In Luke 11:1-11, the disciples came to Jesus and said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” They wanted to lean into prayer.
June 22, 2023
Speaker: Greg Sanders
Passage: Luke 11:1-11
Father, I want to push pause and recognize the sweetness that’s in the room. I think it has to do with us focusing on Your goodness. Father, we just asked You to reveal more of Yourself today. We just asked for more, Lord. More of the revelation of Your goodness, more of Your character to be released.
I think we’re in a shift as a family. I feel like the Lord is trying to shift our perspective. Maybe to inform why we do what we do. I know for me personally, I feel like the Lord has been reigniting an old passion, to give my life to be a house of prayer, a man of prayer, and to be a carrier of His presence. I want to live in this constant pursuit of the more the Lord.
We sing this song, “When You walk into the room, everything changes.” I truly believe His intention was that when we walk into the room, everything changes. That we would be carriers of His presence and carriers of His glory, not just people who could function in spiritual gifting, not just able to use our skills, but that it would always be said of us that we walked in an expression of Heaven where the supernatural, the Shekinah glory was with us and on us.
I think we’ve lost sight of that in our culture. We’ve lost sight of the requirement and the need. We’ve probably lost appetite for that. My goal today is to stir something in us to where it can be said of us again that we have this one pursuit. We want to be a people known for His glory.
If you say there’s more to it than that, there’s not. You cannot walk around in a manifestation of the glory of the Lord and not change the world around you. What about the lost? It is the glory of the Lord that will shape the lost. It is the awareness of Heaven that will shape the lost.
It’s not a discipleship track. It’s not a great message. It is the awareness of Heaven invading their space. This is why Jesus would say regularly when He would do the miraculous, the Kingdom of God is upon you. This is what it looks like when the Father sets up His Kingdom. Blind eyes are open. The deaf hear. The lame walk. Life crises are met with transformation. For too long we bought into this ridiculous lie that we are living out a belief set. We’re not living out a belief set. We are built to be carriers of His presence.
There’s a reason that He taught Israel to carry the Ark. The priests would carry it on their shoulders. It was never going to be transported by human means. They wanted to put it on a cart. They wanted to let the oxen do it. There’s a story in the Scripture where when that happened, a man went to steady it when it fell, and as he touched it, it says that he was struck dead.
The principle there is the Lord never ever was going to allow His presence to be carried through mechanisms or systems. His presence would never be carried through lights or audio or video. It would always be carried by His people. To that end, His people can carry it by whatever means they want wherever they want.
I want to inspire us again, one more time, to go back to our first love. Back to our roots. To be a people who would carry His presence and hunger for it. Not just talk about it. But get an appetite for it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting with the Lord and I felt like He whispered a phrase that just caught me funny. I was praying for a guy in our church who’s been wrestling with sickness. We’ve just been going regularly to lay hands on him and pray for him. I have felt all the way through the Lord said, “I want to heal him. I want to do a miraculous thing.”
I was back processing with the Lord because I’ve been frustrated because I don’t feel like I’m seeing the results. So I was working through all that and a bunch of other things and out of nowhere, the Lord whispered, “I don’t respond to need, I respond out of My character.”
Sometimes I know we see in part and we know in part. So my first thought was I made that up. That’s just dumb. It doesn’t make sense. But I couldn’t shake it. It was driving me nuts. I couldn’t get past this phrase. So I went to sit with the Lord and study it and look into it and try to figure out what He had to say He took me to Luke 11. If you have your Bibles, I want to take us there.
Very much in this theme that’s already being established today, there’s this sense that the Lord wants to redirect and maybe reestablish our understanding of His goodness, our awareness of who He is.
“Once when Jesus had been out praying, one of His disciples came to Him as He finished and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'” I want to highlight and make some observations for us as we go through this. One of the disciples comes and says, hey, would you teach us to pray?
We could read this and say, “They just wanted to know what prayer was.” They knew what prayer was. They were Jewish boys who had grown up in synagogue. The concept of prayer wasn’t lost on them. They weren’t asking, “Will you teach us what prayer is?” John the Baptist had disciples, and he had a unique thing.
