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SESSION 4

GOD’S PROMISE OF ANSWERED PRAYER

The Point God always answers persistent prayer.

The Passage Luke 11:5-13

The Bible Meets Life What does persistence look like? Jacob Riis was a police reporter who used photojournalism to document the deplorable living conditions of the poor in New York City during the late 19th century. The images he captured became famous, and Riis was celebrated for his passion and concern for the poor—eventually. In the beginning, however, his efforts to convince others of the problem were not accepted. He was ignored. Yet he kept after his goal. Years later, he spoke about what he did when he felt discouraged: “I would go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it would split in two, and I knew it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before together.“1 Many areas of our lives call for such persistence. As we’ll see in Luke 11, this is especially true of prayer.

The Setting In Luke 11:1, Jesus’ disciples requested that He teach them to pray, just as John the Baptist had taught his disciples. Jesus responded by teaching His disciples the Model Prayer (see Luke 11:2-4). He also gave them a parable (see vv. 5-8) and some instruction (see vv. 9-13). Both the parable and the instruction encourage disciples to pray persistently in light of the goodness of God and His willingness to give good things to those who trust and believe in Him.

© 2015 LifeWay

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What does the Bible say?

Luke 11:5-13 Persistence (v. 8)— Continuing in a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, or weariness. In this instance, persistence refers to determined and diligent prayer. The Greek term carries the sense of shameless audacity, lacking any concern for what is considered proper etiquette or appropriate behavior.

5 He also said to them: “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at

midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything

to offer him.’ 7 Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already

locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his

friend, yet because of his friend’s persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you

will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one

who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of

a fish? 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?”

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© 2015 LifeWay

THE POINT

God always answers persistent prayer.

GET INTO THE STUDY

5 minutes

DISCUSS: Question #1 on page 37 of the

Notes

PSG: “When have you found it pays to be persistent?” ACTIVITY (OPTIONAL): The sales profession is one area of life in which persistence is highly valued. With that in mind, consider showing a sales training video to your group that pushes the importance of persistence when working with clients. You can find a sample video on the Bible Studies for Life blog at blog.lifeway.com/biblestudiesforlife/adults. Note: Remind group members that you’re not endorsing sales techniques or individual sales professionals. The video is simply a way to jump-start your discussion on the value of persistence. GUIDE: Direct group members to “The Bible Meets Life” on page 38 of the PSG. Introduce the theme of persistent prayer by reading or summarizing the text—or by encouraging group members to read on their own. GUIDE: Call attention to “The Point” at the top of page 30 of the PSG: “God always answers persistent prayer.” ENHANCEMENT: Display Pack Item 4, “No Greater Gift,” to reinforce the value of God’s presence in our lives. PRAY: Transition into the Scripture discussion by thanking God for the privilege of speaking with Him through prayer. Ask that He would give you and your group members wisdom to properly engage the words of Jesus.

© 2015 LifeWay

TIP: Occasionally ask the group to write down their responses to a discussion question. This allows quieter group members to formulate their answers before someone else speaks.

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10 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE Luke 11:5-10

Notes 5

He also said to them: “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at

midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ 7 Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ READ: Luke 11:5-10 on page 39 of the PSG. Read the text out loud or ask a volunteer to do so. GUIDE: Use the last paragraph on page 51 of this Leader Guide to help group members understand that Jesus’ parable does not cast God in an unfavorable light. RECAP: Highlight the first two paragraphs on page 40 of the PSG: In Luke 5:2-4, Jesus gave the disciples a model for prayer. In doing so, He noted the importance of focusing on God’s honor and His kingdom as we pray. He also encouraged the disciples, and us, to pray that God would supply our daily provisions, forgive our sins, and help us avoid temptation. Then, beginning in verse 5, Jesus moved from modeling what we should pray to teaching how we should pray. Verses 5-10 can be summed up in one word: persistence. We are to pray—and keep on praying.

ALTERNATE QUESTION: When have you seen God’s timing prove better than your timing?

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DISCUSS: Question #2 on page 40 of the PSG: “What’s the connection between patience and persistence in our relationship with God?” Note: This question is designed to help group members discuss the line between being persistent in our prayers and still being patient in our relationship with God. How can we accomplish both?

© 2015 LifeWay

THE POINT

God always answers persistent prayer.

