July 28, 2013: Do You Pray In A Vacuum?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today as You teach us to pray in a correct manner, inspire us to not only take Your words to heart, but to act upon them with boldness and confidence! For then our prayers will be heard, answered, and bear wonderful fruit for our benefit and for your glory. Amen


TEXT: Luke 11: 1-13

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

DO YOU PRAY IN A VACUUM? And no, I don’t mean talking to God when you’re hoovering the cleaner around the house. Our lesson today gives us Christ’s comprehensive set of instructions about exactly how we should pray. It concludes with the famous line: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” Usually people skip directly to that passage without taking into account the other important verses that come before it. That’s a huge mistake. And I fear it often leads to well-meaning Christians praying in a vacuum. Let me explain what I mean.


“Ask, seek, knock.” Those three words are a progression where one should lead directly to another. Each is an individual component part of the whole when it comes to prayer. But too often people divorce the asking from the seeking and the knocking. Too often we ask God for this or that blessing, but we fail to follow up with the other parts in order to actually have it happen. That’s where the earlier verses of our lesson come into play.

“One day Jesus was praying with His disciples. After He finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'” So, Jesus does just that. He provides them with a short compilation of the Lord’s Prayer. Then He goes on to add some very insightful words of explanation: “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, through he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”


This word picture is insightful. At Christ’s time there were no grocery stores or “all night markets.” You either baked your own bread—time consuming, or bought it at the local bakery every morning. Not being hospitable to a visitor was a huge social faux pas. So naturally, this fellow who was hosting the friend would try to procure bread. But, it’s midnight. The town is dark. Doors are locked, bolted and secured. People are sleeping. Children are in the same bed or bedroom as their parents—remember houses were tiny. He goes to his friend down the street. He pounds on the door. The friend arises in a groggy state, looks down, sees his buddy and basically thinks: “Leave me alone! Are you a lunatic for getting me up and causing commotion in my house? I need my rest. Go away.” In short, the neighbor acts exactly like most of us would feel.

Christ says here that this grumpy neighbor would not provide bread just because “He’s my friend,” but because of the fellow’s persistence, boldness, and gumption. Note as well, that the needy neighbor doesn’t take “No” for an answer. He doesn’t slink off in frustration or disgust. He keeps on knocking and eventually his “seeking” is rewarded!

Most people and many Christians are lazy in their prayer life. We’re pretty good at the “asking” part, but we’re lousy with the follow-up, the seeking and then the knocking. Note the progression here. Asking should lead to seeking. Asking is easy and actually passive, isn’t it? But seeking is much more active. You have to energize yourself and get busy with follow-up to the asking part. And when it comes to knocking, well, that means you stop, pay attention, and very actively persist until you get the answer you desire. Or, until your needs are met. So, if you only ask when you pray and don’t seek and knock, you’re actually praying in a vacuum. You’re praying into a void.


Let’s put this all into tangible terms. You’re out of work and need a job. You pray that God would give you a job. You ask. So far, so good. But then you don’t actively search for one each day, take the necessary classes to upgrade your skills in this modern economy, or knock on the door or inbox of every possibility you uncover in your search. Then you get a little cross with God because He hasn’t dumped a new job into your lap! You question the validity of prayer. Whereas the real problem is: you’ve prayed in a vacuum. You’ve divorced step one from steps two and three.

Or, how about the lonely single who prays that God would send someone into their life? But then they sit each night staring at the TV and drinking beer. They never seek out others, or put themselves into situations to meet others, and if they happen to fall into such a situation they are afraid of rejection and never take the time and expend the energy needed to develop literally any relationship.

Or, how about the person confined to the hospital? They are sick and want to just get better. They ask God to heal them. Great! But then they don’t follow-up with their doctor, or research their illness on their own, or change lifestyle habits to help make a complete recovery occur. If you leave out the “seeking and the knocking” the asking part just sits their gathering dust!

“Ask, seek, knock.” Those are three imperatives that all fit together into the whole tapestry of proper prayer. And Christ, the eternal Son of God Who cannot lie, Who gave His very life to save yours while hanging on a cross, that Christ attaches a promise to each of those parts—a promise He cannot go back on. Here it is: “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Then, to further give us boldness and confidence as we do this, Jesus adds this little explanation: “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

By contrasting the ridiculous with the sublime Jesus drives home the point that God wants and rewards patient, persistent, confident and yes, bold prayers in which the longings of the heart are followed up with concrete actions. Jesus was not a passive Savior. He actively worked at saving our souls. Likewise, He doesn’t want us to be passive pray-ers, but active ones who trust in His goodness enough to never just sit back, but instead busy ourselves by employing all the Spirit’s gifts to make things happen! So, put to use Jesus’ pray outline by remembering that those words: “Thy will be done” include: asking, seeking, and knocking. Do your best as His child and then trust in His goodness to fix any mistakes you might make along the way. After all, pleading the mercy of Christ on a daily basis is what ultimately identifies you as a Christian….Amen