how much more your Heavenly Father! It ends with,
‘And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”’ (Luke 18:7-8)
The Father will answer your persistent prayers! Jesus adds, ‘However, will He find faith on the earth?” Jesus makes us this wonderful promise about prayer but many will not listen and respond. Does He find faith in you today? Are we willing to be a people who are willing to pray and pray perseveringly?
Persistence in prayer requires knowledge, skills and motivation. Let’s briefly think about how we can acquire the skills that we need in order to pray persistently.
Today I’ll briefly recap what we looked at in devotionals #356 - #360 about how we can use The Lord’s Prayer as a structure to our praying.
Please read Matthew 6:9-13
If you look at The Lord’s Prayer, you’ll see that it can be broken into 4 major themes of Praise (6:9) , Petitions (6:10-11), Peace-making (Matthew 6:12) and Protection (Matthew 6:13).
Choose a text of scripture and use the Lord’s prayer structure to help you to pray:
1. Praise - What does this text teach me about God? What can I praise Him for?
2. Petitions - What does this teach me about His will for me and others? What could I pray for from this text? This is a good time to pray for our non-believing friends. It’s good to ask, Is the Holy Spirit leading me in any specific response?
3. Peace-making - Is the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin for which I need forgiveness? Do I need to forgive others?
4. Protection - Ask for God’s protection generally and for any specific areas of vulnerability. Am I believing lies regarding the truths in this text?
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - THIS WEEK IS A WEEK OF PRAYER.
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