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TEACH US TO PRAY (7): WHEN GOD IS RELUCTANT

(Luke 11:5-8)
February 22, 2015
Intro (Read Luke 11:5-8). The count was 3 and 2 when Danny
MacFayden, pitching for the Pirates, fired what he thought was a strike, but
which Umpire Bill Klem called Ball 4. Danny rushed the plate, offered his
glasses to Klem yelling, Here, you need these more than I do! Manager
Frank Frisch arrived on the scene just as Klem thumbed MacFayden. Frisch
argued, Bill, the kid didnt mean that. He was excited. Have a heart. Klem
responded, Im not throwing him for insulting my eyesight. Im tossing
him for inciting the fans. Danny took offense: I was not yelling at the
grandstand. I was hollering just in case your ears are as bad as your eyes.
Well, Im wondering today if some of us have stopped praying feeling the
Lord is hard of hearing. Prayer seems to yield nothing, so we have largely
given up. Weve all been there. But Jesus urges, get back in the prayer game.
In Luke 11:1-4 Jesus teaches what to pray. Now, in vv 5-13 Jesus teaches us
how to pray. Two words persistently and expectantly. Vv. 5-8 deal with
persistently. V. 8 is key: I tell you, though he will not get up and give him
anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence (persistence,
shameless audacity) he will rise and give him whatever he needs. How
should we pray? Persistently. Well examine that more closely next week.
But first, lets get oriented. In any parable we ask what the parts represent,
right? Here its clear. The man seeking bread is the disciples or us. The
sleeping friend is God. So, with that in mind, I want us to ask two questions of
this parable. Why is God reluctant? And why is persistence necessary?
I.

Why is God Reluctant?

A. W. Tozer made a profound comment: What comes into our minds when
we think about God is the most important thing about us. Dead on! What
we think about God is the most important thing about us because that will
inform virtually every thought and every action we take. And if we think of
God as a decrepit umpire who can neither see nor hear, why pray? Right?
But isnt God the sleepy neighbor here? Note his response to the request:
7and he will answer from within, Do not bother me; the door is now shut,
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and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything?
Dont bother me! So God doesnt want to be bothered, so you can only move
Him by being the squeaky wheel, right? Youve got to be the loudest and
longest to get a response. And thats too hard, so we count ourselves out. If
thats how we view God, were not likely to spend much time pursuing Him.
So, why does God not want to be bothered? Why is God reluctant? And the
answer is [listen carefully now. Here is the heart of the message]. Why is God
reluctant? The answer is Hes not! Thats great news, isnt it? Hes not
reluctant. But sometimes it appears that He is! Given that, Jesus is teaching
us what to do. How do we deal with a seemingly reluctant, AWOL God? Jesus
answer is keep asking, persistently and even shamelessly, impudently.
But before we go there, its important to ask why God sometimes appears
reluctant. Remember, the most important thing about you the thing that will
drive every decision you make is how you think about God. If you think
Hes reluctant, you will act in kind. You will blow Him off like you think Hes
blowing you off. But if you understand that He is not reluctant, it changes
everything. So, if Hes not reluctant, how come I dont get immediate
answers? Im an American! I want it now! Why does God delay?

. Unconfessed sin Psa 66:18, If I had cherished [held unconfessed] iniquity


in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. How did David know that?
Because he had tried it many times. By firsthand experience he knew, if I
harbor known sin in my life, the Lord is under no obligation to hear my
prayer. When I cover sin bitterness, anger, selfishness, a critical spirit,
vengeance Im not being genuine with God. And He knows our heart! We
cant ask God for help with our marriage while we cheating on our taxes,
right? You cant ask a friend for a loan while you stab him in the back at work.
Unconfessed sin ties Gods hands except to discipline us.
Jesus says in Matt 5 that if you bring an offering (equivalent to prayer today)
but have unresolved conflict, First be reconciled to your brother, and then
come and offer your gift (Mt 5:23). Your offering is no good here until
youve done what you can to right the wrong. If we harbor sin our hearing is
denied. God gets really personal about this in I Pet 3:7, Likewise, husbands,
live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as
the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that
your prayers may not be hindered. Look at that. Unresolved conflict in
marriage nullifies prayers. In the case of unconfessed sin, it isnt a case of
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God appearing reluctant, its a case of Him being reluctant. But the fault is
not His. The fault is ours. And the answer is, confess and forsake the sin.