John the Baptist was one of the only people filled with the Holy Spirit ahead of time. He was filled with the Holy Spirit at birth and walked his whole life in the dynamic expression of the Holy Spirit. He had something unique to teach his disciples, something to give them that was a perspective they couldn’t get anywhere else. What Jesus’ disciple is saying here is, you have something to give. We’ve never seen anybody get answers to prayer like you. We’ve never seen anybody walk in power like you. Would you teach us how to do what you do?
So he taught them. He says, “This is how you should pray.” We could glance past that and start looking at what’s coming, which is what we almost always do. I want us to look at this phrase, “This is how you should pray.” Jesus is telling them, I want to give you the correct way to pray. He’s giving them a radical realignment to prayer. They’re asking Him, can you show us what you do that’s so special? He responds with how you should do it.
Often we look at what comes next. It’s known as the Lord’s Prayer. Most people know it, whether they’re in the kingdom or not. We look at it as a grid for prayer. I don’t think it’s a grid for prayer. I think it’s a perspective on how to pray.
As I was dragged into this study by the Lord’s whisper, what I began to consider and realize is there’s a perspective in this that I have missed. He teaches them this first phrase, “Father, may your name be honored. May Your kingdom come soon. Give us our food day by day. Forgive our sins just as we forgive those who sinned against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.”
I want to come back to these phrases. I want to highlight that at the moment He said this, they didn’t get it. When He says, pray this way, and started walking through it, the glazed look on their face was so clear that it says, “Then He went ahead and taught them more about prayer,” and uses this illustration.
“Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You would say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit and I have nothing for him to eat.’ He would call out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door’s locked for the night. We’re all in bed. I can’t help you at this time.'”
Does anybody else get confused at this moment? So wait, you’re teaching about prayer. We understand the grid. It’s us talking to God. We are the person in the picture that is coming to a friend’s house. The friend’s house is God’s. We’re knocking on the door saying, “I’m in need of something,” and God’s answer is, “Don’t bother me. I’m sleeping. I’ve already locked the door. Sorry, Heaven’s closed tonight. The store’s closed. Come back in the morning. Coffee is back on at 7 am.”
At first glance, it paints God as an ogre. It’s almost like He’s saying I don’t have time for you. This tough love kind of God. All week long, I’ve been being pulled into this with this sense that, “I don’t respond to need, I respond out of my character.” I keep asking, “Why would you use this, Jesus?”
He goes on and says, “but I tell you this, though he won’t do it as a friend.” I want to pause there. I tell you this though he won’t do it as a friend. I have lived most of my life out of Psalm 25. Friendship with the Lord is reserved for those who fear Him. With them, He shares the secrets of His covenant.
From my perspective, for the majority of my life, I’ve always thought friendship was the key to getting prayers answered. That if you could access friendship, you had access to answers. All of a sudden, we’re stuck face to face with Jesus making a statement. There are natural limits to friendship. Though, He won’t do it for you as a friend.
But He says, “If you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you what you want so his reputation won’t be damaged.” There’s a single word that shows up in this little verse. It’s really important because it’s the only time this word shows up in all of the scriptures. It’s the word that the New Living will translate as “reputation.” If we look at it in the King James, it reads this way, “If you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you what you want because of your shamelessness.” Shamelessness is the word to get subbed in.
The word “shamelessness” is odd. It’s a conundrum to interpret. It only shows up once in Scripture so you have to go to extra-biblical literature to figure out what it means. If we go study Josephus, the historian who is writing at the same time, he will use this word often, but he uses it always in a negative light. In fact, every author that you can find in early Greek literature will use the word “shamelessness” in a negative light.
The negative light is things like what Josephus will say about Nero. Nero was kind of a bad leader. Josephus will say this phrase about Nero. “The shameless lies of Nero.” What is he trying to communicate? That this word is meant to be something about annoying consistency or persistence of a negative trait. So it’s a bizarre word for Jesus to use about prayer. Is he telling us to just annoy Heaven? And if we annoy Heaven and we’re just so needy and such a pain that sooner or later He’ll say fine, I’ll answer you.
