Praying - Asking

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Through prayer, we can boldly join God in seeing good happen


Age of Entitlement

“The age of entitlement is over”.
These were words spoken by the then Federal treasurer, Joe Hockey.
It was early 2014. Labour had just been voted out after two terms in government, and the Liberals were now in.
And there was a big debt.
It was the Liberal’s intention to rein in that debt, and to do that, it meant big changes.
Joe Hockey went on to say, that with the age of entitlement over, it was now the age of personal responsibility. All Australians would have to do their fair share of heavy lifting.
Now I’m not going to get into politics now. I’m sure you’ve got your way of understanding this time.
But the words of Joe Hockey back in 2014 certainly got me thinking. What are we entitled to? Are we entitled to anything, or should we just be thankful for whatever we receive?
That question could be asked for different areas of our life.
I’ve got three young daughters. What are they entitled to? Well certainly you’d have to say they were entitled to the basics of life. Food and shelter. But also general support from their parents.
But what about the government level, which is what Joe Hockey was talking about. Are we entitled to anything there? Well similarly you’d have to say that there were some things on a very basic level like providing a functioning society that is fair and reasonable.
But what about when it comes to God? How much can we expect from him?
Now, I suspect you’ll all agree with me that God is good. So like at the family and government level, we can at least expect God to provide those basic things we need. The things we need to live and survive.
Now at each of these levels there is this basic level at which we do feel entitled. But how far does that extend?
Should my children expect expensive gifts at Christmas?
Can we expect handouts from the government?
Should we expect that God will intervene in our lives to bless us in ways we don’t deserve?

Learning about prayer

This morning I want to start a conversation about prayer. I want us to think about what we understand about what prayer is and how we should go about it. And in particular I want to try and see if we can answer this question of how much we can expect from God?
You see, I think most, if not all Christians would say that prayer is something we should be doing.
But it’s often not something we put a lot of thinking into it.
Now I know amongst us we would have a variety of different levels at which we are committed to praying. Some of you will have developed really good habits of prayer into your life. For others, prayer might be more of a occasional thing you do when something requiring prayer comes to mind.
Whatever your level, I want to suggest that there is more we can learn about this spiritual discipline.
You see, prayer really is just our conversation with God. But here’s the thing. If you think of a relationship such as a husband and wife, you’ll know that communication is something that needs constant attention. Even with many years of a healthy marriage, we can still improve.

TBBC Context

Now, using the marriage relationship as an analogy, you could say that communication is always important, however, when you are in the process of making big decisions, it becomes even more important.
Well, last week after our service we did have a time as a church of reflecting where God is leading us. This was part of a longer process that we have where we are discerning God’s will for us here. And so it is so important that prayer becomes vital in all of this. And that is why I’m going to spend the next few weeks thinking about prayer. I’ll be encouraging each of you to really work at your own practices of praying.

Luke’s gospel

Well, let’s jump into Luke’s gospel now where we can read Jesus’ very own teaching on the topic.
Now, one of the things about Luke’s gospel that might not initially stand out to you, but if you look closely, we actually see Jesus praying a lot. In fact, Luke points out that at a lot of the key moments, we find Jesus in prayer. During his baptism in chapter 3. When calling the 12 disciples in chapter 6. Before the transfiguration in chapter 9. And of course, just before his arrest in chapter 22.
What we are seeing in these prayers is the perfect unity that exists between God the Father and God the Son. So Jesus becomes for us the perfect example of how to pray.

Disciple ask Jesus about prayer

Now, at the start of chapter 11, we find Jesus again at prayer. It is very vague about the time and place of this conversation. Really, that is not important.
What is important is the question that comes next. The disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray.
Now just pause there a moment.
You see, sometimes we can take the attitude that I’ve been praying my whole life, what have I got to learn. Well, guess what? These disciples would not have been novices when it comes to prayer. As Jews, they would have grown up praying. But when they see Jesus praying, they see a deeper connection. And that’s why they ask him to teach them to pray.
So it’s worth pointing out - we can always learn and grow in our prayer life.

A model prayer

Well, what comes next is a model prayer from Jesus. In Luke’s gospel, we see a shorter version of what comes in Matthews gospel but the basic structure is there.
Now there’s a lot we can learn from this prayer, but I’m just going to very briefly highlight a few elements of it because I’ll spend more time looking at he lessons that Jesus teaches following the prayer.

Focus on God

Well, the first thing I want to highlight from the prayer is the focus on God. It starts with putting the glory on God: Hallowed be your name.
And with a focus on God comes a desire to see God’s ways move forward: your kingdom come.

Our needs

Now when we focus on God, we’ll find a God that loves us, and therefore it is natural that our needs will factor in the prayers - and so the second aspect of the prayer we need to see is that God wants us to ask for our needs: “Give us each day our daily bread”.
But our needs are not just physical - like the need for bread. They are also spiritual. “Forgive us our sins”.
Now we start to see a progression here. It starts with a focus on God. Moves to the way his love for us manifests itself.
But in our prayer, we need to recognise that if God has done this for us, then we need to show the same kind of love to others. “For we also forgive everyone who sins against us”.
And finally, once recognising what God has done for us, and our response to others, we also need to recognise there is a broader response in how we live: “And lead us not into temptation”
Now while there can be a time and place where it is appropriate to say this prayer word-for-word, Jesus is actually giving us a pattern for how we can pray.
Now I asked the question before - how much can we expect from God in prayer? Well, this model actually starts to answer that question for us.
You see, it shows us that we can ask for our needs in our prayers, but we should be placing it in the context of a God that has shown his extraordinary love for us.

