Sunday, March 15, 2015
Opening the Door ~ BOLDNESS
None of us would ever think of knocking on a neighbor’s door in the middle of the night if we needed food – we would run down to the 24 hour Weis store and buy some, but that option wasn’t available in Jesus’ day. For us to really understand what Jesus is teaching here we need to understand what life was like in the small villages where Jesus lived. I want to share with you a short video from the Deeper Connection series narrated by Jarrett Stevens which is part of our small group material for this series. He takes us to a recreated village in Nazareth and shows us what life would have been like in the time of Jesus and helps set the larger setting for this story. Video
So the man in Jesus story went to this particular friend because he knew that he was the one in the village who had bead to spare because the stoves were outside of his home and it was his day to make bread. He went to this man for help because he knew he had the resources to help him, but he also his friend would be motivated to help. The motivation was the basic law of hospitality that governed much of the culture in Jesus day.
The law of hospitality said that if you could help someone in need – you did, no matter the cost. If you helped – you would be honored and blessed by God and if didn’t you would be shamed. While it may not be true in our society, honor and shame were strong motivators in Jesus’ day. Those values ran deep into people’s understanding of right and wrong and what it meant to be faithful to God and no one wanted to be known as someone who didn’t do the right thing and help someone in need.
So the man asked his friend for help because he knew he had both the ability and motivation to help and Jesus tells this story to teach us that we can pray and ask for help because God has both the ability and the motivation to help us, but the motivation isn’t shame, or even honor, it’s love, look at what Jesus says in Luke 11:11-13.
So if we who are evil know how to do the right thing, how much more will God, who is good and loving do the right thing. God is motivated out of his love for us and when it says God gives us the Holy Spirit it means God is giving us everything he has, not just what we ask for. God is motivated to do the right thing out of his sense of righteousness and honor. Because God is good we can ask Him for help and know we won’t find someone who will tell us to go away because it’s late, but a God who is always willing to listen and get involved. So when we pray, we are praying to a God who has both the ability and the desire to help.
But the story doesn’t just teach us about the God to whom we pray, it also teaches us something about how and when we can pray. The first thing it tells us is that we can pray for anything at anytime and in any place. This man asked his friend for bread in the middle of the night after his friend had already gotten into bed and didn’t want to be disturbed. In many ways it is a bold request, but the man reaches out to his friend because he is in need and doesn’t want to be shamed by not provide for his guests. Jesus is telling us that is ok for us to ask God for what we need anytime and anywhere. Now for us, that may not seem very new because we have grown up with this idea that we can pray anytime and anywhere, but this wasn’t true in Jesus day.
A few weeks ago we learned that prayer in Jesus day was really confined to certain times of the day. You prayed at dawn, 9:00 AM, Noon and 3 PM and then at sunset. There were set times for prayer and that was when people prayed, but here Jesus is saying, if you need something in the middle of the night, it is ok to pray. If you are in trouble and need God’s help in this instant, it is ok to pray. If you are nowhere near a church or any congregation but need help, it is ok to pray - God will be there. We can pray for anything we need, anytime of the day or night and in any location we find ourselves in. In fact, God wants us to reach out to him when we are in need.
One of the common themes we have seen through this series is that prayer is personal. Jesus teaches us that we can call God our father, or Dad, and that it is ok to run to him when we need to. Just as we run to family and friends when we are in need, we can also run to God. We don’t need to wait, we don’t need to get help or find someone to go with us; we can run to God and ask for help. What a gift God has given to us. The door is always open and we can come to God anytime and anywhere.
Not only can we ask at all times and in all places but we can also ask with boldness or confidence because God is able and wants to help. The man who went to his friend asked with boldness because he was confident his friend would answer and that he could and would give him bread. He was bold in his asking because he expected a positive response, he knew his friend would come through. When we pray we need to be bold in our asking and in our expectation of a response. So let’s talk about our expectations in prayer.