Has anyone raised kids and ever had that moment? Where you made the mistake of whispering, “Maybe we’ll get ice cream,” and all they heard was, “We’re getting ice cream.” And then for the rest of the day, they are pestering you to get ice cream so you finally give in because you need them to stop.
That’s what Jesus is teaching here? There’s no way. That makes no sense. What Jesus is doing here is giving away a secret about the Father. The New Living does a really good job with this word. I think the New Living Translation caught something that some of the other translators miss because the New Living translates this as “reputation.” All of a sudden, as I’m studying this, the Lord began to put something together and I went, oh, I see it now. The revealing of your character matters to You.
He’s jealous to defend His character towards need and His willingness to provide. I’d say it this way, His character will cause Him to move to action more than need will.
Do you remember the woman with the issue of blood? In early Hebrew culture, when Jesus was on the earth, a Hebrew person with an issue of blood — which means she was bleeding and she couldn’t stop it. For her to walk through a public crowd, it was possible for her to be put to death for that because she was causing everybody else to become unclean.
For them to be unclean would mean they would have to go spend seven days to be ceremonially cleansed and they’d have to lose work. All of a sudden, now the ramifications are that she’s responsible for lost wages. That’s the way their system worked. She puts herself at incredible risk and incredible difficulty because she has this belief. What is the belief? If I can just get to him, I know He’s good. I know He’s kind. I know He’ll answer me.
I have a thought on this. Jesus makes a statement and says, “Everything I do, I do, because I saw the Father do it. Everything I say, I say because I heard the Father say it.” I would say this kindness with the woman with the issue of blood was something Jesus learned from the Father. We could go so far as to say Jesus’ entire life, He seemed to be fixated on the idea of revealing the character of the Father to the earth. That was the number one thing He was concerned with.
Somehow humanity had wrongly received or translated or somehow transposed the picture of who His Father was. He was on the earth saying, I want to show you who He really is because you’ve missed it. You think He’s somebody He’s not.
I think a lot of us are in the same spot that we think He is somebody He’s not. Jesus says this, “And so I tell you,” I love this phrase, it means hey, this next idea is my actual point, “Keep on asking and you will be given what you asked for. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks receives. Everyone who seeks finds, and the door is open to everyone who knocks.”
“Keep on asking and you’ll receive and you will be given what you asked for. Keep on knocking and the door will be open. For everyone who asks receives. Everyone who seeks finds, and the door is open to everyone who knocks.” His point in all this when He’s teaching them how to pray is right here. There’s an invitation to this persistent, forward energy in this word “keeping on.”
If we look at the analogy, asking and prayer are equated. Knocking is the repeated and systematic process of coming before Him. What Jesus is inviting His disciples and us to do is to keep on knocking. In other words, keep coming before the Father with the knowledge that the door will be open. Not with the knowledge that it might be open.
He could have said that. He could have said keep on knocking and maybe — just maybe — He’ll open the door. He could have said keep on knocking and you’ll be evaluated. If you’re pure enough and you’re good enough He’ll open the door. He didn’t say any of that.
He lays out a grid that is so audacious and ridiculous we either believe it or we don’t. If we don’t believe it, the only way we cannot believe it is because He’s a liar or because we’ve allowed our circumstances and our histories to superimpose the truth.
Let me go one step further. When He says, “will be open to you,” the word is in the indicative mood in Greek. That indicative mood in the Greek means it’s a statement of fact. It has either happened or it’s going to happen. It’s not an issue of if it will happen, it’s an issue of when. I have never noticed this truth. Whether or not the door opens is never in doubt. Jesus promises the door will open.
Keep on asking. You’ll be given what you asked for. Keep on knocking and the door will be open. “For” is a great conjunction in Greek. The way Greek uses this conjunction means reasoning is going to be given after this. It’s an if-then statement so to speak. For what? Everyone who asks gets what they ask for. Everyone who seeks finds. Everyone who knocks
gets the door opened.
