We learn new things all the time. No matter the skill or what we are attempting to learn, we don’t begin to progress in the skill until we practice it. There is a special form of learning that comes through experience. The classroom can only get us so far, at some point we have to jump in and go for it.
With prayer, we seem to do the opposite of practicing. We say we’ve tried to pray. But what we are hoping for is the Holy Spirit to flip a magic switch in our hearts to give us a super spiritual longing to pray. This is not how God has chosen to kindle in His people a desire to pray. God gives us a longing to pray through the Scriptures. God’s Spirit in us creates a longing for us to pray through consistent intake and meditation on God’s Word.
As we seek to grow in our passion for praying, we can see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word. It will expose in us where we are lacking and call us to rely on His Spirit as we grow in our desire to pray with passion. Luke 11:5-13 is a great text to diagnose our hearts in this area. You should stop now and read it. I hope you will see as we meditate on this passage together, how the Word sparks a life of prayer.
This persistent friend in Luke 11 gives us a picture of how commitment leads to action. A visitor is on the way. The dedication of this friend to be a worthy host is evident. The friend has nothing to offer, but he’s committed to offering a good meal for the visitor. He goes to his neighbor’s house, it’s midnight, the neighbor and his family are asleep. Most likely, this house was small and the family slept together in the same room. The friend knocks, the neighbor opens the door. He asks for three loaves of bread. One for the visitor and one for himself (no one likes to eat alone). The third loaf is to offer if the visitor isn’t satisfied with having only one (he’s committed to good hospitality).
Rejected. The neighbor turns him down. His family is asleep and he risks disturbing them to help this friend. But the friend continues to plead. The prospect of potential failure doesn’t turn him away. He leans in and continues to pursue his request. Our commitment to pray is similar. We don’t stop when it get’s difficult. We keep pressing on because we have faith in a God who is worthy of worship. When fatigue hits, when we “don’t feel like it”, when distraction tempts our hearts, we press on in prayer. We commit to it.
Another diagnostic question this text brings to our hearts. It digs into the heart of our motives. A genuine life of prayer comes from a desire to pursue holiness. The pursuit of holiness begins in a believer the moment they receive the benefits of the gospel through the Spirit of God dwelling in them. Forever changed by the Spirit, they no longer thirst for and fill themselves with sin. A desire for holiness manifests itself in genuine craving for God through the Spirit’s power.
Many of us don’t pray out of a craving for God. Instead, we desire to pray because of the “benefit” it may have for us. Rather than craving God Himself, we crave our needs to be met. Both are legitimate longings. But when the longing for our needs becomes greater than our longing for God, our “needs” become our god. We must long to grow in holiness. We must long for God to change our hearts in prayer. Prayer is an expression of longing for God. If we aren’t praying, it may be due to a lack of desire for God in our hearts.
The friend in this parable has shameless boldness (v. 8). He persists in prayer with genuine desire to obey the call on his life to be a good host. Though the neighbor resisted, he eventually gave the man everything he needed. Jesus explains this parable in verses 9-13.
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? 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, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:9-13)
In verse 13, we see the source of our confidence. Our confidence is in the Father who poured out His Spirit on His people. The whole point of this parable is this: if a selfish neighbor is willing to give bread (a good gift) to a guy who won’t stop pestering Him, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit (the greatest gift) to those who ask? We have every reason to be confident as we approach God in prayer. He has given us the Spirit and the guidance of His Word. He has transformed our craving for sin and given us a new heart desiring holiness.
We could lack confidence because it seems God hasn’t “answered” our prayers. God isn’t absent. Our discontentment with God in “unanswered prayer” is due to a heart that wants the Creator of the Universe to bend to our will. We want God to fulfill our requests, in our own time. Have you ever considered God is growing your commitment to Him in the moments He appears to be silent?
God is deepening your dependence on Him in the moments he appears silent. He is changing your heart to persevere in you’re committing. He is growing in you a desperate need for Him by producing deeper craving. He is transforming your faith in Him with ever growing confidence stirred in you by the power of His Spirit. All the while, you keep praying and taking in the truth of Scripture to motivate your prayers to Him.
God does some of His greatest work in our hearts in the waiting, suffering, and difficulty. He is making us more holy in these moments by His grace. Maybe your prayer will be answered days, months, or years down the road. Don’t grow weary. Don’t lose heart. Keep going. May the Spirit continue to show you areas of your heart where God desires to reign supreme.
Let us grow in our commitment, craving, and confidence.