. Spiritual Warfare One day Daniel got a vision he did not understand. It
plagued him and he prayed for enlightenment. Nothing came. He neither ate
nor bathed so consumed was he in seeking an answer. After 3 weeks, an angel
showed up, and said in Dan 10:12, Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day
(thats not reluctance) that you set your heart to understand and humbled
yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come
because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia (demon)
withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to
help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you
understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision
is for days yet to come. Amazing insight. Sometimes good angels and
demons battle it out in the background before answers come. And Paul tells us
were in the same warfare. So, sometimes the answer may be delayed because
of the spiritual warfare that surrounds us unseen, but very real.

. Timing is wrong Suppose your 10-year-old son came and asked for the
keys to the car. You giving them to him? I dont think so! Why? Dont love
him? Want to deprive him? Indifferent to his transportation needs? No! Its a
timing issue. Hes not ready yet, though he may think he is. Prayer can be like
that. God wont give us what would hurt us or others. Sometimes we dont
know what were asking for, or the timing is simply wrong. But with our
limited capacity, we cant always know that. Often we dont know that.
I was watching a ballgame once during the 70s that went into extra innings.
This disrupted the TV schedule, so announcer Curt Cowdy explained: "The
'Tonight Show' has been canceled, the 'Tomorrow Show' will be seen later
tonight and the Today Show' will be seen tomorrow." That might be more
than I could keep track of, but God would have no problem. And we can trust
His timing in our lives as well. It reminds me of what Billy Grahams wife,
Ruth Bell Graham once said: "If God had answered every prayer of mine I
would have married the wrong man seven times." I suppose she thought God
was reluctant at times, but it was simply a question of the right timing.
Sometimes the right time is a long time. Paul asked 3 times to have a
troublesome thorn in the flesh removed. Did it happen? Yes but not until
he was glorified. Meantime God had distinct purposes for leaving it intact.
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. Answer is Unrecognized Sometimes the answer is not what we think and


we dont even recognize it. Well develop this later in this section, but realize
what looks like reluctance may be a No or Maybe or even heres what you
really need answer that we dont recognize. Lloyd Ogilvie tells us a
businessman in his church who was praying for a big order to come through.
Instead it was canceled and the guy got so depressed his work suffered so
much he got fired. That led to him starting his own consulting firm that has
expanded him in every way and opened new avenues to represent Christ in his
business dealings. What looked like no answer, was exactly the right answer.
Were just a little too anxious to help God out!
The deal is this, Beloved. God is never reluctant, but His perfect timing may
differ a bit from ours. Hang on to this: Psa 84:11, No good thing does he
withhold from those who walk uprightly. What looks like reluctance is
actually love in action saving us from ourselves.
II.

Why is Persistence Necessary?


A. We Are Responsible

V. 5: 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, 6 for a friend of mine
has arrived on a journey. Why is this man at his neighbors doorstep at
midnight? Because he has a responsibility. There are few public places to stay,
and no bakeries open at midnight! Now a friend has arrived perhaps
unexpectedly. He is tired and hungry from his journey and in keeping with the
customs of the day he is looking for hospitality. This guy has a responsibility.
He is not asking for himself; he is asking for someone else. He asks 3 loaves
one for the friend now; one for himself to join his friend; and one to offer later
to show his generosity. Thats the custom. He must respond or be negligent.
Let me ask us to consider a question this morning. Who has arrived at our
doorstep to whom, before God, we have a responsibility? Is there anyone like
that in your life? Of course, there is someone like that in all our lives. God
has not set any of us down in a wilderness where we have no responsibility to
others. It may be to supply physical, emotional or spiritual support, but we
must realize that we touch lives every day for whom we will one day answer
to God. That is why we must persist in prayer. We are responsible for meeting
the needs of others that God figuratively places on our doorstep whether at
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work, at school, at church, in the neighborhood, the town wherever.


