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Speed Dial


Jesus had some very specific things to say about prayer, and often they're different than some of the things we've been raised thinking about prayer and some of the ways we pray. And we said kind of an offensive thing up-front, and we've said it throughout this series, and I'll say it one last time: It could be that you've been praying wrong or that you've been praying incompletely. And that's offensive. And I wouldn't stand up here and say that except for the fact that, as we're going to see today, when the people that were following Jesus said, "Jesus, teach us to pray," he didn't say: You don't need to be taught how to pray; you just pray. Just talk to God. You can't get it wrong. Anyway, all prayers are the same; all prayers are acceptable.

On the contrary, as we're going to see specifically today, Jesus said: I'll talk to you about prayer. And Jesus had some very specific things to say about prayer.

Turn with me to Luke 11. Jesus is going to tackle our biggest frustration with prayer, and that is: Why is that I declare his greatness, surrender my will, ask him for stuff—and I don't get it, it doesn't happen? In fact, some of the stuff I've asked for is stuff that surely is God's will or what I would think he would want to have happen, and sometimes it doesn't happen. It is so frustrating. In fact, that's one of the reasons you quit praying, or maybe you gave up on church or abandoned God, because you prayed a prayer that you thought anybody would know this is something God ought to do, and he didn't do it. And it's frustrating.

Here's the great news. This is why you ought to read your Bible. Jesus addresses that frustration you've experienced, and I've experienced. And the reason he addresses it is because he knew we would have that experience. This is good news: if you've ever had that frustration in prayer, God knows about it. There's not something wrong with you. There's not something necessarily wrong with God. And there's a tendency to think, well, either something's wrong with me or something's wrong with him. And Jesus is going to say: No, it's a common occurrence. It's a common experience, and I want to tell you what to do about it.

"When he finished [praying] one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.'" Jesus, we've been watching you and we've all grown up praying and saying prayers. We're good Jewish boys. We've memorized some prayers. We know the whole deal. But when we watch you pray, it's different. When we hear you pray, it's different. And we've noticed you go off by yourself, and it's like you're there for hours.

Sometimes you're there all night, and we're thinking: What's he doing out there? What's he saying? How long can you talk to God? We pray and we're done. Obviously you know something about prayer we don't know. Would you teach us to pray? And Jesus doesn't say: Oh, I don't need to teach you how to pray. Just talk to God. It's simple.

Jesus takes them up on their offer and he says: Okay, I will teach you how to pray, just as you've heard that John the Baptist taught his closest followers how to pray. The point being, you can be taught how to pray. Which means if you're not taught how to pray you might be praying incorrectly. And that's kind of offensive to think about, but that's what Jesus taught. Now listen to what he says.

"When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation."

And we think, Jesus, you didn't say that right. It's, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." You didn't say it right. You got, "Thy kingdom come," but you forgot, "Thy will be done." Jesus, you misquoted the Lord's Prayer. You messed up your own prayer. Everybody knows how it goes. You didn't even say it right. Now that's kind of odd, isn't it?

And scholars and theologians go into a tizzy. Oh, Matthew says it this way, and Luke says it this way. What? It's pretty simple. This is a different occasion, obviously, when you read the context. And when they said, "Jesus, teach us to pray," he said: Okay, you heard this before. You just say: God, you're great, and I want your deal over my deal. And then there's some stuff we need. Amen. That's it.

Well, wow. And here's the amazing thing. They've said to Jesus, "Teach us how to pray." Which means Jesus could have said anything. He could have talked about any facet of prayer. He could have gone on and on about all kinds of stuff. But when they said, "Teach us how to pray," he gave them that synopsis. And then he launches in on a longer discussion about the thing that frustrates us most about prayer. And if he hadn't talked about it, I might think something was wrong with me or something was wrong with God. He launches into the discussion about what happens when you don't get what you want from God. You know why that's so significant? Because he could have said anything about prayer and this is the topic he chose to focus on—not what to say, but this specific frustration that all of us have with prayer.

Persistent prayer moves the heart of God.

Listen to what he says. Verse 5: "Then"—that's important—"Then he said to them …." In other words: While we're on the subject of prayer … I've told you how to pray, let me give you this scenario. You're in bed and a friend comes to you in the middle of the night and says another friend has come to their house. They don't have anything to serve them. So one rude friend has awoken that person. So then this person becomes a rude friend to wake you up at midnight because they need to be a good host or hostess and serve bread in the middle of the night, and they come banging on your door. Imagine that.

