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Home Sermons Prayer: the powerhouse of Christ’s kingdom

Prayer: the powerhouse of Christ’s kingdom

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“Prayer: the powerhouse of Christ’s kingdom." Luke 11:1-13

David Calderwood

We know it as the Lord’s Prayer. Many of us were taught to recite it by parents or grandparents, and in turn have taught it to our children.

But how many have thought about the context of this prayer and asked questions of the text to ensure proper understanding:

Why have teaching on prayer at this particular point in Luke’ account of the life and mission of Jesus?

How does it connect with what has gone before in chapter 10?

How does it connect with Jesus’ strange stories in verses 5-13?

Is it primarily about us as disciples or is it primarily about Jesus and God?

And these verses also prompt a more general question: Is prayer crucial to our business of being Christians? If it is then surely we will do everything possible to ensure that individually and as a church family we pray more often, more urgently and more intelligently.

That in turn prompts two more personal questions:

Where do you rank prayer in our church life? - against sermons, bible study, giving, hospitality, fellowship, mission involvement, developing relationships, socials or whatever?

And where do you rank praying in all the activities of your week and family life? – what time is allocated for it relative to work, leisure, TV, sport, sleep, and time with children?

Prayer is one of those embarrassing issues for Christians, isn’t it? The evidence suggests praying isn’t that important. But I want to affirm to you this morning that which we would all say – that prayer is critical to everything we are and do as Christians and as a church.

In fact it is the powerhouse of Christ’s kingdom. So, let’s turn to the text and my first point:

The powerhouse identified – Prayer as response to God’s sovereignty.

Friends to properly understand this teaching on prayer in chapter 11:1-13, we need to go back to chapter 10:2. Jesus leads us from recognition of God’s sovereignty – he is the Lord of the harvest – to our only sensible response, prayer, and this movement is paralleled in the teaching of chapter 10 as it leads us into chapter 11 and the focus on prayer.

Being disciples of King Jesus requires absolute, single-minded, self-denying commitment to him as we seek to fulfill our task of advancing the Kingdom Of God.

Being disciples means doing the spiritual work of confronting and dismantling Satan’s kingdom, by speaking the words of Jesus to people who naturally hostile to hearing God’s word, with the result that their attitudes and thinking are changed, and their sin forgiven.

But according to 10:22-24 that sort of change must be a supernatural work of God in their lives. A person cannot achieve God’s standard for salvation by their own efforts. That was the simple lesson the Jewish professor of religion had to confront in the parable of The Good Samaritan, verses 25-37.

So, where does that leave the disciples of Jesus who were directly commissioned by him to be part of building God’s kingdom? It leaves them helpless apart from God’s assistance through prayer.

Prayer is declaring our own inability for the task at hand and pleading with God to do, through us, what he has purposed and promised in his sovereignty to do. The disciples needed to learn this as they beg Jesus to teach them to pray effectively.

But the connection is much richer as Jesus highlights the pillars of the powerhouse in three incentives to pray.

Many Christians don’t pray regularly at all. Others appear to have a habit of prayer, but it is often just a list of requests to God. Still others grind away at prayer driven by a sense of duty and guilt.

So this morning I could hammer the importance of prayer - If Jesus prayed, then how much more should we. I could hammer you on the need for good theology in prayer - this is a model of how to pray. And I could hammer you with the fact that prayer is an obligation.

Preachers have used these verses for all these things, but wrongly in my opinion. So, my focus this morning is on the privilege of prayer in 3 key incentives to pray.

1. Because God is our father. Duty and obligation is never enough to sustain any activity, and prayer is no different. By contrast the things we take up and stick with even though they may be difficult are when we see that involvement is a real privilege, which is Christ’s emphasis in this model prayer.

Verse 2. The starting point for rich prayer is the fact that we are family: children coming to a generous and loving Father. Speaking direct to “Father” is the most unnatural and amazing truth that should blow our minds.

Jesus invites his sinful people to speak to the God of the whole universe, thinking of him as a father who never tires of listening patiently to us, caring for our smallest need personally and always gives his full attention to each of us when we call him.

Everything else flows from this, verses2-4. Given that God is our heavenly father, then naturally we want his name to be honoured, and his rule seen in this world, and his purposes obediently done by all. We want him to demonstrate his sovereignty in his world as his kingdom is established and built person by person.

And we ask that we will be content with his sovereign care at every level, and that we might look for his ongoing forgiveness, and that we might be grace-full in our treatment of others forgiving them as we know our ongoing need of forgiveness, and that we might continue to experience your protection given our propensity to sin.

Friends, the application is simple. Drab thoughts of God make dull prayer. Many stop praying because prayer is dull and lifeless. Many feel that nobody is interested or listening to their prayers. The real problem is not having a proper and real vision of God as you pray.

