Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Learning to Pray - In Secret, Ask, Seek and Knock

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
‘Give us each day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

“So I say to you, 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 he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?  Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Since this blog series is about prayer, we'll just skip the fact that Jesus was praying and any implications that might be made around that fact.  But one of the things I do want you to see is something that most people consider anecdotal:  "It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place ..."

Why do we find a reference to "a certain place?"  If there was something special about a particular place, say the garden of Gethsemane, then why wouldn't we be told exactly the name of that place?  I think we would, but that's not the case.  Rather, the important thing we're left to understand is that there most definitely was a "certain place." 

So why is that important?  Because it's important that you designate a place for payer.  This isn't to say that you cannot pray in any place at any time, but you need a retreat, a secret place:
But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.  (Matthew 6:6)
The Model Prayer
It took me a long time to figure out that the Lord's prayer is a model, not something we're supposed to corporately repeat week after week, which is why I typically avoid repeating it at the pre-defined time.  There are a plethora of bible studies and sermons on this prayer, but suffice it to say we should remember to acknowledge who He is, and the necessity for us to be in harmony with His will and that as His will is in Heaven, so should it be here.  We ask for our needs to be met and then confess our sins, and acknowledge our responsibility to forgive those who sin against us.  And lastly, we ask for protection.  The model prayer is something in which we should pay special attention to the order of the given concepts.  We will express our priorities through prayer, and the model prayer helps us keep our priorities in line with His priorities.

Ask, Seek, Knock
This is where the meat of the lesson lives.  We find a man, who upon having a friend arrive from a long journey, realizes that he has nothing to set before him.  In other words, he can't meet his needs, which for any of us in a similar situation, would be embarrassing.

Asking is a necessary step.  So, lets assume, for argument's sake, that the man asked his wife, "where is the food?"  Upon learning there was none to be had, his next step was seeking.  So, out of his house he went, seeking food for the hungry traveler and seeking after the friend whom he knew could meet his needs.  Upon finding his friend's house, he then knocked on the door.   He could have just stood at the door, upon finding it closed.  But if he had done that, then the door would have never opened.  Many times, God provides provision, but we refuse to knock.

One of the things we must avoid when considering this example is that God is not annoyed with us, neither are we an inconvenience when encountered through prayer.  The point the Jesus is making regarding the two men is two fold: true friends meet each others needs, and secondly, you have to seek, ask and knock when opportunities are presented.
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
Relationship and Persistence
So, why did the man go to his friends house?  I know, it's a rhetorical question, but it's worth considering.  He could have stopped at any other house along the way.  The answer is simple: when we ask favors of people whom we have not earned the right to impose upon, we are more often than not, rejected.  But our friends are different.  We've invested in them and we've earned the right to ask favors of them.  True friends help one another, and there is no more truer a friend than Jesus.  Again, we're getting back to knowing the nature of God, for we don't earn the right to ask, seek and knock at His door, rather we are imputed with that authority.

But why the persistence?  Because persistence represents conviction - the conviction that we know who we're dealing with, that we know the nature of God, and that we know His will.  The man continued to knock on the door because he knew that eventually, his friend would get up and meet his needs.   While persistence helped, it was the relationship that provided a basis for having his needs met.  And that's the position from which we must approach God.



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