The word “everyone” in Greek is pâs, all. All who ask, all who seek, all who knock. As I’m studying this week, I’m like, “How have I been in church for 50 years and missed this?” I don’t pray like that. How many have ever prayed, “Lord if it’s your will would you please?” “Lord, I don’t know what you want to do here, but…” That’s how we pray. Jesus says that’s not how you pray. He says I want to show you how to pray.
These words “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” are important. I think “ask” is the base level to receive something we need. The word “seek” is when we are looking for wisdom. We’re looking for understanding. A simple answer won’t do it. We need an explanation. We need His mind to be downloaded to us. This word “knock” is to be granted entrance. It’s a picture of intimacy.
It’s this cascading level of invitation. Jesus could have easily said, “If you pray hard enough, you will receive.” But He doesn’t. He says, “Everyone who asks will receive.” Pâs didomi n Greek means “all receive.” It’s an invitation to pray without the fear of failure.
Please hear that. Jesus is giving the disciples, therefore, giving us the invitation to pray without any fear of failure. It’s an invitation to quit wondering if our prayers will be answered. I hate country music. Every time I read this all I can think of is that dumb song, “I thank God for unanswered prayers.” Whoever wrote that should be punched.
But more than anything, what Jesus is giving us is an invitation to trust His character. Could we possibly see a grid where our basic needs are to invite us into this posture of prayer where we come before the Lord? Then as we grow there are things we need to understand so we keep coming before Him. Because what He’s after is that moment we’re just going to knock and knock and knock and keep coming for Him, keep coming for Him. So He can invite us into intimacy and get to know Him.
This is a process. This is not a microwave thing. It has this repetitive, consistent nature, and we kind of hate that. Everybody in here would be super fit if the gym only took one day. Whenever you see somebody who’s just really, really yoked, you should just walk up to them and go, “You are a patient human being.” That means they’ve been consistent day in and day out.
Jesus, almost as if He’s worried that they still don’t get it, puts another illustration in front of him. He says, “You fathers, if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg do you give them a scorpion? Of course not. And if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
He creates an equation in this last idea. It’s a child asking for food. The child’s question to them is about goodness and trustworthiness. This child, in vulnerability, is asking for something they need from their father. Jesus is creating a picture for us to consider. The clear analogy in this, if we can see it, is the disciples are the child. The father is God.
He likens answered prayer to good gifts. He likens answered prayer to the basic needs of a child. They’re born from the kindness and the benevolence of the Father. What in the world is Jesus teaching then? The supernatural — anything from Heaven — is released to the children of the Father because of the goodness and trustworthiness of the Father.
Let’s go back to the early few lines of this passage. “Father, may Your name be honored. May Your kingdom come soon. Give us our food day by day, forgive us our sins, just as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.”
What He was giving them was a perspective grid on the Father to help them know who the Father was. Why would we pray, “Father, may your name be honored?” The word is “revered” here. May your name be reverenced. Why? We pray this because we’ve learned, and we know how good He is.
Lord, I want your name to be respected and reverenced because I know how good you are. It’s not, “God, I need you to do something so people know who you are.” No, I know who you are. I know how good you are. I know kind you are. I want Your name to be honored.
If that’s the case, all prayer then is rooted in an understanding of the good-naturedness of the Father. We pray out of a place rooted in His good-naturedness. He’s good all the time.
You see, so often, we pray as if He’s angry. We pray as if He’s just a bit irritated. I want to remind you that Romans teaches us that once and for all time He poured out the extent of his wrath — all of it — on the cross on His son so that He is no longer angry. From that moment that cross happened, He is now and forever in a good mood.
We don’t approach Him with a fear of trembling. We know that because that’s what the New Testament teaches. Paul says, “We therefore now approach the throne of grace guaranteed a glad welcome because He wants to see.” When we pray, we should say, “Father, we want Your name honored. We want people to know how good You are. May Your kingdom come soon.”
Why would Jesus teach them to pray this? Because the cry for His Kingdom is again rooted in a trust that His rule and His way are perfect. He’s without corruption, He’s a provider, He’s gracious, He’s kind, and all of creation — humanity is no exception — is better when He’s in charge of their situation.
