August 20, 2023, The Power of Persistent Prayer: Ask, Seek, Knock. Pentecost 12

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP:
Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. Amen.

HYMN 419 I Am Thine, O Lord
I Am Thine, O Lord by Lynda Randle
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVLQBAaZzNg

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Dear Lord, This morning as I contemplate a new day, I ask you to help me. I want to be aware of and filled with your Spirit—leading me in the decisions I take, the conversations I have, and the work I do. I want to be more like you, Jesus, as I relate to the people I meet today—friends or strangers. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of God
Seek Ye First – Maranatha! Music [with lyrics]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsBpM9IcBts

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: The Power of Persistent Prayer: Ask, Seek, Knock
Text: Luke 11:1, 5-13, Luke 18:1-8, James 4:1-3
Series: You Have Not Because You Ask Not

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Luke 11:1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

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, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If 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!”

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; 3 and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.'” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

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HYMN 370 I Heard an Old, Old Story
Victory in Jesus [Live] – Gaither Music TV
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ajtJtNXF4

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

Almost every week, in different places on the internet, on Facebook, people are talking about how to live a happier life. And I’ll be honest with you, as a pastor, as a Christian person, I think one of the most powerful and effective things that you and I can do to live a happier life and to help other people live a happier life is not only for us to pray, but for us to learn how to pray so that God powerfully answers our prayers. We’ve been talking about that.

Last week, we talked about praying prayers that are ambitious, courageous prayers of blessing. In other words, our prayers should not be timid, our prayers should be bold and ask God to help people. Because as James says in 4:2, the second part of that, the reason that we do not have so many things that we desire and want and need is because we have not asked God in prayer.

All too often, a problem gets worse and worse and worse, and when it’s too late for anything, that’s when we think to pray … instead of praying at the beginning and praying for God to act and help and teach us. In the previous weeks, with regard to you do not have because you do not ask, I mentioned hockey star Wayne Gretzky who said, “You miss every shot you don’t take.” Every prayer we don’t pray, we’re missing something.

But in addition to that, when we pray, we need to ask unselfishly. And I’ve changed my prayers. As I would go to sleep at night, I would always pray, “Lord, heal me for this and this and this and this and this.” And I’ve realized that – this was a sermon a couple of weeks ago – I need to pray for my neighbors to be healed as well. So I very quickly mention all of your names, so that as I’m praying for myself, I’m praying for others. I got that down. We need to pray unselfishly. We need to ask unselfishly.

What we talked about last week was the need to ask specifically, not some sort of vague, mysterious prayer, but also to ask for enough, be bold enough to ask God for what is needed, not half of what is needed or part of what’s needed, but for everything that’s needed.

And today, this is a very solidly supported idea in scripture: Jesus Christ wants you and I to ask persistently, to pray persistently.

And you may not quite know what to pray for. This is a pyramid which is known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And I’d like to invite you to keep it in mind as you think about your own life, as you think about your own needs but also the needs of other people. Some people are down at that lowest level, physiological needs. This is someone who can’t get their breath. All they can think about is trying to breathe. This is someone in the middle of a lake who is drowning and trying to keep their head above water. All they can think about is keeping their head above water. There are people that you know that are at this place. I was in the public library two weeks ago where I volunteer on Wednesday afternoons, and a woman came in and asked me if our church would pray for a family that was burned out in a fire. This is a family that doesn’t have a place to live. That’s a physiological need, when life is in danger; ask for that.

Now, the person who is in the middle of the lake, once they got their head above water, you know what’s on their mind? Getting to shore. Now, that’s a whole lot better! But the need now is for safety and security; ask for that. There are people that you meet who are living in unsafe conditions, in families where there’s abuse, in families where there’s not enough food on the table. If you meet someone like that, you want to pray for those safety and security needs.

But if those needs are met, then all of a sudden people start to feel a desire to be connected to other people. People have belonging needs. They want to have a friend. They want to have a family. They want to know that people care for them. They also want to care for people. And there’s all kinds of trouble in families. There’s all kinds of troubles with belonging and caring. If you know that somebody’s going through that, you can pray for God to help them in those relationships.