Of course they're thinking, like you're thinking, Weren't we talking about prayer? Jesus says: Okay, just stay with me. It's one of those stories. Okay? A friend of mine. I have nothing to set before him.

Verse 7: "Then the one on the inside answers, 'Don't bother me.'" Which is what you would say. "'Don't bother me. The door is already locked ,and my children are with me in bed, and I can't get up and give you anything.'"

This guy's in his bed saying: Don't bother me. Okay, if I get up I'm going to wake up the guys. I got to wake up the women. I got to get the bread. Just go away. Don't bother me. I can't get up and give you anything.

Now Jesus is talking. He says: "I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is a friend"—or he was until this point in the story—"he won't get up because he's a friend; yet because of the man's boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs." And the little Greek word translated "boldness" is translated "persistence" in every other English translation of the Bible, which is really a better translation of the word. Boldness can mean persistence, but the idea is this: Even though this guy wouldn't get up and give him some bread because he's a friend, the fact that he's going to stand there and knock on the door and bother him and wake up the neighbors … finally, out of pure frustration, he's going to go, Augh, good grief. He's going to get out of bed and wake up his wife and get the bread and unlock the door and wake up the family and say, "Here, take the bread and feed your friends and leave me alone."

Jesus says: Even if he's not going to do it out of friendship, just because he's irritated and the guy won't go away, he will finally get up and give the guy some bread.

Now, let me tell you about parables. In parables, you're listening and you're going, Okay now, somebody in this parable is me. That's how parables work. And somebody in this parable is God. Remember the prodigal son? The son runs away, takes all the stuff, and says: Dad, you're as good as dead. I'm going to take my inheritance and leave.

You hear the parable and you go, Okay, I'm like the rebellious son, and God's like the father waiting on me. I come back, and God takes me back. Ah, I like that story.

This one's a little confusing. The disciples are going: Who do you think is us? I think us is the guy knocking on the door, because this is about prayer, and prayer is like knocking on the door trying to get something. And that would make God … wooo. God's like the grumpy old guy inside going, "Don't bother me!" Surely that is not who God is.

Jesus tells another parable another time similar to this. And this parable actually starts off with, "And Jesus told this parable so they would know to pray and not quit praying." And he tells the story about this judge. Jesus says he's an unrighteous judge who doesn't fear God. That's how he starts it off. And there's a widow who needs this unrighteous judge to come to her defense. And she comes to him and says, "Help me." And he says, "Get out of here." And she comes to him, and he says, "Get out of here." She comes to him and says, "Help me. Plead my case." And he says, "Get out of here. Get out of here. Get out of here." And the unrighteous, un-God-fearing judge finally says: Okay. To get this lady off my case and to keep her from giving me a black eye in the community, I'll do what she wants me to do, not because I care about her and not because I fear God, but just to get her out of here and get her to leave me alone."

You listen to those two parables and you think, Okay, I think I know who I am. I'm the widow. I'm the guy banging on the door who wants or needs something. But, Jesus, you're not making God look too good. He's like an unrighteous, un-God-fearing judge, and now he's like this grumpy guy who's going to get out of bed and give the guy the bread just to get him to leave him alone and go away because he keeps banging on the door saying, "I need bread, I need bread, I need bread."

And the disciples listening to this story, and the moral's kind of clear. That if you want something from God, you just keep banging on the door. Eventually he'll get out and do something for you, not because he loves you, but because you just bother him to death. I read this and I'm thinking, You know what? This isn't so weird as maybe we think. If you've ever been a kid, or if you have kids, you've experienced this.

My kids come to me and say, "Daddy, will you take us to Target because there's a …."

"No, I'm not going to Target."

"Dad, come on. Let's go to Target. There's this PS2 … Everybody's got one. I got mine, and it broke. And my sister …."

"No, I'm not going to Target. It's four-thirty in the afternoon."

"Dad, can we go to Target?"

"All right. Let's go to Target. Let's get in the car."

Now, you know what? I don't love my kids any more or less before that. It has nothing to do with love. It has nothing to do with my feelings for them. It has nothing to do with their relationship with me. But every once in a while they keep bugging me, bugging me, bugging me. "Okay, let's go get a milkshake."

And you know the other thing I thought? You've had this happen. Sometimes my kids will come to me and say, "Dad, will you take us to …?"

And I'll say, "Naw, I don't really want to do that right now."

And they go, "Yes sir, Dad." And they just walk away.

I'm like wow. And so many times I'll say, "Hey, hey, hey, let's go."

"Oh, thank you, Dad. You're the greatest, Dad." And you know what? Their response to me causes me to change my mind because they had such a good attitude.