The way ahead? Not more self-discipline grinding away at a duty, not reading more books of prayer, but careful reflection trying to embrace and be embraced by these truths. He’s God in heaven and he’s my father. He’s my father and he’s God in heaven. Unbelievable but true.

2. Because God is committed to answering. How many of us have given in to the persistent whining of a child and granted something which we initially refused just for the sake of peace and quiet?

That is the motivation to prayer for many Christians: “If only I pray long enough and hard enough God will see my determination and grant my request”. OR “If only I can get lots of believers praying for the same thing then God will be persuaded to grant the request by sheer force of numbers”.

The focus of attention is on the person who prays and their efforts individually or combined. And in large part this thinking has come from a wrong understanding of verses 5-6 where Jesus uses a story, a scenario introduced by “suppose”, to give incentive to pray.

Imagine what would happen if you had a friend arrive unannounced at midnight. The accepted laws of hospitality required that he is fed, but the cupboard is bare. So the obvious thing to do is go next door and try to borrow enough food to feed the visitor.

Now, verse 7 should be a question in keeping with the scenario. Can you imagine your neighbour saying he can’t be bothered helping and sending you away empty-handed?

Now verse 8, and again it is badly translated. The way it reads it suggests that the neighbour responds to the outrageous demandingness of the knocking and gives the food just to get some peace and quiet.

But the translated as impudence, or boldness, or persistence depending on what version you have is a special word that means “avoidance of shame” and actually describes the man who is in the house asleep, not the one knocking.

So the point of the scenario is that the neighbour is guaranteed to help because his character and honour is at stake. His character demands that he avoid the shame of sending the one at the door away empty handed. That was simply a custom of the day.

Do you see Christ’s point? Just as the man supplies the need of his friend because his character and honour demands it, so will God rush to answer his children’s prayer because his character demands it. Why? Because God has promised to give his children good things.

What is it that makes prayer worthwhile? Not our persistence and determination, but God’s character. Our incentive to pray is God’s own character. He cannot do other than hear our prayers, and while we may not get all we want, we will get what is best for us at the time.

Prayer is not about nagging a God reluctant to hear or grant our every need, but about confidently coming to God for the very things he has promised to give us and will not withhold because his honour and reputation as a loving and caring Father is on the line.

3. Because it actually accomplishes God’s will. For many believers a misunderstanding of how God’s sovereignty works has robbed them of any incentive to pray.

They think that since God has everything worked out in advance, then prayer is a waste of time because it can’t really change anything.

But prayer is never about changing God’s mind or will, rather prayer accomplishes it. The sovereign Lord does not simply plan WHAT will happen, he also plans HOW it will happen, and prayer is one means of dispensing his gracious will.

It’s like parents who sometimes plan to give their child something, but hold up until the child asks for it as the asking is an important part of recognizing the gracious provision of the gift.

In the same way, God had promised to give good things to his people, but wants his people to ask in recognition of his gracious provision. And that is the promise of verse 10. Our asking, seeking and knocking will be the very means of receiving that which God has already determined to give us.

Likewise it is the point of verses 11-13. Our father is anything but mean. He is ready and willing to pour out the grace of the Holy Spirit for all who ask. And when we remember the context of this prayer is the task of harvesting sinful people for the Kingdom of God as spelled out in chapter 10, then the assistance of the Holy Spirit is exactly what we need.

Jesus himself models this principle. If you survey Jesus mission, at every key point we are told that Jesus took time out to pray. Now Jesus already knew what his mission involved, so why was he so much in prayer? Because his prayer is the channel of by which he will have grace to accomplish each stage of the mission.

Friends it would appear that we see the word of God in the Bible as a spiritual weapon in our task of harvesting, but don’t think of prayer as another essential spiritual weapon, because we don’t put much emphasis on prayer.

But surely we will want to pray once we realise that the Lord will actually use our prayers to accomplish the very things we long for like obedience and maturity and seeing people converted through our evangelistic efforts?

That’s why we persevere in prayer regarding the future of this congregation? That’s why we persevere in prayer for Glenn and Beth in PNG and the work on campus through AFES, and the work in Myanmar under a military regime? That’s why we persevere in prayer that we might be able to get on top of particular sins.

Because the task of harvesting – doing business for king Jesus – is a spiritual task requiring people to be confronted and changed on the inside, and because it requires such high levels of self-denial and self-sacrifice, we will never be up for the task on our own.

But God has not left us on our own. Jesus has given us a weapon fit for the task. We have the weapon of his powerful word, and we have the weapon of Prayer through which God’s Spirit will work to break down hostile unbelief and take captive the hearts and minds of sinful people for Christ and new life of obedience and worship.

So, can we really expect to see Christ’s kingdom advanced in this city and across the world; can we really expect real spiritual growth among us if we’re not using the very means by which these things will be achieved - praying as taught by Jesus?

David Calderwood

 

 

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