But when those relationship needs are met, then we’re up to what’s called esteem. Self-esteem. Now, that’s a little complicated. But maybe somebody comes up to you and says, “I lost my job. I feel badly about that.” Well, I want to pray that God brings you to a job. “Well, I am having trouble with my spouse. I feel badly about that.” Well, I’m going to pray that God resolves that.
And in different ways, you can pray for people to come to a place of feeling good about themselves and feeling that life is good.

Now that very last level is called self-actualization. It would be great if you could look at me and say, “Pastor Dave, I don’t have a single problem that you can pray about.” Well, I can still pray that your life is better … because there’s always something better.

But all the people coming toward you will have needs at different levels, and when you think about what level they’re at, it will help you to figure out how to ask specifically for something that would benefit that need.

But the other thing in today’s scripture is that Jesus encourages us to ask persistently. You see that little bit of green grass there? It’s growing out of a crack in solid rock. You know what happens? That green growing thing pushes that crack and then in the winter water runs down in it, freezes, and pushes it open even more. Living things can break up the hardest stones, but it takes a long time.

I was thinking I should put a picture of the Grand Canyon here. The same water that flows and beats on you as you’re taking a shower, carved out the Grand Canyon. Let’s see, here’s the deal. It takes a very long time. And that’s why I think God calls us to pray persistently.

President Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not. The world is full of educated failures. But persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” And this may be why Jesus encourages us to be persistent in our praise and prayer.

Now let’s look at the specific verses that talk about that. Luke 11:1, “He was praying in a certain place and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.'” And so Jesus began to teach the disciples how to pray. Very first lesson, pray then like this, and it’s the Lord’s Prayer.

But there are more lessons about how to pray, and here’s the very next one. “And Jesus 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 of bread. For a friend of mine has arrived on a journey and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me. The door is now shut and my children are with me in bed.'” Families used to sleep together like that in the days before central heating. “I cannot get up and give you anything.”

Now I never in my life have thought that I should go over to Linda and Stan’s house at midnight and say, “I need three loaves of bread.” And probably, if I knocked on their door at midnight, they would get up and give me three loaves of bread. But apparently, this guy in the Bible isn’t a very good friend. But here’s what Jesus points out. “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is a friend, yet because of his importunity,” which is a fancy word for rudeness, “he will rise and give him whatever he needs” as long as he keeps on knocking.

I don’t know who your best friend is, but you can think about trying this at midnight sometime. Ice cream and things like that! But the point that Jesus is making is if you’re persistent, that will have an effect. If you’re persistent. So here’s what Jesus says in verse 9. This is the advice on how to pray. “Ask and it will be given you.” The Greek tense there is, Ask and keep on asking.

“Seek, and you will find.” The Greek says, “Seek and keep on seeking.”

“Knock and it will be opened to you.” Keep on knocking. Why? Look at verse 10. Here’s the promise. “For everyoneFor everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened. “

And so Jesus says, “When you pray, pray persistently, ask persistently, seek persistently.” Now, I’m someone who sort of feels like, “Well, Lord, I asked three weeks ago at 9 o’clock in the morning. Weren’t you paying attention?” I’m the one who thinks if I send God an email, that should be enough. I put it in writing … once. Well, I know that God heard me. But even so, Jesus says, “Ask, keep on asking.” Maybe that’s for my benefit. Maybe that’s for my benefit.

Jesus goes on to say, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, you could trust that you’re heavily father knows what’s good for you.”

So as for a fish, if you get something else, there’s some reason for it. But sometimes you ask for a scorpion and God says, “No, no, no, no, no, you need a fish.” Sometimes you ask for a Ford and God says, “No, no, no, no, you need a Chevy.” Sometimes you ask for a John Deere tractor and God says, “No, no, no, no, no. You need red instead of green.” But the whole point is this, you can trust God. You can trust God.

So sometimes when you’re praying for a serpent – I hear they taste like chicken – God may say, “No, here’s the fish. It’s better for you.” Therefore, it’s not a problem for you to ask persistently because God still knows what’s best.

