Last week, we talked about the difference between trying hard spiritually and training wisely in our spiritual lives. If we make the commitment to train spiritually, we’ll be able to accomplish things we never thought possible. Fasting and prayer are ways that we engage in spiritual training. We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about fasting; this week we’ll look at prayer.
Question: What is your attitude toward prayer? What is your prayer life like?
- Read Luke 11.5–13.
When we watch Jesus’ teaching ministry, we may notice that often He tells a story and then later unpacks the meaning of that story. That’s exactly what He does in this text.
He sets up a story in which someone is surprised by a late night guest who they need to provide food for—specifically, this guest asked for bread. During the first century, loaves of bread were very small, baked fresh each day, and usually eaten that same day. Thus, when the guest shows up at midnight, the hosts are unprepared. Wanting to take care of their guest, they wake up their neighbors and ask them for bread.
This was a bold move. Can you imagine someone if someone showed up at your house in the middle of the night and they wanted something, so you woke up your neighbors to get it for them? As audacious as such a request is now, it was even more so in the first century. The reason why the neighbor mentions his family in verse 7 is because, back then, homes usually were only one room. Thus, if you wake up one person, you’re waking up their whole family. What’s more, these homes were usually so close to each other that if you woke up one family, you’d probably wake up their neighbors as well.
Yet here is this host, waking up his neighbors in the middle of the night to get bread. And in doing so, Jesus tells us that the host ends up with exactly what he needed. Why? Because of the shameless audacity of his request.
With this story, Jesus is teaching us something about prayer—He’s instructing us to pray with a kind of shameless audacity. What is shameless audacity? If a person is shameless, it means that they’re not worried about how what they’re doing makes them look. If a person is audacious, they’re doing something boldly. They ignore common convention, like waiting until morning to ask for bread, and they just go for it. In fact, if you look up audacious in the dictionary, it says that audacious people are often perceived as being rude and even shocking.
This is how Jesus calls us to pray. Jesus tells us: Let’s be done with tepid prayers and begin praying with shameless audacity! Let’s pray with passion, boldness and conviction that some people around us might even be a little shocked by.
Question: What do you typically pray for? Do your prayers tend to be tepid and tame or bold and passionate? What will you pray for with shameless audacity this week?
Now that we know how Jesus wants us to pray, what does He want us to pray for? What should we be covering in audacious prayers? This is important. While praying for a mansion or to win the lottery may be audacious, that isn’t what Jesus had in mind.
Jesus gives us clues as to what we should pray for. Earlier in verse 3, He tells us we ought to pray for our daily bread—we ought to pray that our basic needs would be met. This same idea shows up in verse 8 where it says that the neighbor gives the host just what he needed and no more. Thus, Jesus first tells us to pray with shameless audacity that our basic needs would be met.
While some of us struggle with having basic needs—like food, clothing, or housing—many of us have our basic needs met. If that’s the case, how do we pray for our daily bread?
First, we can pray for a spirit of contentment. 1 Timothy 6.6 tells us, “If we have food and clothing, we will be [content] with that.” When we have our basic needs, we thank God and ask Him to help us be content with what He’s provided.
Second, we can pray with shameless audacity for those whose basic needs aren’t met. Lately, the news is full of refugees around the world who are struggling just to survive. We have people in our community who aren’t certain where their next meal will come from or where they will sleep tonight. We can pray for God to provide their daily bread.
In verse 13, Jesus tells us something else that we can pray for: it tells us that our Father in heaven loves to generously give the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. We pray with shameless audacity for our basic needs, and we also pray with shameless audacity for an extravagant infusion of the Holy Spirit into our lives. Why?
God tells us that it is the Holy Spirit who transforms us into an incredible person (Galatians 5.22–23). He is the One who empowers us to make an outsize difference (Colossians 1.9–10). He imparts the wisdom of God onto us (Ephesians 1.17–19). And the Holy Spirit takes us deeper into the Father’s love.
If asked what things were needed to improve their lives, many people would mention more money, a better job or a spouse. However, God says that what improves our lives most isn’t any of those things; it’s a more intensive, expansive, impactful experience of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit is so important that Jesus tells us in John 16.7 that it was better for Him to return to heaven so the Holy Spirit could come down and be with us.
Question: What things do you think would improve your life? How would having a more intensive, expansive, impactful experience of the Holy Spirit change your life?
Now that we know the what and how, why does Jesus want us to pray this way? Why does He want us to pray with shameless audacity?
We find the answer in verse 13. Jesus calls us to pray with shameless audacity because we have a Father in heaven who loves to say yes! We pray with shameless audacity because we have a God who wants to express His generosity toward us.
Question: If your prayers were all written down and someone who knew nothing about God read them, what would they learn about Him? What do your prayers communicate about your God?
Jesus calls us to pray with shameless audacity because, when we do, it shows that we know who we’re praying to. It shows that we’re praying to a Father who loves to provide and be generous—especially when it comes to sharing the Holy Spirit.
What does this mean for those of us who have prayed and God doesn’t seem to answer? Why do we sometimes pray for good things and not receive them?
- Read Romans 8.26–28.
Verse 28 tells us that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. Backtracking a bit, verse 26 tells us that, while we think we know exactly what we ought to pray for, sometimes God has a different perspective. Thus, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. We pray in weakness while the Holy Spirit intercedes with perfection. While our prayers are limited, the Holy Spirit Himself intercedes with us for our good according to the perfect will of God.
This means that God can answer our prayers in a lot of different ways. He can tell us yes, no, not yet, and not exactly (because He has something better planned). Remember, Jesus asked “Father, would You take this cup from Me? Would You spare Me the cross?” And God answered no. God’s no to this resulted in our salvation. Thus, while God doesn’t always answer how we’d like Him to, He always answers for our good.