Summary: We must pray as those who are desperate for bread.
Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to call someone for help in the middle of the night, at a time when you knew they would be fast asleep in bed? Perhaps a medical emergency of some kind – your wife is going into labor, or your husband is having chest pains and you need to drive him to the hospital. Who did you call? And if you’ve never been in that situation, ask yourself – who would you call? Most of us have family in the area, and that’s probably who you would think of first. Your parents; or one of your grown children; or perhaps a brother or sister. But imagine that you have no relatives nearby. What friend could you call on for help at three a.m., confident that he or she would gladly respond to your request for help? What friend could you get out of bed, knowing that they wouldn’t grumble or complain, but would be more than willing to meet your need? Do you have a friend like that? I hope so. I hope there are several people here in this congregation that you could call if the need arose. About a year and a half ago, Charlene and I faced that, when I had a kidney stone attack late one night. If you’ve ever had a kidney stone – and if you haven’t, I don’t recommend it – you know that the pain is excruciating. We had to get to the hospital. But we needed someone to come stay with the children. And so we called the assistant pastor, who was also a friend. Because we knew he would have no hesitation in coming to our aid, regardless of the hour.
Well, today’s Scripture text is about a man who needed help in the middle of the night, and it teaches us some important things about calling upon God in prayer.
5Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ’Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’
7"Then the one inside answers, ’Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
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. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" – Luke 11:5-13
When it comes to prayer, there are basically two things that concern us. The first is finding the motivation to pray; persuading ourselves that it’s worth the effort to actually do it. Because prayer – and here I’m talking about real prayer, prayer that expects a result, prayer that is willing to wrestle with God until he blesses you – prayer is costly. It takes time. It requires discipline and perseverance. And so, merely believing in prayer in some abstract, theoretical sense won’t cut it. That kind of belief won’t get you out of bed early in the morning to meet with God before work. It’s not strong enough to drag you away from the television in the middle of "CSI", so that you can intercede in prayer for your children. And it certainly won’t bring you out to church for a prayer meeting. In order for us to be committed to prayer, not just as a nice idea, but as something we actually practice, we must be convinced that it really does matter, that it really does make a difference whether or not we pray.
We need to believe that prayer changes things; that it’s more than just an exercise in wishful thinking. Otherwise, even if we believe we ought to pray, and even if we sincerely intend to pray, we won’t pray. And when you think about it, why should we? Why should someone get up early, or miss their favorite television program, or attend another meeting at the church, to do something that doesn’t really matter? So the first thing I want to show is that because of God’s attitude toward us, we can pray with absolute confidence that He hears us and will respond to our requests. Then second, once we’ve determined that prayer matters, we’ll look at how to go about it.