19 Sep 2013
Most Bible scholars believe that Jesus repeated His instructions on how to pray given earlier during the Sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 6:9-13) when later one of His disciples asked Him to “teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) We may find ourselves at times, like Jesus’ disciples apparently were during the Sermon on the Mount, in a place spiritually unable to receive and apply biblical truth to our lives. Often the culprit behind such inaptitude is a lack of spiritual maturity.
In the church today deep spiritual maturity has become for the most part a rare commodity. To a large extent significant spiritual maturity is simply not sought. So many other priorities seem to shout that they will provide for a more prominent sense of significance and purpose. For example we are urged to “work hard” for God. Or we are encouraged to consume only pre-digested spiritual food. Perhaps we may seek the “feel good” presence of the Spirit but are unwilling to cultivate the intimacy with God that covenants the fullness of the love, acceptance and power of His presence.
Spiritual maturity has integral in its foundation submission and humility.
A man may be considered spiritual when he wants to see the honor of God advanced through
his life even if it means that he himself must suffer temporary dishonor or loss. - A.W. Tozer
This is where the rub comes in. We want glory. Unfortunately many of us have come to the place in our Christian lives where we primarily want to identify the perks. Could sacrifice and self abasement have been only for some other age? Should contrition and capitulation concerning the desires of God be seriously considered by our current crowd of church goers?
What did Jesus teach?
Mark 8:34 (AMP)
34 And Jesus called [to Him] the throng with His disciples and said to them, If anyone intends to come after Me, let him deny himself [forget, ignore, disown, and lose sight of himself and his own interests] and take up his cross, and [joining Me as a disciple and siding with My party] follow with Me [continually, cleaving steadfastly to Me].
James tells us that “we have not because we ask not” or because “we ask with wrong motives.” Could it be that many of our prayers are simply not answered because they are asked from a secret place in the palace of wrong motives? Maybe asking with wrong motives is like calling the wrong phone number? We do not really reach God …. but since we do not listen for or recognize His voice we are completely oblivious to the fact that we have reached the wrong number.
If motives are very important in all matters spiritual then in prayer they must be critical. Keeping the criticality of motive in mind we want to revisit the scene of Jesus’ instruction of His disciples in answer to their request: “Teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” As we carefully consider Jesus’ teaching we may find Him encouraging us to ask for something we seem to already have, the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we are to ask for the Holy Spirit what is to be the motivation of our asking? Let’s take a quick look into the context of Jesus’ instruction.
First Jesus tells a parable concerning an individual who when visited by a hungry friend at midnight did not have bread to set before him. In this story Jesus sets up a need, bread. He sets us resistance to this need, sleep at midnight. And He shows the answer to overcome the resistance, is persistence. Surrounded by this backdrop, Jesus provides this teaching:
Luke 11:9-13 (AMP)
9 So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you.
10 For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened.
11 What father among you, if his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
13 If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts [gifts that are to their advantage] to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!
Perhaps we can garner some insight from verse thirteen in the passage above. The original is translated by the Amplified Bible as ask and continue to ask due to the verb or participle tense. (notice: The Amp Bible also translates verbs in a similar fashion in verses 9 &10 above)
It seems we should come away from this verse with two primary thoughts. One is that in some context we are to ask for the Holy Spirit. The second is that whatever exactly this means we should continue our asking.
Let’ consider the possibility that the Holy Spirit, as an amazing gift of God, needs to be continually sought and asked for. Not for His presence indwelling our lives, but for His control and guidance and wisdom. This kind of asking for the work of the Spirit to be activated in our lives no doubt requires that we first be cleansed from sin by submission and confession and a pure heart to honor God by all the Spirit provides. Would you agree that we each possess a dislikeable tendency toward spiritual amnesia? This might be illustrated by one starting the day cleansed and under the control of the Holy Spirit and then sometime shortly thereafter somehow, getting into the side ditch of sin and wandering away from God in a carnal state. Is not walking in the Spirit such that our Spirit filled lives will constantly bring glory to God an appropriate motive for our repeatedly asking for the Holy Spirit’s power?
It seems that to walk in the Spirit requires constant prayer, prayer to be cleansed and filled and empowered with God’s spirit with the pure motive of bringing glory only to the Name and Person of our Lord.
“A prayer-less ministry is the undertaker for all God’s truth and for God’s church. He may have the most costly casket and the most beautiful flowers, but it is a funeral, notwithstanding the charmful array. A prayer-less Christian will never learn God’s truth; a prayer-less ministry will never be able to teach God’s truth.” - E.M. Bounds
Could it be that the basis behind the thoughts of E.M. Bounds is that the Holy Spirit is the real teacher and the minister who is actually doing the work though us and our regular and oft repeated prayer is critical for His work to be patiently and persistently active in our lives?
I am personally very thankful for the disciple who in times past asked Jesus to teach them to pray, for it is from this question we find the teaching of Jesus that contains His answer. This week take some time to seriously study and meditate on Luke 11: 1-13 asking the Lord through His Spirit to show you personally how to more effectively pray. May we each authentically ask the Holy Spirit to instruct us!