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ASK; SEEK; KNOCK

Luke 11:5-11:13
Key Verse: 11:9

Thank God for teaching us the Lord’s prayer. Especially, may the prayer, “Father, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come” be kept in our deep hearts and be our fervent prayer each day. In the Lord’s prayer we thought about the contents of prayer (what to pray). In today’s passage Jesus mainly teaches us the attitude of prayer (how to pray). He stresses with unusual emphasis the importance of asking God.

First, a friend’s bold asking (5-8). Look at verses 5 and 6. “Then he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’” In Palestine, traveling at day time was hard because of the heat. So this one friend most probably traveled after dark to escape the heat, and thus arrived at his friend’s house at midnight. Also, at that time, showing hospitality was considered a sacred duty. Yet, that night the man had nothing to set before his visiting friend. However, he did not want to fail in his hospitality to his friend, even though he had no bread that night. So he went to another friend’s house and asked the friend to lend him three loaves of the bread, explaining his situation. He wanted to feed his guest-friend fully with three loaves of bread, even though he had to borrow the bread. The heart of the host-friend seemed remarkable.

Then how does the story continue? Look at verse 7. “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ Evidently the one inside was a poor man, living in a one-roomed house. The whole family would sleep on a raised platform at one end of such a room, probably with the animals at floor level. A man in such a situation could not get up without disturbing the whole family. He raises no difficulty about giving the bread, but the bother of getting up is quite another matter. It is much easier to stay where he is. Look at verse 8. "I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as possible.’” According to Jesus, where friendship does not prevail one’s boldness (also known as persistence or shameless audacity) wins. In this story Jesus conveys the importance of boldness or persistence in our prayer to God. God is much more hospitable and generous than any hospitable friend. He will not get tired or bothered by any request of his people. Yet, one must request boldly with importunity. We must not play at prayer, but show persistence if we do not receive the answer immediately.

Luke’s gospel begins with the story of a man’s persistent prayer. The man had no son even when he became as old as a grandpa. But he kept on praying for a son , for probably more than three decades. Finally his prayer was answered and God gave him a son who would, in Jesus' view, become the greatest man among those born of women (Lk 1:13). One day while Jesus was teaching in a house, some men (four men) were bringing a paralytic to Jesus, carrying him on a mat. But because of the crowd there was no way to come near Jesus and lay the paralytic before him. It was the time for them to return the way they came, admitting that there was no way. However, at this time of seemingly no way out they went up on the roof of the house and lowered him on his mat through the tiles to position their paralytic friend right in front of Jesus. Humanly speaking, they were impolite and shamelessly audacious. But this was their bold and positive act of prayer before God. Jesus was pleased with their act, and made the paralytic well (Lk 5:19-20). In Luke 18, Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. This was the parable of the persistent widow. She bothered a godless and merciless judge so much through her unceasing coming to get justice that the judge finally yielded to her request. Likewise, Jesus wants God’s people to cry out to God day and night, for undoubtedly God is much better in hearing such requests than a merciless and cruel judge. As Jesus approached Jericho on his way to Jerusalem, a blind beggar happened to hear about Jesus’ passing by. At this opportune moment, he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then the people around him told him to be quiet. He could have been sorrowful at his human condition, and greatly disappointed, become silent. That was not the case for the blind beggar. At the people's objection he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then Jesus stopped at his unyielding shouting and gave him what he wanted, sight (Lk 18:38-40). After that event, also in Jericho there was a man, who was a chief tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus. While Jesus was passing through, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. But being a short man, he could not, because of the crowd. He could have been fatalistic about his short height. Yet, he overcame his handicap of short height by climbing up a sycamore fig tree to see Jesus. This was his silent and persistent prayer and he could finally encounter Jesus and came to have a personal relationship with Jesus that brought him salvation (Lk 19:2-5). In this part considering persistence, we cannot miss the story of Abraham who prayed for Sodom at the imminent dreadful judgement of God. When God responded that, at Abraham’s request, he would not destroy Sodom if there were fifty righteous people, Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?” (Ge 18:27-28). The number of the righteous required to save Sodom went down to thirty. Yet, Abraham could not be sure of this number in Sodom. Then he said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?” (Ge 18:31) When God accepted even this number, still Abraham was unassured of it. Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?…” (Ge 18:32) Although Sodom was destroyed because there were not ten righteous people, God heard Abraham’s earnest and persistent prayer and saved Lot his nephew. May God have mercy on us to really learn bold and persistent prayer.

