Every Christian wants to have a deeper prayer life. We want to pray more and pray more effectively, but most of all, we want to be closer to Jesus. We want to have the type of prayer attitude that says, whatever situation comes up, “I must tell Jesus!”
In Luke 11:1-13, Jesus teaches the basic principles we need to keep in mind if we want to have a deeper prayer life. First, we see:
1) OUR PATTERN FOR PRAYER (11:1-4)
1.1) The Pattern Of Jesus Himself
Luke 11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
We learn that “one of [Jesus’s] disciples” wanted Jesus to teach them about prayer. Had the disciples never prayed? Of course they had—they lived in a culture that worshipped God. So what was the disciple asking for? Did he want a model prayer? Something that he could recite daily? This is what Jesus appears to give them—a prayer that believers memorize, recite, or use as a pattern even today, 2,000 years later.
But I think it was more than that. I think the disciple had overheard the intimacy that Jesus had with His Father and desired that for himself.
Have you ever heard someone pray or read about someone’s prayer life and marveled at the absolute freeness and intimacy that they have with God? Have you desired that for yourself? I am always inspired when I read about A.W. Tozer’s prayer life:
Tozer spent incalculable hours in prayer. Most of his prolonged prayer time—with his Bible and hymnals as his only companions—took place in his church office…He would carefully hang up his suit trousers and don his sweater and raggedy old “prayer pants” and sit for a while on his ancient office couch [reading the Bible and singing]…In time, he would abandon the couch, get on his knees, and eventually lie facedown on the floor, singing praises to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. (Lyle Dorsett, A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer [Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008].)
I read that and think: Lord, give me that sort of intimacy my prayer life! I think the same sort of thing happened here with this disciple. He saw a power and intimacy in Jesus’s prayer life and desired it for himself. Do you desire a better prayer life? I hope we all do. We should never stop growing in prayer.
In response to the question, Jesus taught them what we call the Lord’s Prayer.
1.2) The Pattern Of The Lord’s Prayer
Luke 11:2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
Luke 11:3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
Luke 11:4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
Jesus gives a pattern for prayer. You can recite it word for word if you like, so long as you do so from your heart and it doesn’t become a vain repetition.
But it’s really meant to show us what an intimate prayer life will be like. With that in mind, let’s do a quick run-through of the Lord’s prayer and see how it helps us have a more intimate prayer life.
1.2.1) Our Father
He begins prayer with “Our Father.” The Jews of that day would have rarely, if ever, addressed God in such a personal way. It would have come to a shock to them. They were careful to treat God as sovereign and transcendent.
Jesus’s point is that, while that is certainly true, we can also be intimate with God. We can address Him as with the familiar and personal title, “Father.”
This does not mean that we always have begin our prayers with “Father in Heaven.” You have missed the point if you say that you have to do that. It’s that you can be intimate with God. You could also begin your prayers with “Jesus, my Savior” or “Holy Spirit, my Comforter.”
The point is that you can come to God intimately. Don’t let your prayers become formal and stiff. Talk to God as if He is a real person—because He is!
1.2.2) Hallowed Be Thy Name
“Hallowed be thy name” basically means “Your name be holy.” While we have unprecedented intimacy with God through Jesus Christ, we still need to remember that He is the Holy One. Our prayers should be intimate, but not frivolous. We ought not to call Him, “The big guy upstairs.” We ought to have an intimate reverence with God.
1.2.3) Thy Kingdom Come
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” reminds us that our prayers should be oriented towards glorifying God and calling for His will to be done on earth.
As one example, you might pray for a new car because your old one is broken down, and you need it to provide for your family (which is something God’s will is for you).
But you wouldn’t pray for a 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350 because that’s just plain selfishness, now matter how you justify it]—“Lord, a Mustang Shelby would allow me drive faster and witness to more people.” Yeah, you would be a witness to more people all right!
In our prayers, we need to be asking more, “Does God, biblically speaking, really will this? Is this His desire?” Sometimes, it’s hard to know for sure, that’s true.
But many times, God’s will is right there in black and white in the pages of the Bible. We just don’t want to see it because we’re self-centered and not Christ-centered.
Next, we see that we should ask the Lord to…
1.2.4) Give Us Our Daily Bread
“Give us day by day our daily bread.” Jesus was not talking only about our daily food, He was talking about our daily dependence on God. Depending on God, day by day, is the very definition of intimacy.
Think how a child comes to his mother for every need—“Mommy, I am hungry…I need a drink.” Why does the child come? Because he has an intimate and personal relationship with his mother. Christians can have that same sort of dependent and intimate relationship with Jesus, our Savior.
Sometimes God uses trials to help us depend more on Him like a child depends on a parent. Paul had a thorn in the flesh that God would not remove because it humbled him and kept him dependent. Paul prayed three times for it’s removal, but it wasn’t God’s will for it to be removed. Once Paul figured that out, he gloried in the newfound intimacy he had with God. Listen for that intimacy between the lines of 2 Corinthians 12—
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)
1.2.5) Forgive Us Our Sins
“Forgive us our sins…Lead us not into temptation…” What disrupts our intimacy with God? Sin does.
1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; Neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: [i.e., God is not at fault for your lack of intimacy…He has not changed.] 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, And your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1–2)
As a Christians, our sins are forgiven on the cross. A sin will not keep us out of Heaven—a sin will not cause us to lose our salvation.
But our sin will grieve the Holy Spirit Who lives in us (Ephesians 4:30), breaking our fellowship with Him. That’s why John, in a letter written to believers, says:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8–9)
If your prayer life is dull and the heavens seem as brass, a place to start might be asking the Lord to reveal the sins in your life that you have been squishing down and hiding in the basement of your heart. Then confess those sins, the more specifically, the better.
