Luke 11 is a passage that deserves our careful consideration. Most of us know it as the “Lord, teach us to pray” passage where Jesus spoke the words that we commonly call “The Lord’s Prayer.” It is a wealth of information, instruction, and encouragement, and I have greatly profited from studying it. There is a word Jesus used in this passage that I think is especially worthy of our consideration. The word is importunity. It involves “relentlessness.” It can include “begging.” It is an important word.
Jesus had just told his disciples that they should pray. He gave them a “model” prayer that included relationship (“Our Father”), reverence (“which art in heaven”), and requests (“thy will be done, they kingdom come, give us day by day our daily bread,” etc. – vs 1-4). Because we are the children of God we have special access to Him and can bring all of our needs and wants to Him. He hears our prayers. He answers them! It is on the basis of this teaching that every one of us should have a daily prayer life. I hope that prayer is a “normal” part of your life and that seeing answers to prayer are as well. Notice, however, that Jesus’ teaching does not stop here. He proceeds to tell a story about this word importunity. I call this a higher level of praying.
Consider the illustration that Jesus is using. He tells of a man with two friends. He has one friend who needs bread but he has none to give him. His other friend, however, has plenty of bread but says no to his request for it. It is a somewhat strange story but is pregnant with meaning. Let me draw your attention to these thoughts:
- This is a story about praying, and especially about praying for others.
- The prayer mentioned in this story seems to be different from that of the model prayer. In the story it is midnight! It appears to be inconvenient for everyone involved. It is urgent! The request is met with a definite NO, but the one praying keeps on asking and asking until the request is answered anyway.
- Jesus uses this story to teach us to pray fervently and urgently for the needs of others. He instructs us to ask, seek, and knock until we get the answer we are seeking (and the tense most definitely teaches that we should keep on asking and seeking and knocking until we get the answer we are seeking).
- Jesus also used this passage to teach that we should ask for the Holy Spirit, and includes the promise that He would give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (verse 11-13). Theologically this could certainly be referring to the promise that they would be given the Holy Spirit to indwell them. However, we don’t have to ask for that. That is given from the Father without our asking! I personally think it is referring to our asking for His power and filling in our lives and I believe that the Book of Acts would likely provide support for that opinion.
Now there is a ton more in this passage, but think carefully about this matter. Isn’t this a higher level of praying? Praying urgently? Praying fervently? Praying when it is inconvenient? Praying that involves asking and seeking and knocking until we get the answer? Praying that is insistent because a friend needs bread and we don’t have the ability to meet that need. Prayer that seeks the power of the Spirit so we can be used of God? Isn’t this the kind of praying we need?
Why don’t you begin praying like this? Perhaps you could begin praying like this about your church that so desperately needs revival. Perhaps you could begin praying like this about your family that so desperately needs to be saved. Perhaps you could begin praying like this about a wayward child or about a backslidden friend. Perhaps you could begin praying like this about a request that you have brought to God and about which you have become discouraged because there was no answer. Perhaps you could begin asking God for the power of His Spirit to fill you and use you to give the bread of life to those around you who need to be saved. But how do you do it?
- Set aside a definite amount of time and get alone with God or with a good friend who will “labor” with you.
- Take your time in prayer. Slow down and pray as the Spirit prompts you. Ask God specifically for the matter that is on your heart.
- Pray longer than perhaps would be necessary! Set an alarm for a specific amount of time and then pray a bit longer than that.
- Consider kneeling.
- Consider fasting a meal or two meals or even a day or longer.
Is this a higher level of praying? I think it is! And I also think that perhaps we need more of this kind of praying. What do you think? I would love to hear from you.