As a pastor I am embarrassed to admit this, but prayer has often been a struggle for me. I believe in prayer. I know what the Bible teaches about prayer. I know the biblical stories that demonstrate the power of prayer. But if you were to chart my Christian life there would be significant gaps where prayer has been missing in action.
And since I am airing my baggage, I might as well let you know that I have prepared and preached many sermons with little or no prayer. I have often had a genuine desire for my prayer life to be different and I can’t tell you how many times through the years that I have recommitted to greater discipline in this area. But my recommitment was usually very short lived.
Bill Hybels says “Prayer is an unnatural activity. From birth we have been learning the rules of self-reliance as we strain and struggle to achieve self-sufficiency. Prayer flies in the face of those deep-seated values. It is an assault on human autonomy, an indictment of independent living. To people in the fast lane, determined to make it on their own, prayer is an interruption.”
Even though I know it’s not true theologically, prayer has often felt passive, like I wasn’t really DOING anything. What prayers I did pray, I would describe as boring, mechanical, obligatory, and lacking faith.
Today I want to share about a passage that has radically impacted my prayer life and how I pray about my sermons. You have probably preached on this story.
Luke 11 opens with the most general, vague, non-descript statement.
It simply says
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.
But there must have been something very compelling and different about the way that Jesus prayed, because in the very next verse we find the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray.
I don’t know if you realize this, but the only thing the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray.
In that same chapter, in verses 5-8 Jesus tells the story of man who has friend show up for an unannounced visit. And the man has no food to offer his traveling friend. So, he goes to his neighbor, and even though it is midnight, he knocks on the door and asks for bread. The neighbor is irritated and initially refuses to get up and help. But the man at the door refused to give up and keeps knocking and asking for help.
Then, the punch line of the story comes in verse 8.
I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
I am invited by God to come to his door and bring my request with shameless audacity.
That might sound a little presumptuous and irreverent, and maybe your thinking “I thought we were supposed to approach God humbly”.
There is a difference in coming to God boldly and coming to God arrogantly.
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)
That is very different than how we prayed in the church I grew up in. We always prayed sheepishly. “God, if it’s your will and you have time and it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could possibly, maybe, potentially hear my prayer.”
When you are desperate and you have a real need (like the man in the story), you don’t worry about good manners or protocol or policy. You don’t care about image or what people will think.
I love this little prayer I came across.
“Lord I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup, uncertain of asking for any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better, I would have come running with a bucket.”
That’s the invitation of this passage in Luke 11. So, let me ask you, what would it look like for you to pray with shameless audacity in your preaching?
With shameless audacity, we should start knocking on heaven’s door and asking for…
- authentic spiritual power in our preaching
- courage to boldly speak the truth
- people to have open ears and hearts
- people to be saved
- people to have a God-encounter in worship
- marriages to be healed
- a movement of God in our community
God is not a grumpy neighbor who doesn’t want to be disturbed. He is a gracious Father who delights to respond to His children.
As you prepare to preach this week, how about taking a few minutes to just pray. Knock on heaven’s door and with shameless audacity bring your desires and deepest longings to your Heavenly Father.
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