Somewhere someone is depending on us to supply a need.
See, we all have a mission to fulfill, and it is not primarily about us. Charles
Swindoll was in seminary facing immense financial, academic and family
pressures. In the midst of that, he and his wife were told the baby they were
expecting would likely not live. He needed a friend and went to see a prof
hed studied under for 4 years. He knocked at the office door, but no answer.
Seeing a light he persisted. Finally the man opened the door a crack. He said,
Yes? clearly perturbed at being disturbed. Swindoll says, I stood there and
tears just ran from my eyes. And I could hear in his voice that he didnt
want to talk to me. I said, Am I disturbing you? Yes, youre disturbing me.
What do you want? I said, Nothing. I dont want anything. Fine, he
said, and closed the door. Swindoll goes on to say, Ive wondered since
then if anyone will receive a reward for how much Greek he knows.
Next morning, Swindoll ran into Howard Hendricks, another prof who asked
what was wrong. Chuck pour out his heart about being worried about the
expected baby, and even fearing for the life of his wife. Hendricks listened
patiently, put his arm around Swindolls shoulders and shared about the
miscarriage he and his own wife had suffered. Chuck says, From that day
forward, I wanted to know what he knew, because I knew how much he
cared. Listen, Beloved, God has placed someone or some group of ones on
our doorstep. We must persist in prayer or we will miss them. Well be like
Prof #1 who forgot why he was there in the first place. To care for others.
Thats why we must persist in prayer. We have a mission to our world.
B. We Are Resourceless
Why was the man at his neighbors at midnight? Because a friend had come
and he had a responsibility. But look further in v. 6, for a friend of mine has
arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him. Theres the
dilemma. He was responsible, but he was resourceless. He had two choices
say, Sorry, friend, but the cupboard is bare. OR persist in asking from
someone who had the resource. By this parable, Jesus is teaching a very
important lesson. You must persist in prayer because you have a responsibility
to others that I set on your doorstep, but on your own, you are absolutely
without resources. Feel inadequate, feel helpless in the face of someones
emotional turmoil, feel like you do not have the spiritual answers for
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someone? Join the club. You are right. You dont, so you must persist in
asking the One who does.
Perhaps no aspect of ministry and serving others is more critical to understand
than this. God has gifted us to minister to others. He specifically says in I Cor
12:7, To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
That simply means that God has gifted every believer for a mission in life. We
have been born and reborn for a purpose and we have been gifted to meet
that purpose. But our giftedness is useless unless empowered by Him. When
Zerubbabel was trying to rebuild Israels temple, God told him Zech 4:6, Not
by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.
Zerubbabel had the gift of leadership, knowledge of construction, and a
mission to accomplish. But it did not get done until he persisted in prayer in
recognition that eternal worth must be produced by an eternal God.
Thus, in ministry, we apply the gifts that God has given us but nothing of
value happens unless we have prayed the HS into the equation. It is not us
doing something for God; it is God doing something through us. Major Ian
Thomas, founder of the Torchbearers in England (Dick M on the board) tells
of exerting all his energies for Christ as a university student in London. His
gift for preaching was evident and every day he was active preaching and
teaching but no one was ever converted. He says, The more I did, the less
happened; and I became deeply depressed because I really loved the Lord
with all my heart. Mere activity and even giftedness was not the answer.
What was? Thomas tells how he was pouring out his heart to God one night
persisting in prayer when a verse came to mind he didnt even know he knew.
Christ, who is your life (Col 3:4).He suddenly realized hed been trying to
do for Christ what only Christ could do through Him. He didnt need more
effort; he needed more HS. He prayed, Thou art the One Who art going to
go out now, clothed with me to do all that I so hopelessly have been trying to
do in the past. The following Sunday as he prepared to teach 90 boys, he
prayed, Well now, Lord, Thou art going to speak to that boys class, isnt it
wonderful? Yesterday I thought I was going to, but Thou art going to now.
That day 30 boys embraced Christ as Savior. Ian Thomas had learned all that
God is is available to the man who is available to all that God is!
Conc Far from saying, Dont bother me, God is saying, thats the only
way you can do anything worthwhile. But the lesson is this: God is not hard of
hearing, and He is not reluctant to answer. Hes just waiting for us to be
faithful in service, persistent in prayer and trusting Him for the results! You
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persist in prayer and sooner or later, in His time, the Lord will light up your
life with answers you never imagined. Lets pray.