Passage: Luke 11:5-13
Key verse: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” (v.13) KJV
When I was a little girl, I waited for a very special gift for many years. I was about six years old when I started asking my dad for a piano. I started playing it when I was just five and it quickly became a passion. I would go to piano lessons twice every week and remember vividly how, for many years, I’d practice day in and day out on an imaginary piano on our dining room table. On birthdays, Christmas and any other special occasion I could think of, I had only one request: I wanted my piano. I remember the disappointment when each Christmas would come and go and I did not have my biggest desire fulfilled. Then one cold winter day in 1981, I was home when my parents arrived from work. We had dinner and after that, dad said he thought someone was knocking at the front door. As I went to the foyer to open the door, right there, before my eyes, sat a beautiful piano. My seven year old dream had finally come true. With tears of joy, I sat on my piano and played it for the first time. I cried, I laughted, I played until 1:00 in the morning! I woke up in the middle of the night to make sure it was still there. After a long wait, I received the desire of my heart.
As a child, waiting was no fun. And it still is painful. I don’t think that will ever change. What has changed, however, is my understanding on why I have to wait. And as we go on studying Jesus’ teachings on prayer, we discover that we should never faint when it comes to praying for our heart’s desire:
No discouragements are ever to prevent our praying:
It is very insightful to realize that in this passage, the traveler is very importune. And his friend is selfish. He is lying in bed at night, when the traveler knocks asking for help. He does not get up. He tells his friend to go away. It’s pretty obvious that Jesus is making a very strong contrast in order to make a point. Even the most selfish people will eventually hear us if we only keep on knocking. God, in great contrast, not only in comparison to a friend of the traveler, but in comparison to an earthly father, will surely not ignore our plea.
“Yet, because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” (v. 8b).
These words of the Lord are not to be interpreted as if God is reluctant to answer our prayers, and therefore we must seek Him with more energy and pray louder as the worshippers of Baal seemed to believe to be the case (1 Kings 18). Rather, we should think of God as our Loving Father, who, for our sake, delays His answer that we may be more disciplined in devotion to Him; so that we may worship the Giver and not the gift.
Our request must pass through God’s grid:
This is pretty basic, but nonetheless important. We can forget to receive a positive answer from God if our request does not meet His standards of righteousness, or if our request goes against His principles. We must ask ourselves if what we are asking passes a simple test: Does it glorify Him? Does it honor His word? I believe we will easily meet these criteria if we just use Philippians 4:8 as we honestly evaluate our desires:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (NASB – emphasis added)
So then, if God is more loving and giving than any earthly Father could ever be, then why do we have to wait, even when what we ask for passes through God’s grid of what is honorable, right, pure, lovely and of good repute?
The meaning of God’s silence:
There are several reasons as to why God sometimes seems to be far away when we pray over and over again for the same good thing:
1) As we keep on pleading, we draw closer to Him: one of the reasons God delays His answers is because in the process of praying and waiting, our relationship with the Heavenly Father is strengthened and we receive new insights into His Spirit. God will sometimes withhold His gifts that we may learn to desire greater things. He switches our minds and hearts to that which has eternal value. It is significant that the Lord tells His disciples in this passage that if they knocked, if they asked, God would give them the Holy Spirit. That is God’s ultimate desire for all His disciples – that we should understand His ways and walk with Him in a deeper spiritual level. If He granted everything we ever asked for as soon as we asked for it, we would have no need to draw near Him and therefore would not know Him as He so wants us to.
2) We may be asking for the wrong thing: Even if our prayer request does pass God’s grid as I mentioned earlier; even then, it may not be the right thing for YOU: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.” I Co 6:12 (NASB). We may be asking for something that will give us temporary relief, whereas God has something much better in store for us than what we are asking for.
3) It may just not be the right time yet: I sometimes picture God looking down from Heaven and seeing all that is happening in the world at the same time. He sees all the pieces of my life’s puzzle and some pieces are not quite ready to be put in place yet. They are being worked on; they are being polished and improved. He can see past, present and future and NOW is not the time. I have to trust His plan and remember that if I want to be successful God’s way, I need to “walk by faith, not by sight” 2 Co 5:7. A good example in my own life is regarding my husband. I waited 30 years to get married. I was very busy with my own life until I was about 27 and then… well, all my friends were married. Let me tell you: I was not happy to have to wait. But now as I look back, I clearly see it: I was not ready to be the wife God wanted me to be before. It’s a joke between me and my husband: we say that had we met each other earlier; we probably would not have given each other a second thought. God had to work on both of us – and work He did! I am so very grateful today that I waited. While I waited, Jesus became my all in many lonely moments and therefore we became close friends. And in His perfect time, He gave me the desires of my heart in the husband He chose for me.
4) We may be expecting the answer in the wrong way: Remember Naaman? He was expecting Elisha to have an elaborate ceremony, evoking the powers of the God of Israel as he would lay hands on him in order to cure his leprosy. God’s instructions to the prophet were simple: tell him to wash in the Jordan seven times. Voila! Healed.
We may have already laid down the precise way God will heal us or help us, and it may be that just as God did to Naaman, that He will respond in a different way, perhaps simpler. There may be an underlying issue in the way we respond to the simpler things: we may just think His open door is unworthy of us and therefore God may just be trying to teach us a lesson in humility or show us a new facet of His grace.
The Reward is not for the weak at heart:
We know by Jesus’ teaching on this passage that while the friend did not respond immediately, he did grant the traveler’s request. And so is with our Friend: He may not answer right away. It may take years for a specific prayer to be answered. He knows that if we receive all we ask at once, we should become overconfident and need Him no more. But take heart, my friend: sooner or later and perhaps when you least expect it, our Heavenly Father, whose gifts are eternally good, will reward our persevering prayers with true blessings. We must ask and continually ask. We must knock and keep on knocking at the door of His mercy and power and He will surely open it to us.
This is what we can expect to have as we keep on keeping on:
1 – God’s acceptance and joy
2 – Spiritual growth
3 – True effectiveness in whatever God called you to do for His kingdom.
I leave you with David’s words in Psalms 37:25:
“ I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” (NASB)
“His Help is always sure,
His methods seldom guessed;
Delay will make our pleasure pure:
Surprise will give it zest.
His wisdom is sublime,
His heart, profoundly kind;
God never is before His time,
And never is behind!”
– J.J. Lynch
Dear Lord, You are awesome. I can look back in my life and see the countless times I waited for Your answer to my prayers and I can honestly say that You have never forsaken me. Thank you that you made it so clear, the words actually came from Your Son’s mouth: You are not going to deny me Your very best. Teach me to be patient as I wait for your perfect timing. Teach me to be wise to see when what I am asking for is not Your best for me. Teach me to pray without ceasing until You answer me. Teach me to never tire to knock until You open the door to Your blessings. In Jesus’ wonderful name I pray, Amen.