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Luk 11,1-11 Ask, search, knock

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Date: August 19, 2007 Where: SHMC Words:

Sermon Title: Ask, Search, Knock

Text:  Lukas 11: 1-11

W. L: Vic Toews                                                                                                          

Often when we pray

       We come before God

       With our wishlist of hopes and dreams

       Of things we want God to do for us.

Sometimes we really want to tell God

       What he should do and how he should answer our prayers.


Shadowlands is a powerful movie

       Based on the life of C.S. Lewis.

In one scene Lewis has just return from London to Oxford.

Thru interesting circulmstances he met Joy Gresham,

       And American woman who was interested in his writings.

Later on in the story

       Lewis marries Joy Gresham in a private ceremony

       In her hospital room, since she has developed cancer.

Thru her illness,

       A strong bond of friendship has developed

       And they discover the profound love

That they now share for each other.

After the wedding,

       As Lewis returns to the College in Oxford where he teaches,

       Harry Harrington, and episcopalian Priest

       Ask what news he has.

Lewis decides to share about the wedding

       And not the cancer.

And he says, “Ah, good news, I think, Harry.

       “Yes, good news.”

Harrington doesn’t know about the wedding and assumes

       That Lewis is referring to Joy’s improving condition.

And he responds,

       “I know how much you have prayed…

       Now God has answered your prayer.”

And Lewis answers,

       “That is not why I pray, Harry.

       I pray, because I cannot help myself.

       I pray because I’m helpless and needy

       Whether I wake or sleep.

       It doesn’t change God;

       It changes me.”


Prayer doesn’t change God…

       It changes me!

Often when we pray

       We attempt to convince God to do it our way –

       Or at least to influence God’s thoughts.

Especially when we pray for the health of loved one…

How many of us have not agonized in prayer

       Like Jesus in the garden,

       “If it is possible,

       Let this cup pass me by.”

And reluctantly we add,  

       “but… not my will…”

       And we wrestle with that lump in our throat…

       “but your will be done.”

It just doesn’t seem natural

       To submit our needs -

       That we can see and feel –

       To the will of a God that we cannot see.

Jesus’ disciples must have felt that too

       When they sais to him,

       “Master, teach us to pray.”

       “We don’t know how to pray

       In order to change God –

       Or at least in order to influence God’s will.”

“So, teach us.”

And Jesus taught them

       What we know today as “the Lord’s Prayer”.

And then he followed that up with a parable.

The parable of the “annoying friend at midnight”.

Luke 11:5-13

5-6Then he said,

"Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend

in the middle of the night and said,

'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread.

An old friend traveling through just showed up,

and I don't have a thing on hand.'

 7"The friend answers from his bed,

'Don't bother me. The door's locked;

my children are all down for the night;

I can't get up to give you anything.'

 8"But let me tell you,

even if he won't get up because he's a friend,

if you stand your ground,

knocking and waking all the neighbors,

he'll finally get up and get you whatever you need.

As a background to the story of Jesus

       Let me say that in Palestine

       People would often travel at night

       To avoid the exhausting heat during the day.

Also, hospitality was holy duty

for every person in the Middle East.

It was not enough to just give a traveller “whatever”…

       Like the left-overs, or something like that.

It was the duty of the host to make the guest

       As comfortable as possible –

       In fact to go out of his way

       To ensure that the guest was well taken care of.

In the case of this friend,

       His family had consumed all the bread they had for that day.

       There was nothing left.

And so, he found himself in an embarassing situation

       Because he could not provide

       For the unexpected traveller.

As late as it was

       He ran over to his friends house in the hope to see

       That his candle was still burning.

But it was dark,

       And the door was locked.

In the Middle East,

       When the door was locked for the night,

       It was like having a big “do not disturb” sign

       Hanging on your door knob.

A house that was locked for the night was not to be bothered

       Except in an extreme emergency.

All day long there was not much privacy,

       And the door to the single-room house was always open…

       Except when it was closed for the night.

Once the door was shut

       It was a sign that now you have to respect

       The privacy of those who live there.

