The Persistence of Prayer

Luke 11:5-10

One of my favorite writers on the subject AND practice of prayer is Edward McKendree Bounds, or EM Bounds as he is more commonly known.

He wrote a series of books on prayer that is, in my opinion, second to none.

Regarding the persistence of prayer, he wrote this:

“Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage that never fails.”

Jesus spoke of the same thing in Luke 11:5-10 that we will examine this morning as part of this brief series on prayer, please join me in reading from your Bibles or the screen as I read Luke 11:5-10:

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’

And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’

I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

What is Jesus saying to His audience back then and to us today with this story about a persistent neighbor? Or should we say pesky neighbor? Or… persistent neighbor?

One of the Bibles I often turn to when studying a passage like this one is, The Serendipity Study Bible for Groups. This one was published in 1989. One of the things about this Study Bible is that there are group study guides throughout the entire Bible and there is one for this passage and this segment.

The study for this segment includes this multiple-choice question:

The point of the parable about the neighbors is that:

a. We give up too soon when we petition God

b. We should refuse to take “no” for an answer

c. God is as responsive as our reluctant neighbor

d. God gives us what we want not in exasperation, but in joy

e. From God, the answer is always “yes”

f. We should keep praying, not matter what the answer is

Study it for a moment and then be prepared to take a poll on what you think the correct answer is.

Okay how many here this morning say a…b…c…d…e…f?

I think a, c, d and f

Why? Because of what Jesus says in verses 9 and 10.

Let’s spend a few moments in this passage:

“Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’

There is a need here. In this case, the need for bread. You have come to a friend’s home, a neighbor’s home, at an inconvenient hour no less to get some bread.

You have none. Your guest is hungry. There is no Wal-Mart or Speedway open to go and buy bread. If there were, you would not have to bother with your neighbor. You would go to the store and buy some bread!

(By the way) When was the last time you asked a neighbor for some bread?

We don’t ask our neighbors anymore for such things, do we? We just go to the store or we go to someone’s house that we do know, even if it is across town, right?

Who then is our neighbor today?

Let’s move on…

And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’

This neighbor is probably someone you know quite well. You’ve borrowed from them before and they have borrowed from you, too.

Perhaps bread, perhaps a power tool, or even a camel, I mean a car.

This is not a total stranger. This is your neighbor or friend. You know them…well.

But the neighbor will say that he (or she) can’t help you. She can’t get out of bed. The children will be disturbed (or the NASCAR race is on and they are dealing with another overtime finish and you want to see who wrecks who on the last lap.)

How many times have we had experiences when we must call two or three or four people we know and ask for help with something or to borrow something and they are unable to help for some good reasons?

I remember wrecking a car, on a Labor Day Monday and Susan could not find anyone to come and get me! We only had one car. Finally, she found someone, like the 6th or 7th person, and they came and got me.

A need creates a demand for help.

I need help with the dishes.

I need help cleaning the bathroom.

I need help cleaning out the cat box!

And everybody disappears for some reason!

I need help with caring for my mom.

I need help with transportation.

I need a ride!

I need a good meal.

I need someone to listen to me.

Needs can get inconvenient. Until they are your needs. Until someone shows up and you have nothing to offer them.

What is it that is requested by the neighbor, the friend?

Bread.

Think about that for a moment… Bread.

According to biblegateway.com the word bread is mentioned a total of 255 times in the Bible

177 times in the Old Testament and 78 times in the New Testament

Genesis 18:6 Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Genesis 40:16 When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread.

Exodus 16:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.

Matthew 4:3 and 4 “The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Luke 11:3 “Give us each day our daily bread.”

Luke 22:19 “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Bread has a very important significance in scripture. Jesus used bread as a symbol for His body during the Last Supper He ate with the disciples before His arrest, death, and praise God, His resurrection.

He also used it as a metaphor for Himself in places like John 6 where He refers to Himself as “the bread of life.”

What then is being sought by the neighbor is not a luxury but a necessity. A basic need.

‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’

There is a gap here… there is a need. The imposing neighbor has a need that he cannot fulfill. He believes, knows perhaps? The neighbor can provide. And to the neighbor he goes to get what he does not have, does not possess.

The persistence of prayer and the persistence in prayer is about the dogged pursuit of God meeting a need… a hunger…that only He can satisfy within His good and perfect will.

“…yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need…”

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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

As we prepare for our prayer time I ask us each of us to consider the following questions…

Who is the needy neighbor in this story?

Who is the neighbor who says, at first, “I can’t?”

What kind of “bread” do you need?

What are you hungry for these days?

What are people hungry for these days?

We are the needy neighbors…there is something that we need that we cannot supply ourselves…

The neighbor that we approach is… God

And what we need is bread, Christ Himself, to satisfy our deepest hunger for love, for life, for meaning, for purpose, for peace…

This is what we are hungry for these days…this is what people are hungry for these days as well…what they really need is Jesus and His satisfying grace. And in some cases they don’t know it yet.

Also expect to be inconvenienced from to time because we who represent Christ will be asked, at the most inopportune times, for something we don’t want to give or take the time to give. You will be an answer to someone’s prayer. Just as someone, who Jesus moved to act on your behalf, was an answer to prayer for you.

As Teresa of Avila wrote centuries ago

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Thanks be to God and thanks be to God for our shameless audacity to ask, seek, and find.

Amen

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