But Jesus wants us to ask persistently because sometimes God gives us something that, when we start asking, we didn’t realize we needed. Take a look at the rest of that verse. Your Heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts … how much more will the Heavenly Father give you the Holy Spirit? Maybe what you actually need is the Holy Spirit. Maybe the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through you is what causes a prayer to be answered. Maybe you get a fish and an egg and the Holy Spirit because God is wiser than we are about what we need.

Seven chapters later, Luke chapter 18, Jesus tells a parable about the unjust judge who is a crook who is waiting for a bribe, but the widow just keeps asking for justice. And finally, the unjust, selfish, crooked judge gives in, so she will stop asking. Now, please understand this. God is not an unjust judge, but it’s good for us to be persistent in what we ask for.

And I’ve used this slide a couple of times because you see that pipeline, I think it’s one of the greatest wonders of the world. That is the Goldfields Water Supply pipeline in Australia. It starts on the western coast of Australia, where there’s water. Up in the mountains, it’s desert and there are gold mines, and people need water. So the Australian government built this pipeline; it was finished in 1903, 120 years ago. They built a pipeline from the coast up into the desert. That pipeline is 330 miles long. That’s as far as from Chicago to Marion, Illinois. It is 30 inches wide. And it supplies water today to over a 100,000 people in over 33,000 households as well as mines, farms, and other enterprises in the desert in Western Australia. It goes uphill 1,300 feet. It’s a 30-inch pipe. And when you put water in it at one end, it takes over two days for the water to get to where the people need it to drink.

Add that idea to your prayers. There’s a pipeline from heaven. Maybe your answer to prayer is in the pipeline. It’s just not going to get here till a certain time in the future.

But God has heard your prayer. The answer is in the pipeline. But you need to persist in your prayers. You need to keep on praying or otherwise, this can happen. You can give up almost when you get to the diamonds. And this is why Jesus says to us with regard to persistent prayer, “He told them a parable to the effect that they ought,” what? “always to pray.” Don’t just pray once, keep on praying. Keep on asking. Keep on seeking. Keep on knocking. A parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not give up, not lose heart, not lose hope, keep praying. You know why? You don’t know what God can do tomorrow. You don’t know what the doctors can do next week. If you live long enough, they will have a cure for everything that goes wrong with us today. And, of course, we’ll find other ways to get sick, too, like COVID surprised us all. But we don’t know what the future holds, so we have to keep on praying, keep on seeking, keep on asking so that our prayers will be answered.

So here’s the truth, friends, don’t lose heart. Little acronym over here – P.U.S.H. Don’t be afraid to pray pushy prayers and to pray them persistently. Don’t be afraid to Pray Until Something Happens. And then keep praying for the next thing that happens and the next as God begins to work on you and your life, as God begins to work, on your neighbor’s life, on your children’s lives. Keep on praying. Keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.

I think Winston Churchill said it best. “If you’re going through hell, don’t stop and build a shrine by the side of the road. If you’re going through hell, don’t find a comfortable place to sit and complain about how tough your life is. If you’re going through hell, you don’t want to stay there.” As Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” And if you’re going through the valley of the shadow of death, keep praying. Whatever sort of problem you are dealing with, keep praying. Whatever sort of problem your neighbor or your parents or your children or grandchildren or anyone you care about, whatever they’re going through, don’t lose heart. Keep praying and let God answer your prayers.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we understand that when we pray, you do hear us. But we are wanting to learn how to pray. We are wanting to let you teach us how to pray. We are wanting to let you teach us how to be powerful in our prayers. And, Lord, for some reason, you want us to be persistent. Maybe it’s for our benefit. But you want us to be persistent in our prayers. And I believe, Lord, that the reason you ask that of us is it makes our prayers more powerful. And so, Lord, we ask you to remind us when we pray for something one day, Lord, please remind us to pray for it the next day and the next and the next as we hopefully and joyfully and faithfully anticipate your answer to our prayers. And we ask this in Jesus’s name, Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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