Luke 11:5-10 Commentary [Verse 5] Jesus’ disciples had asked Him to teach them how to pray—they wanted to know which words and phrases to use. But Jesus knew they needed more; they needed to know the proper attitude and approach to take when praying. So, after giving them a sample prayer in verses 2‑4, Jesus continued with an illustration, a brief parable, to show that effective prayer requires determination and persistence. Jesus told the story about any one of them who has a friend and goes to him at midnight to borrow three loaves of bread. The man had a need, and he was shameless in his approach. He wasn’t shy or embarrassed about approaching his friend because his need was great. That’s the same way we must go to God in prayer. [Verse 6] This verse explains why the man needed to go to his friend’s house to borrow bread at that very late hour: “a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.” Hospitality was seen as a sacred duty in the ancient Near East of the first century. When visitors arrived, the host was expected to provide lodging and food. It is easy to miss the point here that the persistent man was asking to borrow bread for his unexpected and hungry guest, not for himself. So the conclusion can be drawn that the story is an illustration about an individual interceding in prayer for someone else. But whether we are interceding for someone else or praying prayers of petition for ourselves, the point is that we must persevere. And just as the man asked for bread, which he needed, we should also go to God for those things that we need. [Verse 7] Even though the neighbor was a friend of the one asking, he responded: “Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed.” Since whole families typically lived in one-room houses in that day, the friend at the door had most likely woken everyone. More, there was no way the neighbor could get up, light a candle, and get the bread without disturbing the whole household even further. Finally, if at that point the children still were not awake, opening the bolted door would surely have woken them. It should be noted here that some of Jesus’ parables are told as comparisons, while others are used to contrast one thing with another. This parable is a contrast. As such, we would be mistaken if we understood it to mean that God is like the man in the story who did not want to get out of bed at midnight and give bread to his friend. On the contrary, God is completely loving and desires for us to knock on His door with our prayers. As we’ll see, the emphasis of this parable is the value of persistence when we approach God with our needs.

© 2015 LifeWay

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10 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE Luke 11:5-10 (continued)

Notes 8

I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is

his friend, yet because of his friend’s persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. GUIDE: Use the second paragraph on page 53 of this Leader Guide to help group members gain a better understanding of why God doesn’t answer our prayers immediately. Walk them through the four reasons mentioned in the Commentary. DISCUSS: Question #3 on page 40 of the PSG: “What keeps us from praying more persistently?” Note: This is another question that can be discussed both as individuals and as a group. DO: Encourage group members to complete the activity “Persistent Problems” on  page 43 of the PSG. If time allows, ask volunteers to share what steps they will take to knock down one of the obstacles. Which of the following obstacles prevent you from spending more time in fervent, persistent prayer? Circle all that apply. Apathy

Busyness

Anger

Ignorance

Insecurity

Fear

Doubt

Entertainment

Sin

Work

Which obstacle will you knock down in the week to come? How?

TRANSITION: As we conclude with verses 11-13, we’ll find a comforting promise from Jesus regarding the Father’s love for us.

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© 2015 LifeWay

THE POINT

God always answers persistent prayer.

Luke 11:5-10 Commentary (continued) [Verse 8] Jesus completed this parable by explaining that the man who did not want to get out of bed would eventually do so because of his friend’s persistence. In fact, Jesus told His listeners that the friend will give him as much as he needs in order to restore peace and quiet in his house. If persistence can accomplish the desired effect with a sleeping friend at midnight, imagine how much more power prayer can accomplish with God, who never sleeps and to whom we can always bring our cares and concerns. But why is persistence necessary? Why doesn’t God answer our prayers right away? There are a number of reasons. First, our diligent prayer causes us to spend more time fellowshipping with Him. Second, continuing in prayer causes us to become more like Christ. It isn’t that God is reluctant to meet our needs and must be persuaded; it’s that our persistence in prayer gradually causes us to become more like Him; over time, what’s on His heart becomes more and more of what’s on our hearts. Third, God desires for us to remain persistent in prayer because He wants to develop our faith. Delayed answers to our prayers are not necessarily denials—they are growing seasons for ripening our faith. Finally, God sometimes allows us to wait on His answer because we’re not ready to receive whatever it is we’re praying for when we begin praying for it. These situations call for trust in God’s wisdom and care. [Verse 9] Even though the parable about prayer ends in the previous verse, Jesus continued His teaching about prayer by encouraging His followers to keep praying with confidence: keep asking …  keep searching … keep knocking. The verse continues by proclaiming that those who ask will receive, those who seek will find, and those who continue to knock will find an open door. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the verbs used here in their original language refer to continuous actions, not onetime activities. Thus, when we pray about something, we are to keep on asking, continue seeking, and persist in knocking. The implication is that we are to ask, seek, and knock with passion and fervency, not by simply repeating a memorized prayer in a mindless manner. As a footnote here, we must understand that the asking of any prayer must be in accordance with God’s will. He does not honor our requests if our prayers are for things that are contrary to His Word, and we are warned in James 4:3 that some people’s prayers are not answered because they are asked with wrong motives or to be used with evil intent. [Verse 10] Jesus reemphasized His words from the previous verse. Some Christians feel their prayers aren’t “getting through” to God. But Jesus’ promise here should encourage us to believe Him in spite of appearances. It may be that we simply have not received our answer yet. © 2015 LifeWay

