In this article we continue in our series on the Gospel of Luke by taking a look at Luke 11:5-13. Over the past few weeks we have look at how, in the Lord's prayer, Jesus has given an outline, a pattern of prayer to His disciples to pray in response to their request, "Lord, teach us to pray," but now He wants to urge them as to the importance of prayer. And I want to focus on three things that Jesus tells us about prayer.

If I can put this provocatively, Jesus wants us to learn to beg in prayer. Jesus wants us not to stop praying, and if we have, to start again. And Jesus wants us to believe, and this is the most provocative thing I may say today, Jesus wants us to understand that God's answer to our prayer is always "Yes," that He always answers our prayer.

Now have I got your attention? Let's work through each of these. We'll take a look at the first this week and the second two in next week's article.

I. Jesus Wants Us To Learn To Beg In Prayer

Jesus wants us to beg. If I could put that in a little more elegant way, Jesus wants us to be importunate - to beg, to plead, to appeal in prayer like the importunate widow who went to the judge and she basically bugged him to death until he gave her justice.

And Jesus tells us this fascinating story that would have gripped the attention of all His original hearers immediately because it had to do with hospitality, and it had to do with very famous near-eastern hospitality, a hospitality that I must say was even more emphatic than Southern hospitality. In the near-east, when someone showed up at your home, the idea of not putting before them something was unthinkable. In fact, when a visitor showed up in your home, you were to provide them not with just what you would normally provide your own family, you were to provide them with a generous appointment of blessings.

And so Jesus tells a story. He says a man's at his house one night, a friend shows up unexpectedly in the middle of the night, and the man has absolutely nothing to put in front of this friend. And when Jesus says those words, everybody who's listening to him goes, "Gasp!" It would be like it's the day of your wedding and the florist has prepared the wedding reception and it is beautiful. And the guests are at the door and they're getting ready to come in and there's no food! There're not even mints and peanuts! There's nothing! This is how the ancient near-eastern folk would have thought of having a visitor show up at the house and there's nothing to put in front of them.

So what does this guy do? He says, "Okay, I've got a friend. He lives a couple of doors down. I'm heading to his house and I'm asking for some food." So he gets up in the middle of the night, he goes to his friend's house, and he starts knocking on the door. "Hey, hey, friend, a friend just came to my house and I have nothing to give him. Please give me some food so that I can give that food to him." And his friend says, "Go away! We're already asleep!" And does the guy just go away? No! He continues, "No, no. I really, really need the food. Please, please friend!" "But if I get up it's going to wake up everybody in the house!" "I know, I know, I'm sorry, but I really need this food!" And finally the guy says, "Okay, okay, I'm getting up. I'm going to give you the food."

And Jesus makes an analogy out of this. He says, "If that friend would get up and get his friend the food, not so much because he was a friend, but just because he was bugging him to death with his begging and his appealing, how much more do you think the heavenly Father will hear and answer your prayers when you plead and appeal and beg?"

Now, is He trying to teach us that God is towards us somewhat like a friend who is in bed in the middle of the night who does not want to get up? No. No.

God is far greater than that and His posture towards us is totally different from that. So why in the world would Jesus tell us that He wants us to beg in prayer? Because most of us have no idea how needy we are and how vulnerable our situation is. Let's face it, the times in our lives when we have been most faithful in prayer have been the times in our lives in which we most sense our need.

You see, it's not just that God is greater than the friend in this illustration, it's that our need is greater than the need in this illustration. As horrific as it would be for a bride in the deep south to throw a wedding reception at which there was no food, as horrific as it would have been to someone in the ancient near-east to have a visitor show up and not be able to provide them food, your need is greater than that.

You know it's not like a dad, three days before Father's Day, and your wife and your kids are quizzing you, "What do you want for Father's Day?" And the tape is running in your mind - "I don't need anything." And you're thinking, "Don't give me an ugly tie." You just don't need anything. "Just give me a card. Just spend the day with me. I don't need anything." Well, that's kind of how we think about prayer most of the time. Every once in a while something will come along that we're really, really passionate about in prayer but we're kind of like, "There's nothing I need." And Jesus is saying, "You've got to be kidding. You have got to be kidding. The world is falling down around your ears. You ought to be on your knees begging God for what you need."

Jesus is saying, "Life hangs in the balance 24-7...beg, appeal, plead, not because God is like a friend who doesn't want to get up in the middle of the night but because, whether you realize it or not all the time, you are like that friend who has nothing to give unless your friend gives you something to give."

Do you really feel like that? That there's nothing you can do unless God gives you what you need? You know this story is almost the flipside of the petition, "Give us Lord our daily bread," right? It's almost saying, "Lord, we're not going to have any daily bread unless You give it to us. I'm not going to have any daily bread to give to somebody else unless You give it to me."

So Jesus is saying, here's the first thing I want you to know about prayer - in prayer, you need to beg. You need to plead. You need to appeal because you are needier than you think and your circumstances are more dire than you have contemplated and you need what only God can supply. So don't approach prayer like the Father's Day present conversation - "I really don't need anything." Beg, plead, appeal, because you're needy.