If my life is better when He’s in charge, therefore, I have to pay attention to the way He calls me to live. If my life is better when He’s in charge, it is not better when I’m in charge. That means now I have to lay down my will. Jesus models this same thing. He says, “Father, not my will but Yours be done.” What’s He saying? That my life is better if I follow You. So I’m not going to say no because I don’t want to.
We have to stop walking contrary to the will of God because we don’t want it because we trust it’s right here. We must be rooted in the trust that our lives are better when He controls them.
“Give us our food day by day.” This is the hardest one for me. This prayer is rooted in a trust in His provision, current and future. Because of His character, not because of our deserving. He’s kind. He’ll bring into our lives what we need.
Are you saying I don’t have to work? That might be, I don’t know. I like work. I think work’s awesome. Hard work brings prosperity. The Scriptures teach it. There’s this whole incredible grid of economy that the Lord calls us into. We can learn how to be benevolent givers. We learn how to work hard and we learn how to save. All these things He gives us, but we cannot ever live in a place of fear that we won’t make it because this right here says we will because our Father provides for us because He’s our Father.
I have some friends I interact with who are getting older now. They’re creatives — how many notice creatives are generally not that great fiscally? That’s why they have managers. My friends have been creatives their whole life, and they’ve just not been very good financially. They never really knew how to save. They just kind of always lived paycheck to paycheck. I have a different perspective so it’s hard for me to understand that way of living.
But I’ve been noticing something in their latter years. They’ve always loved Jesus. They’ve always been Kingdom people. In their latter years, I don’t know how they’re making it, but they still make it. They have a smile on their face. The Lord keeps taking care of them. I was thinking about that while I was studying this.
I think we’ve lived with this fear like it runs behind us. The truth is, the Scripture says it is His goodness that’s running behind us. Maybe we just push pause for a second and ask the Lord to itemize in us every place we’re living as if His provision doesn’t matter. Because He taught us to ask for what we need to live every day. Church, He’s faithful to provide because of who He is, not because of our needs.
“Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sinned against us.” I love this one because it’s rooted in an awareness of our invited access to his mercy and tenderness. We don’t ever have to wonder whether He is willing to be merciful or tender towards us.
When you screw up, just show up. Just tell Him, “I screwed up again. Would you please forgive me?” You see, we receive that and then we start to model it. We become gracious. We become forgiving people because we’ve been forgiven. We learn from Him and then we give it away. If you’re receiving forgiveness but not giving it away, that’s a problem. Go read Matthew 18.
“Don’t lead us into temptation.” Why would Jesus teach this? I love this truth. I feel like it’s what the Lord spoke to me. This prayer is rooted in the truth that we can follow Him anywhere without fear of where He’s leading us. He’s never leading us into temptation. He never leads us into sin.
Therefore, when I’m in a situation where I’m being tempted, I know it’s not coming from Him. This means it’s either coming from me or it’s coming from the enemy, both of which I know are stupid. It makes it super simple to say no to temptation because there’s no way, shape, or form that He leads me there.
The enemy loves to whisper, “What if God led you there? What if it’s a test He’s put in front of you?” It’s not. Because Jesus just taught us to stay aligned with this prayer. “I trust you not to lead me to temptation.” I’d say it this way, our father is consistent. He’s not duplicitous.
Let me attempt to put all this together. He responds out of His character, which is always good. I believe Jesus is teaching us to learn to bring our needs to Him and approach Him with an understanding and confidence in His character.
He gives us a grid that is intended to lead us into a fearless prayer. When we don’t get answers, we trust His goodness and we keep asking. We keep seeking. We keep knocking because we trust that He is good.
I have fought this idea for most of my life. I heard something akin to this talk about 15 years ago. I thought that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. Then all of a sudden, I see it right here. Jesus gives absolutely no space for the disciples to approach the Father with the expectation of anything short of an answer.