Second, Ask and it will be given to you (9-10). Look at verse 9. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” According to Luke, Jesus now exhorts his disciples to pray, asking, seeking and knocking. Prayer is a time of fellowship with God. In prayer we can listen to God and speak to him. Through prayer we can realize our sins and confess them and repent before God. Also, prayer definitely includes asking. Asking is presenting our request to God verbally from the heart. Seeking is trying to find a way positively with a prayerful heart. The four men’s bringing their paralytic friend to Jesus even through the roof can be a good example of seeking a way, and the chief tax collector Zacchaeus climbing a sycamore-fig tree to see Jesus, another example of this. Knocking is challenging in prayer even the seemingly impossible things. A man visiting his friend at midnight and requesting boldly, a widow’s confronting the judge fearlessly without stopping, and the blind man’s repeated shouting, overcoming the crowd’s objection, and are all good examples of knocking. So asking, seeking and knocking all together (the acronym, ASK) can be a bold and persistent prayer, prayer of request. And also, the word "ask", asking itself can contain the meaning of seeking and knowing. Here by exhorting the same sort of command three times, Jesus stresses the importance of asking, and assures God’s answering the prayer of asking with a threefold promise. And then he repeats the threefold exhortation with a threefold promise, saying with complete inclusiveness, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” In Luke particularly, Jesus said at the beginning, “I say to you.” It seems that in this way Jesus emphasizes seven times the same theme, asking, and also God answering the prayer of asking.

And interestingly, there is no object after the verb 'ask'. It can mean that God wants us to ask anything and everything, as long as the request is not against God’s will. It is like God giving us a blank cheque. And when we ask anything, we must believe God will answer. 1 John 5:14, 15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we have asked of him.” Jesus also said in Mark 11:24, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” He also said in John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Again he said in John 16:23, “…I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."

When we lack wisdom, God wants us to ask him. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” And James 5:13 says, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.” We can also pray for sick people (James 5:14-15). According to the Scriptures, one reason we do not have is we do not ask God (James 4:2b). The Pyeongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea (PUST) is managed solely by God’s provision. The daily expenditure on food alone is about $3000. But the president depends on God solely, and God amazingly provides all the necessary expenses. In the book of Esther, at a time when the Jewish race was about to be annihilated by an evil man’s scheme, Esther prayed, fasting three days with the spirit, “If I perish, I perish” (4:16), and God preserved the Jewish race. When Esther prayed, the Jewish race could be preserved. When Hezekiah was the king of Judah, the nation was so weak before the powerfully rising Assyrian Empire, which had already destroyed northern Israel. It seemed that in but a matter of time Judah also would be devoured by Assyria. But in that desperate situation King Hezekiah went to the temple of the Lord and prayed earnestly, also asking for others’ prayers. Then God heard the prayer of God’s servants and his people and sent an angel of the Lord, who put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp (2 Kings 19:35). At the time of Hezekiah’s reign the nation became powerful. I ask God that he may help us to use this new centre fully with the prayer “Your kingdom come” by having 70 1:1s and 50 SWA while we stay in this place. And we keep praying God may establish 12 shepherd families by 2020.

Third, ask for the Holy Spirit (11-13). Look at verses 11-13, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Here Jesus compares human fathers and our Father in heaven. In this world, the relationship of human fathers with their children is special. Human fathers are willing to give what their children ask for. When the children ask for something, the hearts of their fathers specially go to them. Fish and egg are good things for the children’s living, while snake and scorpion, bad and harmful. No parents will give their children bad things when they ask for good things. In this world a father’s heart is the partial reflection of God’s heart, though man is evil. Here evil means sinful, imperfect, and limited in love and wisdom and power. But our Father in heaven is perfect in love and power and purity. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” And he is the Giver of all good things (Ro 8:32).

Look at verse 13 again. “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” In Luke’s gospel here Jesus specifically mentioned the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the very source of all that is good. When the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus’ disciples after Jesus’ ascension, they who were but unschooled Galilean fishermen became undaunted before the authorities of Jerusalem and so courageously testified to Jesus that the religious leaders were astonished at their courage. When they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they became overcomers of the world and the world was not worthy of them. The Holy Spirit was the very agent who carried out God’s world salvation purpose. And the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” is God’s command (Eph 5:18). When we are not filled with the Holy Spirit, something else will be there. Jesus exclaimed that our Father in heaven would give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” To ask or not to ask is the matter. May we believe this promise of Jesus and ask for the Holy Spirit until we are really filled with the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit becomes evident in our lives

In this passage we can clearly see how much Jesus wants us to ask God our Father in heaven boldly and persistently, seeking and knocking. May we ask, really ask him for anything we need according to his will, especially for the Holy Spirit.

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