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15 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE Luke 11:11-13

Notes 11

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake

instead of a fish? 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?” READ: Luke 11:11-13 on page 39 of the PSG. DISCUSS: Question #4 on page 41 of the PSG: “What’s your reaction to the promises in this passage?” RECAP: Highlight the third paragraph on page 41 of the PSG: In Jesus’ day, rabbis often argued a point by reasoning from “the lesser” to “the greater.” Jesus often used that same pattern: Since “A” is true, how much more is “B” true? If a human dad can do good for his child out of his love— ALTERNATE QUESTION: How should the specific promise on verse 13 impact the way we pray?

even though he is a fallen human being—how much more can the perfect God of the universe love us? GUIDE: Use the final two paragraphs on page 55 of this Leader Guide to help  group members understand how the gift of the Holy Spirit applies to modern followers of Christ. DISCUSS: Question #5 on page 42 of the PSG: “What does this passage teach us about God?” Note: Specifically, what does this passage teach us about God’s character and the ways He interacts with us? GUIDE: Refer back to “The Point” of this session: “God always answers persistent prayer.” If time allows, encourage group members to share any final thoughts or questions.

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© 2015 LifeWay

THE POINT

God always answers persistent prayer.

Luke 11:11-13 Commentary [Verses 11] While still teaching on the subject of prayer, Jesus turned His attention from praying steadfastly to the subject of how much God desires to answer our prayers. The example He used is a son asking his father for something to eat. First, Jesus used the illustration of a son who asks for a fish. What father would give his son a snake instead of a fish? Any decent human father loves his own child and would never answer a sincere request for something good with something evil. And if that is the case with human fathers, how much more does our Heavenly Father desire to answer our sincere prayers with good things? [Verse 12] Jesus gave a second example of a child asking his father for an egg. Jesus asked if the father would give him a scorpion instead. Again, our Heavenly Father desires to give us good things, just as a loving earthly father would do. An earthly father would not play evil tricks on one of his hungry children; God would certainly not do so, either. In fact, God’s love for us—His children—is infinitely stronger than any love an earthly father has for his children. [Verse 13] Jesus concluded this portion of His teaching on prayer by making the point that if His listeners (who are evil because they are sinners by nature) know how to give good gifts to their children when they ask, how much more will the heavenly Father (who is perfect and holy) desire to give His greatest gift—the Holy Spirit—to those who ask Him. God always desires to pour out His Holy Spirit on us. The problem is with our seeking Him and desiring Him. As it has been said, we have exactly as much of Him as we desire. Note that the disciples at that time had not received the Holy Spirit. In fact, they would not be able to receive Him until Pentecost, when He was sent after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection to indwell believers (see Acts 2:1‑4). Yet Christ encouraged them to seek (in the sense of waiting on) the Holy Spirit in prayer even at that time because God desired to give Him as a gift. Now that the Holy Spirit has come and lives in the heart of every believer, it’s obviously not necessary for us to ask for Him again. Instead, we should thank God for the Holy Spirit and seek to walk in Him and be led by Him each day. Scripture reminds us that God is the Giver of every good gift (see Jas. 1:17). And while He gives many good gifts to us apart from prayer, His greatest gifts come through prayer. The best gift God could give us is salvation and His very presence in our lives, which He does through the presence of the Holy Spirit. And while our needs, situations, and prayer requests may change from day to day, there is one thing that remains constant: our need for a healthy and vibrant relationship with God. An important aspect of that relationship is living a life, through the Holy Spirit, of consistent and persistent prayer. © 2015 LifeWay

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5 minutes

LIVE IT OUT GUIDE: Direct group members to page 44 of the PSG. Encourage them to consider the

Notes

following suggestions for committing to persistent prayer this week:

>> Use the model prayer. Write out

the model prayer found in Luke 11:2-4. Personalize the prayer with your name and the specific needs you’re currently facing. Use those verses as a guide for your regular experiences with prayer.

>> Start a prayer journal. Keep a journal of your conversations with God

throughout the day. Record your prayer needs, but also record what you hear from God during these conversations. Be sure to also keep track of how God answers your prayers. Over time, such a journal will become an encouraging reminder of God’s faithfulness.

>> Be a model of prayer. Look for opportunities to pray with others throughout the week. Invite people to join you as you connect with God. In doing so, you can model what you have learned about effective and persistent prayer.

Wrap It Up TRANSITION: Read or restate the conclusion from page 44 of the PSG: What does persistence look like? It looks like the children of God continually approaching their Father to express their needs and bask in His love. That’s the opportunity we’ve all been given, and that’s the opportunity we should all embrace. PRAY: Conclude the discussion by asking the Holy Spirit to daily remind you, and the members of your group, about the importance of persistent prayer.

1. Jacob Riis, The Making of an American (Macmillan, 1901), 253.

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