We’re coming before an incredibly kind and gentle Father who’s good and always looking to move toward us to release His goodness. When we learn how to pray in alignment with His character, we unlock the door to Heaven.
My hope for us is that this becomes a necessary kick in the behind to come before the Father and say, “I’ve got to get rid of all those places, Lord. I have doubted how good You are. I’ve got to get rid of all those places where I’ve ever not prayed because I didn’t know if You would do it or not. I’m just going to become that disciple that You invited me to be, who’s going to be regularly, constantly in front of You, bringing those needs in front of You, bringing those requests in front of You, because I know how good You are. I know You’re not an ogre and You’re not locking the door. You’re not saying no. You might not answer when I want, but I know that in Your goodness, You will answer.”
I had a friend who never likes to pray for healing for people. I’ve asked, “Why not?” He’s said, “Well, because if they don’t get healed, I don’t want to hurt their faith.” That is the most chicken thing I’ve ever heard in my life. You’re not God and I’m not God. He’s God all by Himself. He’s very capable of defending His own honor.
Last time I checked, these signs follow them that believe — they lay hands on the sick and they recover. I don’t see anywhere in it where we’re invited to ask the Lord, “Should we pray? Should we not pray? How do we pray?” I love saying, “Lord, what do you want to be prayed? I know what I see in front of me, I’m going to declare on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Last time I checked, there wasn’t sickness in Heaven so I’m declaring no sickness. It’s time for us to align with what the Scriptures teach and what His character says instead of what our experiences have taught us. To be supernaturally natural people, we have got to live in a realm that we don’t see. We have to learn how to pray with our eyes on His character and His goodness. He’s in a good mood. He likes the prayers of His people. He gets excited.
I think He just likes the tenacity to where He withholds it just a touch to see, are you one of those microwave believers who just wants a 30-second prayer to work? Are you willing to dig in and fight for this thing?
Could it be said of us in our day and in our time we were people who would learn to contend before the throne for the world around us? Or when we stand before Him, is He going to look at us and go, “Are you serious? You had access to everything and you chose to take nothing.”
Fearless prayer is what He’s looking for from His people. When they come to Him and say teach us to pray, He responds with this challenge: Dig in. Ask. Seek. Knock. Be consistent. Know He’s good and don’t ever take no for an answer.
How many feel challenged to dig in and change the way you’ve been praying? How many are like me and you’re getting kind of excited to change the way you’ve been praying? I’m kind of ready.
I’m going to be gone for a bit. Belinda and I are taking a sabbatical. It was supposed to happen last year, but we were in a building project. I chose not to and it’s time. I had a friend who came and asked me — because he knew I was supposed to take it — he said, “Bro, when are you taking your sabbatical?”
I said, “I don’t know. I’m trying to get the church normalized and settled after moving into a building.” He said, “So you don’t trust God?” Right through the front door. That is called giving Greg Sanders a dose of Greg Sanders.
We’re going to step away. About this time tomorrow, Belinda and I are going to be in Disneyland. I leave you in very capable hands. I love this team. I think they’re phenomenal in what they do. I’m leaving you in Pastor Gary’s hands, who’s been my pastor my whole life. I think he’s awesome.
On the other side of this thing, be ready. I didn’t move to the city to build a cool church. I moved to this city to build a church and change the city. I moved here to contend for something that this city has never seen. I want to see the glory of the Lord rest on the people.
If I’ve got to become a football coach again, I’ll be a football coach again. I’ll push and I’ll yell and I’ll challenge. We are going to be who God’s called us to be. You were put on this earth to change it. You weren’t put here to just exist. He’s blessed you with jobs. He’s blessed you with neighborhoods because He wants you to change them. You are intended to infect everything around you for the Kingdom.
Go get your alignment right with Him. Go repent of all the places you doubted who He was and you’ve questioned how good He is. Give Him space to realign and go back to what Jesus taught. Let’s take the city.
Jesus, we love You. Father, today may Your name be honored. May Your character be honored. May the goodness of who You are invade us like never before as we learn to step in and trust You with everything. Thank You for today. Thank You for Your kindness. We love You. We honor You, amen.
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