Becoming a Faithful Pest
The 9th Sunday after Pentecost (7-25-10)
By Rev. Steven D. Spencer
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John 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 forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell 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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Grace peace and mercy from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen!
After church, some years ago, a father of three turned to his wife and asked her, with a whiney voice, “Why, why do the kids whine, why!” I don’t think any of us would encourage our kids, or anybody else’s kids, to whine, or to nag or make themselves into a pest. Yet in our text today God invites us to make pests of ourselves. We are cordially invited to come to our Lord God, the creator of the universe, and to bring to Him every last one of our needs and to pester Him.
With that said please note, it says to bring before Him every last one of our needs, not necessarily every last one of our wants. There’s a difference between needs and wants. I really want a 911 SC Porsche! But what I need is food, clothing and shelter. What I want is for gas to drop to 98 cents a gallon (so I can afford to drive that fictitious Porsche), but what I really need is to hear God’s word every day.
Our Lord not only tells us to keep on praying to Him, but to do so with persistence. We should pray with the firm conviction and belief that He will, above all else, hear our prayers and will answer them. Not only will He answer them but He will do so through His divine wisdom and grace. So that the answer He provides shall be a reflection of His grace, and omniscience, His all-knowing power. So we need to understand that the answer we receive may not be the one we expect, but it will be the very best answer God can render to us in response to our prayer.
And what’s more, in this text, He names precisely the greatest thing we can possibly pray for. And that is for the Holy Spirit. And so I would caution you that you are about to listen in on a conversation and on a story that Jesus provides, that, if you listen carefully, will transform the way you live and it will transform your lives completely.
I would suggest that, first of all, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us to pray in faith. I know, all you Lutherans are saying, "Well, duh!" But, let me tell you, there’s a misconception out there that faith is not necessary for prayer. It is born out of a misunderstanding that people who reject God may pray and be heard! But at the risk of being politically incorrect, I must tell you that it isn’t so!
In fact, what the scriptures say is absolutely counter-cultural with regard to how God hears the prayers of believers only. Listen to the words of First Kings. Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire." So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention....At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD-- he is God! The LORD-- he is God!" (1 Kings 18:25-39)
From St. Matthew we hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:7).
You see, there’s something important here. Despite the misconception of our culture "that all religions lead to God", it just isn’t so. For the only access to God, either for salvation or for the answer to prayer is through our Lord Jesus Christ and through Him alone. Our Lord Jesus says in John chapter 5, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him” (John 5:22-23). It’s by the name of Jesus that our prayers are heard. It is through the blood of Jesus that God welcomes us to His chamber, to hear our prayers and to answer them.
But I caution you this passage is often misunderstood. Where it says that we should ask and knock and seek, and seek and ask and knock, these are all the same actions, over and over again. Some look at this passage and say, "Unsaved person if you would only ask then seek and then knock, then God will open the door." But that isn’t Scriptural. The passage is spoken by Jesus to those who believe in Him, to His disciples. There’s nothing within our old sinful nature that wishes to ask, knock or seek God. Our old Adam just doesn’t go there. Rather, it’s the grace of God, through Jesus Christ. His blood shed on the cross which enables us to be changed from unbeliever to believer. And then and only then do these words apply to us!
Only the children of God are encourage to come to their Heavenly Father in prayer and bring to Him their every need. This is a passage for believers. Our ability to converse with the Father is due to the forgiveness of our sins, which is granted to us through Jesus Christ. We broke the law and we needed someone who could keep it. Our Lord Jesus Christ did just that. He was righteous and shares His righteousness with us!
Through Jesus baptism, fasting, and temptation; through His agony and bloody sweat; by His cross and passion; by His precious death and burial, Jesus pays the penalty for our sins the ones we’ve committed, in the past, the present, and even the future! There’s (T) our hope! There’s (T) our salvation. There (T) the barrier is torn down, that once separated us from God. There (T) is the power to wash sins away. There (T) is the victory over sin, which is followed by the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in His resurrection we are also raised. We are now God’s own people, His children. We are assured of heaven. We are assured victory over the grave, it cannot and will not hold us. "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)
Faith is the portal to God’s gracious gifts, including the ability to pray with confidence, that God hears our prayers and that He responds to them rightly.
Dear friends, let us always pray in faith. But let us also pray with persistence! Jesus tells a story about a friend calling late at night. He is concerned over the care of a stranger. He wakes a man in bed. None of us like midnight calls, whether they come over the phone or pounding on the door. I don’t know about you, but at our house, we figure that if the phone rings in the middle of the night, probably someone has died. It’s not a pleasant experience.
So, here we have that scenario. But instead of somebody dying, there’s a man at the door, a friend of his, who has a stranger who has come, and he has nothing to feed him. And the man, understandably says, "Let me go back to sleep! Leave me alone! Come back in the morning during business hours!" But the man doesn’t go away! He keeps <knocking sound> knocking! "Hey, in there! Get up! I need some bread! I need some bread!" Finally, even though he wouldn’t normally get up, the man gets out of bed. Not because he has great compassion for this stranger who has come, not even because this man at the door is his friend, but because he wants the noise to stop, this man’s a pest.
And then, amazingly, our Lord says this. “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. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).
The logic goes like this. It goes, from the lesser to the greater. Jesus lets us remember who we are, human beings, spiritually dead and sinful, evil creatures by nature, we give some food to our friends, how much more then will our Heavenly Father, who sent His only son to live and to die for us, give us all good things?
Now that may not include my 911 Super Carrera Turbo Charged Porsche. It may not even include the 98 cent a gallon fuel to drive that car. But He does give us that which is truly necessary and precious. Sometimes He waits before He answers our prayer. The answers to prayer are "yes", "no", or "wait". We generally like the "yes’s". I personally really hate the "wait" answer. I think it’s a wait on the 911, I’m still praying.
Again, this asking, knocking, seeking is not a process. We don’t first ask, then knock, and then seek. It’s precisely as described in the story. The man does all three things at the same time! He’s asking, knocking, and seeking all at once. He’s persistently pestering! And he continues to pester until he gets the answer! And strangely enough, God desires that from us! He wants us to come to Him again and again and again faithfully pestering. And I know part the reason. Why doesn’t God answer us right away or in the way in which we expect? Because it requires faith to keep asking, to keep on praying. We keep communicating with God more and more as we grow in faith. Prayer increases faith and faith increases prayer.
So let us pray persistently. Jesus encourages us to become faithful pest. But let me suggest, that most of all we pray for the Holy Spirit. That’s the way the text ends. The most important thing we could possibly ask for is the Holy Spirit. Now, I’m not talking about asking for any supernatural manifestation or a spiritual gift here. But rather, to ask for what the Holy Spirit always gives and always promises to gives. And that is this: He gives us the knowledge of God, the forgiveness of sins and the faith to believe. He gives us the peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that comes from knowing that all your sins are forgiven for Jesus sake and that you have a Heavenly Father who says, go ahead my children become a faithful pest, pray, I’m listening. In Jesus name, Amen and amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, AMEN.