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When You Pray . . . Ask, Seek and Knock

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What a wonderful pattern of effective prayer Jesus gave His disciples. It’s an amazingly simple little prayer.

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. "Give us this day our daily bread. "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." (Matthew 6:9-13,KJV)

Now, here at the end of this remarkable lesson in prayer, Jesus places one of the most intriguing, powerful, and perceptive parables that He ever told. We call it the Parable of the Friend at Midnight. This story moves us into one of the most comprehensive and clearest of biblical texts on prayer: “Ask and it will be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”

I have one thought I would like to develop from these remaining verses. That one thought is this: Your prayers are always answered. Therefore be persistent in your prayers.

It is time we learn, however, that there are a number of ways that our prayers can be answered. Any earthly parent, and there are many of you here this evening, know that you use the word “No” infinitely more with your children than you use the word “Yes.”

“Can I have . . .?” “NO!”

“Will you buy me . . .?” “NO!”

“Can I go to . . .?” “NO!”

    • ILLUS. When Linda’s oldest nephew was first learning to talk, we would play those sound games with him. You would ask him, “How does a cat go?” and he would say, “Meow.” You would ask him, “How does a cow goe?” and he would say “Mooo.” You would ask him, “How does a dog go?” and he would say, “Arf, arf.” One day we asked him, “How does daddy go?” You could see that little mind whirling for a moment and then he said, “No, no, no!”

Often when we pray, I think our Heavenly Father is going, “No, no, no!” But for some reason, many believers have come to the conclusion that God’s only answer to our prayers can be or should be “Yes.” Not so. Never! God often says “NO!” And sometimes He says, “YES!” And sometimes He says, “WAIT!”

We must never stop asking, or seeking, or knocking. We are to be persistent in our prayers until one of those answers comes.

I. WE DO NOT ASK, WE DO NOT SEEK, WE DO NOT KNOCK IN VAIN

          1. our Lord may not give us everything we ask for, but we cannot say that He does not hear us

A. GOD’S HEARING IS VERY GOOD

          1. in Exodus we are told that God heard the cries of His people in bondage to the Egyptians
              1. His answer was deliverance
              2. King David knew and understood that God heard the prayers of His people
                • “But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.” (Psalm 4:3,KJV)
                • “As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. 17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” (Psalm 55:16-17, KJV)
          2. there are those times—in the midst of crisis, or in our despair, or in the troubled times of life—that it feels as if God has turned a deaf ear to us
          3. believers should never make the mistake of believing that God does not hear us
              1. other Gods may need waking up, but not ours
                • ILLUS. If you were ever to travel to an Asian country where Buddhism or ancestor worship is prevalent, you would notice that their worship is a very noisy affair. They are always beating drums and clanging symbols. The reason for the cacophonous display is to keep their gods from dozing off while the people were praying. Their fear is that if they do not make lots of noise that their god’s will begin snoozing and will miss some of their prayers!
              2. aren’t you glad you have a God that doesn’t drop off to sleep when you pray?
                • Psalm 121:4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” NIV

B. GOD IS THE FRIEND WE CAN GO TO AT ANY TIME TO SUPPLY OUR NEEDS

    • Luke 11:5 “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;” KJV
          1. we have all kinds of needs
              1. physical needs
              2. emotional needs
              3. psychological needs
              4. spiritual needs
          2. God is concerned about every one of them
            • "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: "And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. "Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? "(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:25-33,KJV)
          3. We Do Not Ask, We Do Not Seek, We Do Not Knock in Vain

II. WE NEED TO BE PERSISTENT IN OUR PRAYERS

          1. the Parable of the Friend at Midnight is the sweeping affirmation that God answers all our prayers
          2. I think that when Jesus told this parable, he reached back into that marvelous memory of his and pulled out a childhood experience
              1. I am convinced that the surly householder asleep in bed when the neighbor comes pounding on the door is none other than our Lord’s earthly father, Joseph
              2. when Jesus told this story, I’m sure He shared it with a twinkle in His eye and a grin on His face
          3. Jesus grew up in Galilee, where then as now, summer time heat is oppressively hot
              1. because of that, people would often travel at night in caravans to escape the heat of the day
              2. when guests did arrive, no matter what the hour, the breaking of bread was always mandatory
                • ILLUS. When Linda and I visit her parents, no matter what time we arrive, the first thing out of her mother’s mouth is: “Do you want something to eat?”
          4. but on this particular night, there was no bread to share and the midnight caller went frantically from door to door searching for bread to share with his newly arrived guests
              1. now, even friends don’t appreciate being awakened at an unholy hour of the night
              2. in the story, the householder has no desire to get up and help his neighbor
              3. what’s the point of the story?

A. GOD IS NOT LIKE THE HOME OWNER WHO MUST BE COERCED INTO MEETING THE FRIEND’S NEED

    • Luke 11:8 “I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.” KJV
          1. if the grumpy householder can be coerced by a friend’s persistent knocking, then how much more will God, who is a loving Father, supply all His children’s needs?
          2. the central point of the story is that it was not because of friendship bread was given, but because of the persistence of the seeker who would not leave until he had an answer
            • ILLUS. Alexander White, a Scottish Bible Scholar, says that “importunity” means a “shameless persistence.” The episode began with a lite, “tap, tap, tapping,” at the door. It was obviously ignored. So the friend in need knocks a little louder. The tapping at the door grows a little stronger and a little longer. At this point the friend in need probably got a surely, “Go away.” Finally, the neighbor is pounding so hard that the dogs in the neighborhood are barking and lights are flickering on and people are throwing open the shutters to see what is going on down there at Joseph’s place.
          3. we are to be persistent with God until we get an answer, whatever that anser might be

B. GOD IS MUCH MORE WILLING TO GIVE THAN WE ARE READY TO ASK

          1. we are to ask
              1. “asking” implies humility and a consciousness of our need
              2. because if you ask, you will receive
                  1. now let me take a moment to give you a brief lesson in Greek grammar
                  2. the word “it” in verse 9 does not refer to the thing asked for, but modifies the word ask
                  3. the “it” you will receive is the answer and not necessarily the thing you asked for
          2. we are to seek
              1. “seeking” is “asking” plus “acting”
              2. it implies earnest petitioning and putting feet to ones prayers
              3. it means actively looking for God to speak through His Word, or His Church, or through circumstances, or through the Holy Spirit
              4. if we seek, we shall find
          3. we are to knock
              1. “knocking” is “asking”, plus “actively seeking” an answer, plus “persevering”
              2. one knocks again and again until the door is opened and an answer is given
              3. if we knock, the door will be opened
          4. God does not have to be brow-beaten, high-pressured, compelled, coerced, or pleaded with
              1. He delights in answering our prayers and longs for us to come to Him with our needs
          5. God will not always grant the request, but He will always give you an answer
              1. when He does grant our requests, He always gives us good things
                • Luke 11:11-13 “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?“ KJV
              2. God will never give us anything that will harm us
              3. that may be why we don’t always get some of the things we pray for!

What are your needs this morning? Are you eager and willing to approach God with them? With God it is never midnight; He never lacks anything; He is never “bothered” when any humble child approaches Him; And He is never taken by surprise for what we might ask.

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