Now what is that in me? Where did that come from? What is that in you? Where did that come from? Is it any accident or coincidence that Jesus says, when you pray, you say our—what?—Father? Could it be that thing in me that loves them but allows them to talk me into stuff; could it be that thing in me that causes me to change my mind when I said no; could that be in some way a reflection of the thumbprint of God in me as a father? You read this parable and you go, Well, it must be, because that's just weird.

Persistent prayer is honoring to God.

Here's what Jesus is saying. In a minute he interprets it for us in case we miss it. You know what he's saying? He's saying God is not bothered by your persistence, and sometimes he's moved by it. That God is not irritated by the fact that you keep asking and asking and asking and asking and asking—nothing happens, nothing happens, nothing happens, nothing happens—and you ask and ask and ask and ask and ask. It looks like it's going to be impossible for it to happen. And you keep coming back, coming back, coming back, coming back. God's not bothered by that. God's honored by that.

Jesus' parable could not be any clearer. When you pray, tell God he's great, tell him you're surrendered, tell him what you need and what you want, and oh yeah, don't quit asking. Don't quit asking. Don't quit asking. Don't you quit asking, because your persistent prayer has the potential to move the heart of God.

Listen to how Jesus interprets it, in case we miss it. "So I say to you …." In other words, let me just lay it out there for you. Verse 9: "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." And the significance of this verse isn't that there's some mysterious thing about asking versus seeking versus knocking. No. The point is, he says it three different ways for emphasis. He wants you to ask and seek and knock and ask and seek and knock and ask and seek and knock, and don't give up. Jesus is saying: Because you asked me how to pray, I'm telling you how to pray. You just keep coming on strong. And sometimes your Father will give in, and sometimes he'll respond, because God is moved by persistent, consistent prayer.

And then, if we didn't understand that, verse 10: "For everyone"—that would be us—"For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened."

Persistent prayer will change the world around us. Now I know what some of you think, because I'm there. And we want to point to all the exceptions. I asked for something and I didn't get what I wanted … well yet, anyway. And Jesus says: Okay, I understand that. I understand that. My good friends Mary and Martha prayed for their brother Lazarus not to die. He died. I understand. Sometimes it didn't happen the way you expected. There's no mystery to me. But you asked me how to pray; I'm telling you how to pray. You don't let go until you absolutely have to, because God is honored and moved by your persistent prayer.

And then he didn't say anything else. But you know what I was just thinking? You know what my observation about this is? I've seen so many men and women hang on and pray about things that seemed impossible, and at the last minute, or at the end, or years later, something happens. It's just amazing.

I have a friend who prayed for his father to become a Christian for 22 years. If you met his father you'd say give it up; it ain't going to happen. He wasn't just not a Christian; he was like in the negatives.

One day his dad called and said, "Guess where I went last weekend?" "Where?" "Church." "You're kidding." "No." And six months later or so, he's a member, baptized, become a Christian. It's a miracle.

I have a letter on my desk at home from a lady who wrote me this incredible letter about how she had been alienated from her two sisters for 17 years, and she said, "I prayed everyday, 'God, please bring us back.'" And because of the circumstances that caused them to split up, it wasn't ever going to happen. And through a strange set of circumstances they were brought back together. She said, "I prayed this for 17 years. I'm so thrilled at what I've seen God do."

All I'm saying is this: Every once in a while, maybe more than every once in a while, maybe more than would happen if we understood this, and maybe more than we recognize, God responds to "I'm not going to give up; I'm going to ask and seek and knock and ask and seek and knock and ask and seek and knock" prayers. And he says yes. There are so many stories.

Persistent prayer will change us.

You know the other thing that happens when we ask and seek and knock and refuse to give up? In the process of our asking and seeking and knocking so many times, God does something in us, the asker and the seeker and the knocker. He does. I can't tell you the stories of men and women who prayed for prodigal children, and after six or seven months or a couple of years of that they come and say, "You know what? We realize we're the ones whose hearts needed to be changed. No wonder he left. No wonder she left." And it was in praying and grappling with God, saying, God, why won't you hear us? Why won't you change his heart? Why won't you bring her back? It was in the process of that prayer that God revealed to us: You know what? I'm not going to bring him back. I'm not going to her back till I do something in you because they won't stay until you allow me to do something in you.

Or the husband who prayed and prayed and prayed for his wife to come back, and finally through the process of prayer—God, I'm not going to give up—God said: Well, let's start with you. And before I bring her back and restore your marriage, can I have total access to you? Would you do the "Thy will be done part?"

Never done that before. I just wanted my marriage back. That's okay. Stay focused. But I need to do something in you before I do something in them.