From our pattern of prayer, we move on to…
2) OUR BOLDNESS IN PRAYER (11:5-10)
When we pray, we need to pray with a certain kind of boldness. To show this, Jesus tells a parable:
Luke 11:5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
Luke 11:6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
In the hot climate, travel at night would not have been unusual—hopefully the moon was full! The ancient world did not have 24-hour convenience stores, so if you needed to feed a traveler at night, you had to depend on your neighbor.
Luke 11:7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
Most homes were small with one main room where everyone slept at night. Imagine staying in a motel room and having someone knock on your door in the middle of the night. Everyone in the room would wake up just at the knock, and they would really wake up if you had to let him in!
So this guy, we will call him the friend-in-bed, is pretty irritated because opening the door is going to wake up everyone, especially his small children—no one wants toddlers to wake up at night!
Luke 11:8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his im-por-tun-ity [shameless persistence] he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
The friend-in-need keeps talking to his friend-in-bed and the friend-in-bed realizes that the ongoing discussion through the door is going to wake everyone up anyway.
So he gives in and gives the friend-in-need what he needs…not because he is a friend, necessarily, but because of his “importunity.” The word “importunity” (anaideia) means to be persistent in a shameless or an audacious manner.
It’s like the toddler that interrupts his mother’s conversation with a friend. Over and over he says, “Mommy, Mommy” until she finally gives in. The toddler is persistent, but he is also shameless because he doesn’t know or ignores the rule about not interrupting adults when they are talking. In a word, the toddler is bold in his requests to his mother.
Now, this is a parable, so don’t get bogged down in the details. There isn’t an inconvenient time for God. God isn’t forced to answer prayers because we harangue Him over and over and He’s afraid we’re going to wake the angels. Parables usually have one main point and that’s all you need to understand.
What’s the point of the parable then? It’s that we should be bold in coming to God with our prayers. We can be bold because Jesus Christ intercedes for us:
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15–16)
It might be helpful to modify the parable a bit: The friend-in-need comes to the door, knocks, and says, “I come in the name of Jesus…please open up and give me the bread I need for my visitor.” Our boldness in prayer is not because of us, it’s because of Jesus.
Jesus expands on the parable and gives a promise:
Luke 11:9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Luke 11:10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Our prayers will be heard. So go ahead: ask, seek, knock. The promise here is not a blank check. God is a good Father who gives His children what they need, not what their lusts desires. As James says in chapter 4—
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (James 4:3)
But those who come to love and understand who God is—who hallow His name, so to say—begin to pray differently. They pray according to His will. They develop a sense of God’s heart and pray boldly with hearts that are in agreement with His.
3) OUR MOTIVATION TO PRAY (11:11-13)
Luke 11:11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
Luke 11:12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
Jesus gives an example of the worst father possible. His son asks for a fish sandwich for lunch and the father hands him a live snake instead. What father would give a snake to his child for lunch instead of a fish sandwich? The answer is: no normal father.
Luke 11:13a If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children:
Even evil fathers of the world give their children good things. Yes, there are exceptions—but as a rule, fathers and mothers, even the unbelievers, give their children good things. So, that means…
Luke 11:13b how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
Our “heavenly Father” is perfect—He is not evil, so how much more can we expect good gifts from Him! Here, in Luke, the focus is on the gift of the “Holy Spirit” to those who ask. Through the Holy Spirit, we receive all sorts of gifts:
If you need comfort or help, ask for it, and God the Father will give it through the Holy Spirit—
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
If you need boldness and strength, ask for it, and the Father will give it through the Holy Spirit—
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
If you need changes and growth in your life, ask for it, and the Father will give it through the Holy Spirit—
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23)
There’s much more that we could say here, but you get the idea. Now, the point is that the Father is good and gives this to those who ask. Are you a parent? Don’t you want the best for your children? In the same way, God the Father wants to give the best to you.
And, to carry the analogy a bit further, my children are always asking me for stuff. Often, the first thing I hear from my children is when I walk in the door, “Papa, can I…?” Why do they ask? Well, it’s complicated. But I like to think that at least part of it is that they know that I care about them and I am inclined to give good things to them whenever I can.
So, we also are motivated come to the Father in prayer because we know that He is kind and is inclined to give us good things. But what if He doesn’t? Or doesn’t seem to?
Well, let’s push our analogy even further—I don’t think it will break yet! Why do we sometimes as parents not give our children what they ask for?
One reason is that we know it is a foolish request. “No, I won’t pull you behind the pickup on your rollerblades at 60 mph!”
Listen…those who love God aren’t upset when He doesn’t answer prayers. We shouldn’t be because we know that the Lord knows best—we trust Him. So when He doesn’t answer the prayer—or doesn’t answer the way we think He should—we can be confident that our request wasn’t a good one and God has something better for us.
Maybe we won’t see why it wasn’t good, but we can trust that God knows why. As the Garth Brooks song says, “I thank God for unanswered prayers.”
Do you want a deeper prayer life? I hope you do, we all have room to grow in our prayer life. Consider the things we have discussed. Let them roll around in your heart until they find a place to fit and change your prayer life.
- Do you have an intimate, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ?
- Do you come to Him in prayer in a personal and intimate way—as to a kindly Father?
- Do you feel that you have the boldness in prayer—the importunity—that a toddler has coming to his father or mother?
- Do you feel free to ask God for anything and do you know what God’s heart wants?
God wants you to come to Him in prayer—not, in a stiff, religious manner—but in a personal and intimate way. If you don’t have that, come to Him through Christ and begin a fresh relationship today.