Approachable Father

The Gospel of Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  28:45
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Opening Prayer
How do you respond to being woken up at night? …
Thinking of this in connection with prayer: Do we have the nerve to be so bold and shameless as to approach a holy God? Will we be incinerated, or are we inconveniencing him?.... Contrary to a reluctant response from being woken up at midnight, God is gracious and responsive to our shameless pleas for help.
Luke 11:1–13 ESV
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Context: Teaching on Prayer (11:1-13)

We discussed last week that because Jesus frequently modeled prayer for his disciples (he made a practice of doing it in their presence—both for regular communion with God and in fervent petitioning in particular moments of crisis)…. Because he had set an example for them of the importance of prayer, and then one requested that he teach them to pray, he gave them a model prayer (an example, a pattern) that they could follow. They might do well to repeat the prayer verbatim (especially considering that the intent is clearly for corporate prayer—all pronouns in it are plural), and they might do just as well to use it as a pattern for composing their own prayers, understanding the kinds of priorities we ought to have in prayer and the kinds of spiritual attitudes with which we should approach God. - The disciples lacked experience in this area. As their capability in prayer grew, they would branch out to other verbiage used in their corporate prayers while maintaining the priorities and spiritual attitudes modeled for them by Jesus.
Jesus follows up this model, the Disciples’ Prayer we might call it, with a parable about shameless boldness in requesting help from a friend (with a good aim, not a selfish one). With the simplicity and reverence in that model prayer, a petitioner before God might wonder: “Since God is so holy, perhaps one should keep requests to a minimum and be careful about bothering the sovereign God.” (Bock, 1056) But Jesus gives a parable to debunk that theory before it lifts off, teaching that we can and should approach God with boldness and urgency in prayer.
The parable makes a point concerning prayer through a “negative” illustration. In other words, Jesus tells a humorous story of shameless nerve in asking a friend for help (at midnight!) to make the point that we too should be bold and fervent in prayer to God for help, knowing that He is in fact receptive and ready to act (no matter the time or place). [After all, God is not bound in any way by human time and cosmos… so requests at midnight aren’t even a minor annoyance to God.]

Parable: ‘Friend’ at Midnight (vv. 5-8)

This parable is actually great fun.
First of all, it would be unthinkable in their culture at the time to not have provision to offer a guest, no matter how late he’s showing up at your house. - So he comes desperately to another neighbor’s house: “Friend, I have had another friend just arrive from a journey. And now it’s too late to go to market. (“In first century Palestine… there were no evening shops, and bread was baked each day to meet the day’s needs.” [Bock, 1057] He couldn’t just run to the 24-hr CVS.) Anyway, he’s at my house already, and you know I would never ask at such an ungodly hour for bread for myself, but I must give him something. Can I get three small loaves, just enough for him? And I promise to pay it back. [lend me…].”
From within the house, the friend responds, “Are you off your rocker? I live in a small house, and we’ve all gone to bed (it was a normal custom for a family to share one sleeping mat… or the kids particularly might be on mats on the floor… either way). If I start lighting lamps and banging about to find these loaves and loudly opening the door (“The door would have had a wooden or iron bar placed through rings in the door panels, and removing it would be noisy.” Bock, 1058), I might wake these kids and be up half the night more! In fact, the more you keep knocking and talking, you might wake them as it is. Go away!” [To be fair to this grumpy friend, we don’t all wake up graciously. … especially when the problem persists!]
But, Jesus says, “how many of you would give up so easily? You wouldn’t. … So although this friend might not get out of bed initially simply out of friendship, he will in fact get out of bed due to the shameless boldness of the one begging outside the door [for some, this might also land him in the realm of ‘former friend’ :-)].
The point is this:
Boldly and urgently pray to God for help.
(Although God is holy, you can approach him boldly because of what Christ has accomplished. And we pray as though we desperately depend on his help—because that’s accurate!) [PS. God doesn’t sleep, so you won’t wake him. There’s no ungodly hour with God.]
Though God be God and we are mere beggars requesting at his throne, we can boldly, earnestly, and urgently bring our requests to him. We might feel we are being audacious and presumptuous, like this friend to a neighbor at midnight, but God is much more receptive (as the next verses show), so we must see our need for help and approach God with the same kind of shameless urgency and persistence.
Hebrews 4:16 ESV
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Following this point that we should be shamelessly bold in prayer, Jesus adds that God is in fact different than the hesitant neighbor at midnight.

Ask, Seek, Knock (vv. 9-10)

