Everyone has been there before. A family goes shopping for a new shelving or storage unit. They bring home a brand new grill or outdoor furniture. The instructions are included. The very first thing a person does, or at least should do, is look over the instructions. At times those instructions cause nothing but confusion. The parts look nothing like the picture. The steps go all over the place. Half way through the assembly process the item looks nothing like the picture on the box. Anger. Frustration. Confusion. It leaves a person wanting to chuck whatever they are building out the window. DIY shows and YouTube videos make it look so easy. The instructions imply only a few minutes for assembly. Hours later we feel like giving up.
I can remember one instance this happened to me. Shortly after Andrea and I were married, we went out to buy a TV stand. We looked at a local furniture store where we bought our couches. We found one on sale. It said “some assembly required”. I figured no big deal. It was a basic stand with a couple doors underneath. We took it home, and I quickly got to work. Nothing went as planned. The holes did not line up. As I tightened the screws, the wood split. It stood wobbly on our floor. In what should have been about a thirty minute project, it turned into a couple hours. It got so bad that we returned it. They looked at it and determined it was defective. Not a good afternoon in the Dorn household.
Even though we try to follow instructions, they do not always work. Things do not always go as planned. Sometimes we do not listen to instructions which causes more headaches down the road. In our lesson today we have instructions coming to us from Jesus. They deal with a very important part of our Christian life.
Jesus Gives Instructions for Prayer
- We need to be bold.
- We need to be confident.
As he often did, Jesus spent time in prayer. No matter how hectic his schedule was, Jesus found time to pray to his heavenly Father. This time the disciples watched him. Maybe they heard his words, maybe they did not. When Jesus finished praying, one disciple approached him with a request, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).
Does this sound like a strange question? This disciple probably had prayed many times before. From a young age his parents taught him to pray before meals and at worship. He knew what prayer was. He memorized some of the psalms to be used as prayers. Why would he ask Jesus to teach him to pray? This disciple noticed how important prayer was to Jesus. He might have listened to the perfect words uttered in a perfect way by the perfect teacher of prayer. John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray, so this disciple wanted to learn from the Master.
Jesus did not find this request odd. Jesus did not ask what he meant by the question. Instead Jesus taught the disciples a prayer. Jesus introduced the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples, which we still use today. The disciples must have been in awe at the simple words that packed so much meaning behind them.
This prayer serves as a model on what our prayer life should look like. The Lord’s Prayer focuses our attention on the will of God. God desires that all people be saved. God wishes his Word to go out into all the world so the Holy Spirit can bring saving faith into the hearts of all people. As we pray we recognize our heavenly Father opens his hands and gives physical blessings to all people. We ask God to help us in times of temptation. We ask for strength to forgive the sins of all those who wrong us in view of the forgiveness God gives to us.
The Lord’s Prayer gives us so much information on prayer. We could easily spend weeks looking at each part of this prayer and not even begin to scratch the surface of what God wants to teach us. Instead, today we are going to focus on the attitude God wants us to have in prayer. Jesus, the perfect teacher, not only gives his followers a prayer to use, but he also instructs them on the attitude with which to pray.
This disciple left the lessons on prayer with more than he bargained for. After Jesus taught them the Lord’s Prayer, he continued with a story. A man came to his friend’s house at midnight, not the ideal time for a visit. He bangs on the door. Some people have come for a visit. He had nothing to give them. He came to his friend hoping that he could spare three loaves of bread.
The reaction of the friend was not surprising. The message came across in the end as, “Leave me alone!” It was late. His family was sleeping. This was not his problem. The local Wal-Mart was still a long way from being completed. The town baker would not even have his goods out for many more hours. However, this man kept knocking. He kept pleading for bread. Finally, the friend gave him the bread. Jesus said this was not because of their friendship but because of his persistence.
Persistence pays off. We hear this encouragement all the time. An athlete works hard to master their position. They stay after practice. They work on mechanics. They continually learn from others. All that persistence will pay off in the end. A student works hard on memorizing their math facts. It takes hard work and persistence, but they finally have those facts memorized. A job applicant calls the company to see if they received their resume. They are rewarded with an interview. Persistence pays off.
If this is the case, why do we give up so easily in our prayer life? God invites us to come to him with every request and plea. God promises to hear and answer all of our prayers. God loves to have those prayers come to him. We start out so well. However, we treat God as a one stop shop. We quickly offer our prayer and move on to something else.
We fail to set aside time to pray. Our schedules fill up quickly. We run around from one place to the next. We forget to pray. We do not want others to give us dirty looks, so we do not pray before we eat in a restaurant. We might even think that prayer does not really help. If God will not listen once, then I do not want to continue. Soon our prayers stop. We give up. We no longer want to be persistent.
God does not want us to just give up in coming to him in prayer. We cannot say to ourselves, “Well, I tried a couple of times, so I guess I will just let it pass.” I wonder how many times we do not have, because we do not ask. We think our problems, our worries, our needs, our wants are not that big of a deal to God. We just give up not wanting to bother God. We decide to carry all these burdens ourselves forgetting God’s gracious invitation to lighten our load.
It does not matter whether we come with a small request or a large request. It does not matter whether we pray for one person or two hundred people, we come persistently to God. We hold him to his promises. We come with boldness knowing that nothing is too big for our God to do. We have the all-powerful God, the one holding this universe together inviting us to come before him. We take advantage of this. We come to God. We pray persistently for we know that God will answer our prayers. Jesus continues to give us instructions on prayer to come with confidence.
Should we pray, if we do not trust? Can we just utter the words wondering if God will really answer? If we do not think God will answer, we will not come to him in prayer. If we do not trust, we should not even be coming to God with all our pleas.
Children come to their parents in full confidence that they will give them what they need. If a child says they are hungry, parents will not set a bunch of rocks in front of them. If a child asks for an extra blanket at night, parents will not take all the blankets away to let the child freeze. This comes from sinful parents. This comes from parents who have to deal with their own selfish desires and imperfect love. This comes from parents who do not always follow through on promises.
As children of God, should we doubt that he will answer all our prayers? God is perfect. God is loving. God knows what we want as well as what we need. We come in full confidence that he will answer our prayers.
This means that at times we need to be prepared to hear the answer “no”. No one likes to hear this answer. We never outgrow the disappointment that a “no” answer brings. Sometimes God will tell us no. He even told his own Son no when Jesus prayed for the suffering and death of the cross to pass. Thankfully, God said no, so that we might be forgiven from all our sins.
We also know the many times that God has answered yes or given us something better. We come in confidence knowing that God knows best. We leave it all in his hands. He will do what is best for us both now and eternally.
We might not always like how the instructions come in laying something out for us to follow. When it comes to our prayers, we have the perfect set of instructions laid out for us to follow. Jesus himself gives us these instructions. We come to him in boldness praying constantly. We come before him with confidence knowing that he will always answer our prayers. Amen.