A midnight visit

Well, after offering us a model for our prayer, Jesus then moves into a parable. And as we explore this parable we’re going to see something truly remarkable about prayer.
The parable imagines that you have two friends.
One of the friends has come to you quite unexpectedly. But you want to be a good host and provide for this unexpected friend. In the parable, it is three loaves of bread. Probably this is three small loaves which would be a decent meal for this traveller.
But unfortunately, you don’t have the food you need - and this would be quite embarrassing if you weren’t able to provide.
But you have another friend, and this other friend always have enough supplies. This friend can get you out of a spot of bother and embarrassment. The only problem, it’s midnight and this friend has a family who is already in bed. It’s going to be a huge inconvenience for him.
But being hospitable to your friend is important. So what do you do?
Well, you build up the courage and find the audacity needed to ask anyway.
Well, it turns out it was a huge inconvenience. And this friend with the supplies is indeed annoyed. But he does deliver. Why? Well Jesus says it’s not because he was a friend, but because of the shameless audacity.

What it means...

Now this is one of those puzzling parables. It would be easy to draw conclusions about God’s character that aren’t true. You see, we shouldn’t conclude from this that God is some uncaring heartless being that only responds to our begging.
Rather, Jesus pictures this character in that way because it highlights the point of the parable - and that is, that God is willing to go beyond what might be expected in the normal course of events when we bring our requests to him in prayer.

Being bold in our prayers

And this, I believe, is truly incredible. It implies that we can be bold in our prayers.
I know that sometimes I can become very timid in my prayers.
I don’t know about you, but often in my prayers I frequently add a qualifier at the end of many of my requests. I add the words: ‘Lord, if its in your will...’
Now, I will add that there are times when adding this qualifier is right. Sometimes we are just trying to seek God’s will and we honestly don’t know and so handing it back to God can be the best thing to do.

Bible characters pray boldly

But have you ever looked at the ways in which many of the Biblical characters pray.
They pray with a boldness.
Take Moses - he boldly pleads with God to turn his fierce anger from Israel (Ex 32:12)
Or look at the boldness David showed before Goliath - seizing the victory in faith.
We could look at the prayers of Elijah, or Hannah or Daniel - each coming before God with clear direction.
Do you know what? Through prayer, we are working with God to determine the future.
I believe this is the message we get from this parable.
Now let me come back to the question I had before: how much can we expect from God?
We might have been tempted to say initially that we shouldn’t expect anything other than our bare basics. Perhaps that we agree with Joe Hockey that we should stop being so entitled.
But maybe… just maybe, with God there is more to it.
Jesus is prompting us to put in requests that upsets the status quo.
Are we praying with boldness?


Now, Jesus seems to be pushing us into this bold praying in verse 9.
“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 find; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”


Now, for most of us, this is probably not an unfamiliar passage, and I suspect for most of us we’ve had reason to question what Jesus is saying.
We’ve all had prayers that have seemingly gone unanswered.
So what’s the go?

Father and Son

Well, Jesus gives another parable.
This time, the characters are a father and son.
The son comes to his father and asks for things that are going to be good for him. He asks for a fish. And then he asks for an egg.
Now this parable works on the basis of highlighting the absurdity of the father replying to the request for something good, by providing something horrible.
Would he give a snake instead of a fish? Or course not!
Would he give a scorpion in place of an egg? Or course not!

That which is good

There is a clear lesson in this that helps qualify our boldness.
God gives good gifts, not bad.
The truth is, sometimes when we pray, we are actually praying out of selfishness.
We want sunny weather for our picnic. We want to get that promotion at work.
Sometimes the answer is no, because that is ultimately not what is good.


But still, we might object - but what about when my prayer really is good.
The classic example is when we pray for our loved ones to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour - but to their dying days, they don’t.
Now surely we would have to admit that that is a good prayer.
So why does it happen?
Well, I don’t want to pretend that there is a simple answer to that. We don’t fully understand exactly why God does what he does.
I’ve heard it suggested that perhaps the prayer mustn’t have been offered with sufficient faith - but you know what? Jesus says we only need to have faith as small as a mustard seed. So, I’m not sure that is a sufficient answer.
I think we just have to conclude that God’s ways are bigger than ours.
But I want to suggest that pointing at things that appear to be exceptions actually doesn’t change anything.
God wants us to boldly join him in shaping the world into a better place.
We just need to ask, seek and knock.

TBBC application

Now let’s bring this all back to our context here at Tanilba Bay Baptist.
Last week after our service, we had a time to consider the vision of our church and where God is taking us.
The stage we are in right now is a time where we are still seeking God’s will for us. There are still many options on the table and we have to be wise as we consider them.
But what if we change a prayer of: “Lord, show us what to do...”
…with: “Lord, help us to be your hands and feet in our community”.
What if we ask God to provide facilities that help us to build a stronger community.
You see, there is a mindset change that needs to take place. We can sit back and just hope that things just happen, or we can take it to God and be like the man that shamelessly knocks on his friends door at the middle of the night.
God, we want to see powerful things happen here.
We don’t just want to love - we want to wholeheartedly love those in our community.
We want to humbly share the blessings we have received with the community around us.
We want to be passionate in the way we serve.
Let’s be bold in our vision and take it to God in prayer.


Coming back to the question I asked earlier about how much we can expect from God: we need to recognise that God is ultimately in control. God ultimately knows what is good. But he wants us to partner with him in prayer.
He doesn’t want us to just roll with it all, but to step out and seek what is good.
As we consider the model for prayer that Jesus has given us, this is what we will do.
We will start with what God has already done, and from this we will flow into what God is doing now.
But God wants us to be bold. He wants us to asks for what is good.
Are we prepared to do that?
Let me pray now...
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