5 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 7And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for* a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If 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!’
The disciples have asked Jesus to teach them to pray, and he has given them the words we know as the Lord’s Prayer. But that is not all there is to prayer – he goes on to teach them more :
Be persistent in prayer, he says, don’t just ask once and go away. Once again he tells a parable to make his point – God is not like the neighbor who is annoyed and tells his friend to go away – but even that annoyed neighbor will eventually respond to persistence. How much more will God, who loves you and wants to give you good things, respond to your persistence?
And how can God answer prayers that we don’t pray? Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.” Ask, search, knock. Jesus is NOT talking about asking for things – a new car, a finer house – as some TV preachers would have you believe. God is not Santa Claus! He is talking about soul and spirit, asking for God’s presence in your life, seeking God’s will, knocking on heaven’s door, on the door of the kingdom now. Nor is this a promise that God’s answer will always be yes – sometimes we pray for healing, and we enter into communion with God, working with God in a profound way, for healing to happen. But sometimes we pray for the strength to know when the healing won’t happen, strength to get through it anyway. Sometimes healing happens on the other side of heaven’s door. The thing to remember is that the prayer we don’t pray cannot be answered.
And Jesus says that God wants to answer our prayers; he wants to give us good things, like a father wants to give his children good things. If we know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Heavenly Father give us good things? Here, Jesus specifies what these words on prayer are about – they are about praying for and receiving the Holy Spirit.
As the great revival began in Cuba, there was a group of young men, teen-agers really, who decided to pray for the Holy Spirit in their lives. They prayed with persistence, all night; far into the night their pastor joined them. It was near morning when the Spirit came upon them. It changed not only their lives, but the life of the church in Cuba, for they became leaders in the revival that moved across the island.
I am asking you to pray – pray for the presence of the Spirit on our Church today, on the Church as an entire body, on the United Methodist Church as a united body, and on Big Pine United Methodist Church here in Big Pine, and particularly for the presence of the Spirit in the new service we begin ten days from now. Pray that the Spirit will bring those who need God into this service, and will act through the service. Thank you. We need your prayers!