Instead of being compared to the cranky neighbor (which would mess up our understanding of the parable’s point), God is contrasted to him. Rather than feeling bothered, God wants us to pray to him, and readily responds.
God is approachable.
(He is receptive.)
Ask, seek, knock (continually) - The repetition reinforces both persistence and the certainty of a response. Jesus encouraged them to persist in prayer, not because we are trying to force God’s hand, change his mind, bend his will… but to be steadfast in prayer, knowing that God will meet our needs according to his will.
“Jesus does not say and does not mean that, if we pray, we will always get exactly what we ask for. After all, ‘No’ is just as definite an answer as ‘Yes’. He is saying that true prayer is neither unheard nor unheeded. It is always answered in the way God sees is best.” -Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 214.
We should pray often and with confidence. We need not fear that he will not be receptive to our plea, and, even with all due respect to his holiness and sovereignty, we need not fear that he is unapproachable. Indeed, he is receptive and compassionately eager to respond to his children. That becomes even more clear as Jesus continues this teaching on prayer.
For those who have a relationship with God… when we ask, seek, knock… we find him gracious.
God is not only approachable, he is…
God is responsive.
“Ask” is an invitation to pray, to petition God. When we do so, we find him eager to give. “Seek” is an invitation to pursue God and his will, which ought to be a priority in the disciple’s heart and life. We are told that to seek God rightly is met with him allowing us to find him. Knocking pictures the petitioner coming into his presence, to his very door, and he graciously opens it to the one who knocks.
This picture of God being approachable and responsive continues into the following illustration Jesus uses. It is a comparison between earthly fathers and our heavenly Father, an argument from lesser to greater…

A Better Father (vv. 11-13)

The earlier image was one of a friend, and now what is pictured is even more intimate: the relationship between a father and his child.
“What father among you...” - I mentioned the humor of the earlier parable, and the ludicrousness of this parable/illustration is funny too. Try to picture a little guy coming up, hungry, asking his dad for some fish to eat, and the dad pulls out a water snake instead. … Or a scorpion when asked for an egg. The conclusion is of course supposed to be: No one would do this! It’s hilariously unthinkable.
The illustration uses common foods and common perils (risks/dangers). (fish and eggs, and serpents and scorpions)
Here we’d say hamburgers and hotdogs… ticks and rocks. …Actually, we can still pretty well relate to snakes and scorpions as common dangers in our part of the world at the present time.
Even you flawed earthly parents wouldn’t give your kids something harmful when they’re asking for something helpful (hungry for food/provision).
So, if even you “who are evil” - Human sinfulness would have been readily admitted by Jesus’ original audience here. - Even we give good gifts to our children.
Of course, now here comes the real point—“how much more will the heavenly Father...” If God can be measured as infinitely better (infinitely more good) than any man (beings created in his image but now all having a sin nature to the Fall—when Adam and Eve sinned as representatives for all mankind), how much more can we anticipate that from his goodness we will receive that which is truly good, truly best.
And then comes a supreme example of God giving that which is truly good and best:
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
Perhaps it helps to clarify that… “Believers today are not to pray for the Holy Spirit because this prayer of the disciples (for the Holy Spirit) was answered at Pentecost (cf. Rom. 8:9).” -John A. Martin, “Luke,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 235.
Post-cross (and Post-pentacost) N.T. believers (meaning after these things) can rightly pray for the “filling” of the Spirit (eg., greater control of the Spirit in our lives). The Apostle Paul tells us in Eph. 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit, teaching also in Galatians on the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)—attitudes and characteristics which we can always rightly pursue because they are consistent with the perfect nature of God.
Additionally, “There seems no reason for understanding this in terms of the ‘charismatic’ gifts. The reference is rather to the Spirit’s work in the Christian life generally, as in Romans 8.” -Leon Morris, Ibid.
In accordance with the work of the Holy Spirit in us then, we might rightly expect that when we urgently and frequently seek God’s help, he can and he does give us greater love for himself, greater victory over sin, and greater power for ministry.
It’s important to note, however, that God the Holy Spirit will never do in us that which is inconsistent with God’s own word, the author of which is the Holy Spirit himself. In fact, what the Holy Spirit fills us with and changes us by is the very truth of the word of Christ played out in our lives.
What do we do with what Jesus teaches here? How should we live?
Pray to God boldly and urgently, knowing that you will find him approachable and responsive, ready and willing to graciously give to us that which he knows is best. [repeat] - That’s great motivation to pray!
There is a choice to be made. (Will you be shamelessly bold like this friend who needed bread for his guest, or will you remain on your own, not seeking and therefore not receiving?) God is great and awesome and holy; He is Lord over all, who is to be revered. But right fear of God will not keep you on the outside looking in, but will cause you to approach him and seek his help. Right understanding of God will help you see that he is not keeping you at arms length but welcomes you in with warm embrace.
And this we understand he can do, because Jesus, God the Son, had bridged the gap between us, by becoming the perfect offering for our sin (when he died on a cross and rose again) so that we can have relationship restored to God.
And we should note, finally, that there is a deliberate picture here of God as Father, in which we ought to see His tender care toward the disciple. If God has made you his own and thus you have responded in faith to Jesus, this is the kind of caring concern that you can expect from God as you approach him in prayer.
And one closing thought I’d like us to note about prayer this morning in connection with the text today:
He likes to be asked.
In C.S. Lewis’s novel The Magician’s Nephew – the prequel to The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe – the Great Lion Aslan sends Polly and Digory and their flying horse Fledge off on an important quest across the land of Narnia. But when night falls and they still haven’t reached their destination, the children grow hungry – and realize they have nothing to eat.
Polly and Digory stared at each other in dismay.
‘Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,’ said Digory.
‘I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,’ said Fledge.
‘Wouldn’t he know without being asked?’ said Polly.
‘I’ve no doubt he would,’ said the Horse, (still with his mouth full [of grass]). ‘But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.’
Let’s Pray.
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