Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Shepastor: "How Bold Are Your Prayers?"

5Then 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,6because a friend of mine has stopped here while on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’7Then he will reply from inside, ‘Do not bother me. The door is already shut, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’8I tell you, even though the man inside will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of the first man’s sheer persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9“So I tell you: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.10For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened
Luke 11: 5-10, from the New English Translation

The disciples have been observing Jesus’ pattern of prayer. They’ve watched as he slipped away early in the morning to get alone with His Father in heaven. They’ve watched as Jesus prays and miracles happen – blinded eyes are open, the sick become well, the demons shriek and are cast out. They wanted to know what it was about Jesus’ prayers and his prayer life that made him so effective in ministry.

So they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The verses prior to our focus text provide for us one of the most powerful and well known prayers in the Christian Church – often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer,” or more accurately called, “The Model Prayer.” But after that, Jesus makes his point about the power of bold/persistent prayer even plainer by giving the illustration of the knock at midnight.

In the book entitled, Sister to Sister: Devotions for and from African American Women, Dr. Marcia A. Harris, a gynecologist who practiced in New York, on Manhattan’s East Side wrote the entry, “Determination and Dignity.” Dr. Harris asks the reader to walk through the corridors of her past realities by picturing her struggles as an orphaned West Indian Jamaican girl. She wrote,
“Yes, determination coupled with consummate faith and instilled pride—and underwritten by intense desire has brought me this far. Life has not been easy. The deck was stacked against me early on, as it is and has been for so many of us. The road is not straight. It has many curves and detours and has been unusually long and hard. Even adversity, however, can be used to our advantage, as long as we don’t lose sight of our goals.”
END QUOTE (taken from pages 80-82).

Some years ago, the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached the sermon, “A Knock at Midnight.” In it, he asserts that the world is enshrouded by the darkness of midnight through wars, hatred, social injustices, and a famine of ethics and morality. He suggests that hungry humanity knocks at the door of the Church seeking “three loaves of bread: the bread of faith, the bread of hope and the bread of love.”

He goes on to suggest that in order to confront the darkness, the church must do more than roll over in the bed of complacency and comfort, but must open the door wide and feed the soul of hungry humanity.

But in our text for today, Jesus is not referring to God the Father as a “reluctant friend,” but rather is urging his disciples to understand the relationship between bold and persistent prayers and answered prayers. Jesus is saying to them in so many words, “The friend said within himself, ‘Man look, I am in bed, my wife and my children are in bed, it’s after midnight and I ain’t thinking about comin and givin you nothing!” But then the man thought about it and said, (in so many words), if this man is bold enough, crazy enough, persistent enough to come to my house at midnight and ask me for some bread, he must really need it. Let me get up and give him what he needs!

Jesus is suggesting that there is something about bold and persistent faith that gets the attention of God. We see this when the Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant (Luke 7:1-10). He told Jesus that there was no need for Jesus himself to come to his humble home. Just “say the word and my servant will be healed.” The scripture says that Jesus marveled at that man’s faith. We see this with the faith of the Syrophoenician woman (Matthew 15: 21-28). She came to Jesus and Jesus told her that it was not right to take the children’s food and serve it to the dogs, basically, placing this woman in the category of a dog.

This text has bothered and baffled many over the years, but Jesus was up to something. He knew that this woman would be an example for us today. He knew that this woman would push past even the pain of feeling like she was being treated like a dog…

Look at this woman’s boldness in the face of her pain…
This woman had a need. Her need was so great that it enabled her to drown out all real and perceived negativity. In other words, this woman was so focused that she screened out and ignored any and everything that was going to take her focus off of her goal. Her goal was to have her daughter healed by Jesus. This woman was determined woman. By definition, the term “determined” means, “having one’s mind made up, resolute, unwavering.” This woman was resolute. She had made up her mind and she was unwavering. No matter who said that she couldn’t, she shouldn’t, it wasn’t going to happen, give it up, go back home, don’t show your face – it didn’t matter what anyone said, this woman’s goal was to get to Jesus! But not only that, this woman was persistent! Even when it looked like Jesus was ignoring her, for the scripture declares, “But he answered her not a word…” She just stayed right there. And then when he finally did answer, his initial response was less than consoling. Jesus said, “I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But the woman still wouldn’t budge! She didn’t throw up her hands. She didn’t throw in her towel. She didn’t walk away in defeat. She didn’t even get angry, the scripture says that in the face of Jesus’ seeming insensitive response and turn down, the scripture says that she worshiped the Lord, saying help me!”

Sometimes we give up conversing with God too quickly. We get disappointed or our answer doesn’t come packaged the way we want it and we give up. Sometimes, we get weary in our mind and we get side tracked – forgetting what we were even praying for – we lose hope, we lose heart, we loose feeling, we lose direction and ultimately we lose our blessing. But this woman put all that aside. She was determined. She had a goal in mind and that goal was to get to Jesus.

Have you ever felt like God was ignoring you? Have you ever felt like God was allowing you to be treated like a dog? Have you ever had friends and family question the falidity of your christianity because you were struggling up the rough side of the mountain for so long? Let me see if I can’t bring this a little closer to home – have you ever had somebody spread lies about you and have people question your integrity?

Have you ever put your trust in a friend and have them stab you in the back. Have you ever given your all and had somebody trample on your pearls? Have you ever prayed and cried all night long and woke up and the mess was still there?

Oh yes, there are times in our lives when it seems that God has forsaken us. There may be times in our lives, when our enemies wonder why we serve the Lord when deep trouble comes our way – but he never promised that we wouldn’t have trouble – he said, “in this world, ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)

The gentile woman, had bold and persistent prayers. She was not going to let what looked like insensitivity and meanness turn her away from Jesus. She believed that somehow, the Lord was still good and that He would bless her, therefore she humbled herself and responded, “Yea, Lord, for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table!”

Because of her boldness, because of her persistence to maintain a conversation with God, because of humility and her determination, and yes, because of her praise in the midst of adversity, Jesus looked down at this woman and declared, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it done unto thee even as thou wilt!”

And the Bible declares that the woman’s daughter was healed immediately. The Bible declares that Jesus granted her petition! God will reward your bold and persistent prayers. God will honor and reward your humility and persistent praise. God will exalt you when you humble yourself before Him.

You may think that what you want is too big. You may think that what you are asking God to do is impossible. You may think that what you desire God to do is too far out of your reach. Let me ask you a question, how bold are your prayers? Are you bold enough to go to God with some crazy prayers and have some crazy faith?

Are you bold enough to ignore the negativity of what folks are saying all around you? Are you bold enough to believe God for what your eyes cannot see? Are you bold and persistent enough to go to God and let God tell you what is and is not for you? You wont’ know unless you ask. You won’t know unless you try. You won’t know unless you trust. And if God doesn’t do that…God will do something else and it will be greater, it will be better, it will bless you in ways that cannot imagine!

God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Keep on trusting, keep on believing, keep on praying, keep on praising, keep on pressing, keep on loving, keep on serving, keep on keeping on and God will lift you up – God will make your crooked places straight, God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory, God will make your rough places smooth, God will carry you through!

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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