But the Friend in need comes and knocks anyway…

       He is persistent.

       Even annoying…

The greek translation says, “Shameless”.

He’s got no shame.

He knocks and knocks.

       And his knocking gets so loud,

       That someone’s ready to call the caps.

“Man, leave me alone,” says the friend who was asleep.

“You’re waking my wife and children…

       And the neighbor’s dog is already barking…

       You’re disturbing the whole neighborhood.”

But, with shameless persistence

       The friend in need insists on getting

       A few loaves of bread.

This man is determined.

       And he’s not going to give up

       Until he gets what he needs.

Now, if a reluctant friend

       Will finally get up in the end,

       And help out his annoying friend –

       If nothing else, just to get some peace –

       How much more will God,

       Who loves us infinitely

       Give us everything that we need.

And Jesus says,

9"Here's what I'm saying:

Ask and you'll get;
Seek and you'll find;
Knock and the door will open.

 10-13"Don't bargain with God.

Be direct.

Ask for what you need.

This is not a cat-and-mouse,

hide-and-seek game we're in.

Sometimes we have the feeling that

       God really lets us wait long for an answer.

We sometimes wonder

       If our prayers even make it to the ceiling.

Can you really influence the heart and mind

and eternal plan of God

through persistent, passionate and unrelentless prayer?

Or is it more often than not,

       That “Prayer doesn’t change God.

       But it changes us?”

Prayer changes how we see things…

       The expectations that we come away with in the end…

Do you sense the tension between C.S. Lewis’s experience

       And the point of the parable?

Jesus says,

Ask… and do not stop asking!

Listen to Eugene Peterson’s version in the Message,

Don't bargain with God.

Be direct.

Ask for what you need.

This is not a cat-and-mouse,

hide-and-seek game we're in.

In other words,

       Bring your prayers and petitions before God,

       In total dependence on his grace and mercy,

       Knowing that He is able to do it.

Be unashamed in bringing your requests before God.

(This is different from attempting to manipulate God

       Into doing what we want).

Step into God’s presence with confidence

       And trust that He will provide

       So much more than all we ask or imagine.

Ask… and you will get.

Seek… and do not give up searching.

Sometimes God’s answer is so obvious

       Right in front of our eyes

       That we miss it.

Often God has a different answer in mind

       Than what we expect

       Or that we are able to imagine.

God’s ways are infinitely higher than our ways.

       God sees things that remain a mystery to us.

Often we stop looking for answers

       Just before we reach the promised land.

“Seeking” and “searching” implies

       That we are actively engaged in finding the answer.

We can’t just abandon our prayer before God and say,

       “I’ve done my part.

       Now it’s up to God to deliver.”

The searching friend in our story

       Was ready to knock down some doors

       And raid his friend’s fridge if he had to.

He went to the one who could answer his need

       And insisted on an answer until he got it.

Only when we earnestly search the depths of God’s wisdom

       Will we find the answer to all our needs.

Knock… and keep on knocking.

The persistent knocking at the door of the sleeping friend

       Keeps getting louder

       Until he finally gets up

       To provide the help

       That is in his hands to give.

So God also gives us…

       Not always what we want

       But always what we need.

And our lives will be transformed

       As we place ourselves in the will of the one

       Who directs time and eternity.

If your little boy asks for a serving of fish,

do you scare him with a live snake on his plate?

If your little girl asks for an egg,

do you trick her with a spider?

As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing—

you're at least decent to your own children.

And don't you think the Father who conceived you in love

will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?"

When we come to God

       In the depth of our utter dependence on him

       We will come to realize that prayer is not about

       Getting all the items on our wishlist checked off.

But rather we will realize that God is a God of love

       Who hears our asking,

       Who gives us clues and points the way in our searching,

       And who answers our knocking.

God isn’t changed by our prayers.

       But, the experience of surrendering our lives…

       Our heart and soul…

       Our abilities to do for ourself…

       Our pride…

       Into God’s hands…

       That experience changes us

       And enables us to receive with open hands

       What God so much wants to give us.

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