And then there are times when we get locked in on something we want God to do and refuse to give up, refuse to give up, refuse to give up. I'm going to ask and seek and knock, and I'm not going to give up. And in the process we realize we're praying for the wrong thing. This isn't even what God wants. What God wants is over here. But I would have never known till I just drilled down on this to the point where I was open and able to hear God saying: No. Wrong prayer. Go over there and pray for that.

All I'm saying is this. Here's what I know from experience and what I guarantee you. You pray persistently, God will do something. And every once in a while he'll do the very thing you've asked for. But he will not do it on your timetable or your schedule. And when he does, you walk away going, Oh, that's unbelievable.

Persistent prayer will be effective.

God is not irritated by our persistent prayer. He is honored by it, and sometimes he says: Okay, come to the door, I'll give you your bread.

But he does something every time, because Jesus said if you ask you're going to hear something, and if you seek you're going to find something, and if you knock, a door is going to be opened.

If you think about it, this is perfectly consistent with everything we've said about prayer so far. Because when you latch hold of something—I'm not going to give up, I'm not going to give up—do you know what you're saying to God? You're saying: God, you are the great God who is able to do this. And, God, you know what? I think it's your will, and I'm committed to your will, and I'm going to keep asking you to do the thing I think is your will, because I'm surrendered to your will. And guess what, God? I'm acknowledging my dependence, because if you don't do this, it isn't going to happen. And if you don't bring him back, it's not going to happen. And if you don't heal that relationship, it's not going to happen. And if you don't provide for me, it's not going to happen. You're the great God who can. I'm surrendered; that's why I'm asking. I'm dependent on you, because if you don't move, it's not going to happen. And God says: Oh, I like that. I'm happy with that. I'm honored by that. And I might do something about it.

So here's my question for you: What are you that diligent about in your prayers? Be honest with yourself. Is there anything you are so locked in on, that you are so burdened by, that you're so concerned with, that every single time you pray there's, God, God, God, I know it seems impossible. Please bring her back. Please bring them to you. Please, Please, God, it seems impossible, but to my last breath I'm going to pray and ask. I'm not going to give up. Is there anything you are that consumed about in your prayers? Or are your prayers just in today and out tomorrow—the job and the quiz and I pray that in Jesus' name, amen. Tomorrow it's kind of the same thing. But is there anything you are honoring God with because of the magnitude of your request? And is there anything you are so passionately concerned about that you refuse not to pray about it and you refuse not to knock on the doors of heaven? Is there anything that big going on in your life? If not, you're missing out on an opportunity to see God do something great in this world, and you're missing out on an opportunity to see God do something great in you.

And Jesus could have talked about a dozen different things as it concerns prayer. He said: Let me focus on this one because this is huge. When you pray, don't give up, and when you ask, you keep asking. And just because heaven is silent means nothing. You keep asking. And just because nobody has come to the door, you keep knocking. And just because you haven't found it yet you keep seeking, because God honors persistent prayer, and something's going to happen every single time.

That's the promise. And you never know, God might just show up and do the very thing you've asked him to do.

For Your Reflection

Personal growth: How has this sermon fed your own soul? ___________________________________________

Skill growth: What did this sermon teach you about how to preach? ____________________________________________________________________________

Exegesis and exposition: Highlight the paragraphs in this sermon that helped you better understand Scripture. How does the sermon model ways you could provide helpful biblical exposition for your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Theological Ideas: What biblical principles in this sermon would you like to develop in a sermon? How would you adapt these ideas to reflect your own understanding of Scripture, the Christian life, and the unique message that God is putting on your heart? ____________________________________________________________________________

Outline: How would you improve on this outline by changing the wording, or by adding or subtracting points? _____________________________________________________________________

Application: What is the main application of this sermon? What is the main application of the message you sense God wants you to bring to your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Illustrations: Which illustrations in this sermon would relate well with your hearers? Which cannot be used with your hearers, but they suggest illustrations that could work with your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Credit: Do you plan to use the content of this sermon to a degree that obligates you to give credit? If so, when and how will you do it?

Andy Stanley is the founder and pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Sermon Outline:


Though Jesus could have said anything about prayer, he chose to focus on a frustration we all face: the times God doesn't answer.

I. Persistent prayer moves the heart of God.

II. Persistent prayer is honoring to God.

III. Persistent prayer will change the world around us.

IV. Persistent prayer will change us.

V. Persistent prayer will be effective.


When you pray, don't give up; and when you ask, you keep asking—and God might just do the very thing you are asking him to do.