Do we pray expecting God to respond or just hoping that God might hear us? There’s a difference. I heard about a community a few years ago that was going through a drought and the people gathered together to ask God to send rain. While dozens of people gathered and many people prayed, there was only one little girl who came with an umbrella. She was the only one who expected God to actually do something. When we pray do we expect God to actually do something? This expectation can’t be filled with arrogance or pride, we aren’t demanding something from God, but we can ask with humble assurance that God is able to help us and like the good father – He wants to help us. God may not always answer the way we think God should and we will talk a little bit about this next week, but boldness in prayer means praying with the expectation that God can and will do something.
That’s the main point of this story. The man went to this friend because he had the means to provide bread and he knew his friend would help. The man went expecting to get bread when he asked and we need to ask with the expectation that God will provide. Praying with boldness means praying with the expectation that God will move. When we pray for our own personal needs, when we pray for our families, schools and communities we need to pray expecting that God will do something. When we pray for the situations of injustice and violence that we see in the world we need to pray with the conviction and assurance that God can and will do something. We also need to be prepared to act because God just might be planning to do something through us.
Not only does Jesus teach us that we can be bold in prayer but he gives us direction on how we can grow in boldness. Look at Luke 11:9-10. Jesus is encouraging us to first look to God for help in any and all situations. We need to seek God’s kingdom first which means looking for God’s will and power to work in our lives and in the situations we are lifting up. We learned in the Lord’s Prayer that we have to seek God’s will and kingdom before we move on and pray for what we need. Our lives need to be in line with God’s life before we start asking for things and if they are in line then our prayers will be more confident and bold.
So to become bold in prayer means seeking God’s will and then asking God for help. The man in need in Jesus story didn’t just look around to see who might have bread, he actually asked for bread, he had to be willing to humble himself and ask for help. We can’t be afraid to ask God for help. We can’t be afraid to simply lay our requests before God, even when we aren’t exactly sure what we need or even want. But we don’t just ask, we can actually knock on the door with the expectation that God will open it for us and supply what we need. The word for knock here doesn’t imply a polite tapping on the door as if you don’t want to disturb the person inside, it means almost beating down the door to get what we need.
Now to be clear, Jesus isn’t saying we should be rude and demanding when we ask, but he is saying that it is ok to ask with courage and conviction because we know God will not just hear us but help us. The man in Jesus story didn’t just look around his community to see who might be the family with extra bread that night, he went and asked for it. And when the friend didn’t seem to want to help, the man didn’t go away, he stayed and maybe knocked again, or pounded again and again until the man got up and gave him the bread. He was bold. He sought out what he needed. He asked for it and with the courage of his conviction he continued to ask for it. Being bold means having faith and trusting God can and will help and it’s asking for what we need with courage and persistence.
Now the good news is we don’t have to beat down God’s door in order for him to help because like a loving father, God is good and God says He will open the door for us. When we seek God’s will and kingdom, we will find it, when we ask God will provide and when we knock the door will be opened, that’s the promise Jesus makes with us and it is this promise that allows to be bold in prayer.
Seeking God’s will for our lives, asking God for help at all times and in all places and persisting in prayer is also the road to a deeper relationship with God. When God opens the door to us he doesn’t just shove out what we need and then slam the door shut, God actually invites us in or steps out to joins us in our lives so that together we can move forward. Prayer opens the door to a deeper relationship with the living God, but only if we will bold and pray.
Opening the Door ~ BOLDNESS
1. What outrageously bold request has a friend seriously asked of you? How did their request for help make you feel?
2. We can be bold in prayer because God is able and motivated to help us. Which is more difficult for you to believe and why?
• God is able to help me.
• God is motivated to help me.
3. Through Jesus we see God’s power to help and God’s desire to help. How can these stories help you trust that…
• God is able to help me
o Luke 7:11-17
o Luke 8:26-39
o Luke 9:10-17
• God is motivated to help me
o Luke 5:12-26
o Luke 13:10-17
o Luke 18:35-43
4. When it comes to prayer, Jesus gives us a model of how to grow in boldness: Seek ~ Ask ~ Knock
• What need / desire are you looking for God to provide?
• How can you ask God for this help?
• What would it look like for you to knock on God’s door?
5. What outrageously bold request can YOU pray this week:
• For your life and family
• For Faith Church and God’s church around the world
• For the world
6. Pray the Lord’s Prayer and consider its BOLDNESS.