Note: This post is part of a series about building a personal relationship with God by reading the parables of Jesus. You can browse the entire series here.
Have you ever tried to pray and felt stuck?
Talking to a God we can’t physically see can be challenging; even the guys who knew Jesus personally felt like they needed help praying. We see this at the beginning of Luke 11, the chapter we’ll be focused on in this study.
One day, as the disciples watch Jesus pray, they admit they need help and humbly ask Jesus to teach them how to talk to God.
Perhaps a bit surprisingly, Jesus teaches his followers to pray by telling them stories about friendship. He doesn’t teach them a set of rules or methods, but he teaches them how to build a friendship with God. His stories show God’s desire to care, respond, and listen.
By teaching his followers about God’s care, Jesus also teaches them to keep talking to God, and to persevere even if they didn’t see his answers right away.
Bruno Mars has a song called “Count On Me,” and some of the lyrics paint a picture of the kind of friendship with God that Jesus describes in Luke 11:
“If you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the sea, I’ll sail the world to find you.
If you ever find yourself lost in the dark and you can’t see, I’ll be the light to guide you.
We’ll find out what we’re made of when we are called to help our friends in need.
You can count on me…”“Count On Me” Bruno Mars
Jesus describes God to his followers as this kind of friend you can count on. When you need a word of encouragement, a lift in your day, or a gentle push forward in life, who do you count on?
A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times.Proverbs 17:17 Voice
We can learn from the stories about prayer in Luke 11 that God is a “true friend” who loves us all the time, regardless of the situation.
In this devotional, we will read through these stories to learn not only how to talk to God but also how to keep talking to him because we know we can count on him. When we learn to make God a personal friend, he will become real to us, and in doing so teach us how to become a “true friend” to others.
You can count on God
Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’Luke 11:5-6 NLT
Jesus begins teaching us about prayer by telling us a story about three friends. Let’s imagine being the first friend in the story: it’s midnight, and a friend “suddenly” shows up at your place. You are caught off guard. How would you feel?
To make an already unexpected situation even more stressful, you realize you don’t have enough food for your friend. This would have been especially stressful in Jesus’s day, because hospitality was a very significant part of the culture. It meant a lot to have enough food to offer to a friend in need.
From putting ourselves in this person’s shoes, I think we can guess that his stress level would have increased dramatically when his friend arrived.
Where does this person turn to handle the sudden stress of his friend’s midnight visit? To another friend, of course. He brings all his stress and pressure to another friend, who in this story can represent God. He begins banging on this other friend’s door and shouting for help.
What can we learn from this? Banging on someone’s door and shouting at them in the middle of the night conveys a lot of emotion. In fact, anything that happens in the middle of the night brings stress. We don’t usually call anyone in the middle of the night just to say hi; we do it because there is some kind of emergency or urgent need.
I remember being sound asleep one night when I was suddenly jolted awake by my loud ringtone playing “Keep Ya Head Up” by 2Pac. When I answered, I heard a friend of mine crying on the other side of the phone. I quickly asked him what was happening and if he was okay.
His voice was quiet and a little shaken as he told me his father had suddenly died. I instantly felt his grief, sadness, and fear. Once I got off the phone, I cried for him. I was overwhelmed with my own sadness and fear. I remember getting on my knees and asking God to help my friend in his time of need and to help me handle my own emotions about what had happened to him.
What happened in that phone call? My friend’s emotional state (his sadness, anxiety, fear, and confusion) was transferred into my life and I was carrying this with him. I couldn’t have handled this without taking the sudden stress I had just received to God in prayer.
Friendships are emotional. Close friendships are incredibly rewarding, and they bring many encouraging things into our lives, but they also sometimes bring emotions like stress, hurt, and sadness. Sometimes this makes us want to avoid being close to people so we can avoid feeling pain.
I think one very important thing Jesus is teaching us in this part of the story is that prayer and crying out to God are ways we can handle these emotions in our friendships. God is a friend you can count on anytime, day or night, no matter what stress comes into your life.
Pause and reflect:
- Have you been experiencing painful feelings in any of your friendships lately (like hurt, sadness, rejection, or pressure)?
- How have you been handling these feelings?
- Do you talk to God about your feelings, or do you suppress them, deny them, or only talk to people about them?
- What is the difference between talking to God and talking only to people about your feelings?
You can count on friendship
And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.Luke 11:7-8 NLT
Jesus teaches us something important about friendship here: a friend keeps talking. Knocking persistently on the door shows that we believe our other friend will eventually get up and help us.
A true friend is also persistent when wanting to meet the needs of someone he cares about. The first person in this story would not take “no” for an answer when it came to finding food for his hungry guest.
Persistence is something we need in all our relationships, including our relationship with God. That means we must learn how to keep asking, talking, and praying to God until we get our prayers answered!
Why do we need persistence in our friendship with God? In this story, the first person faces some obstacles to getting what he needs: his friend is already in bed, so are his kids, and the door is locked. To keep asking for this guy’s help would require overcoming obstacles of pride, fear, anxiety, and unbelief.
We can run into these same obstacles in our relationships and they can stop us from talking to and connecting with God:
- Unbelief: We don’t believe God cares about us, so we won’t ask him for what we need.
- Fear: We focus on our circumstances and our own inadequecies instead of God’s power and ability to do the impossible.
- Pride: We carry the pressure in our lives ourselves and pretend we can handle it instead of telling it all to God.
- Anxiety: We get consumed by our worries and our need to take control instead of turning to God and sharing our burdens with him.
Because we will all face these obstacles in prayer, it’s important to remember that God is a friend. When we believe that, we will stick it out and keep talking to him without letting these obstacles get in our way and make us give up.
This story also addresses something difficult that everyone experiences at some point in their relationship with God: a seemingly-unfulfilled expectation or request. Unfulfilled expectations can lead to bitterness in any friendship, and our relationship with God is no exception. So how do we handle feelings of bitterness, hurt, or discouragement when we ask God for something and don’t see his answers right away?
I think one answer this story gives us is trust. Trusting that God is a friend means trusting that he is working for our good and has our back, even when we can’t see it. This is easier said than done. So how do we build trust as we wait for God’s answer to our prayers?
Here are three things we can do to build our trust in God:
- Make a choice: We can decide to trust God more than we trust ourselves or our own emotions (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
- Make an effort: We can decide to keep making effort in our prayer life by continuing to express our hearts while we wait (Daniel 9:3-23).
- Make the time: We can build our trust in God by consistently putting time into remaining close to him. If we take shortcuts or skip out on spending time with God, our trust and faith in him will suffer. When we do spend consistent time with God, we will see spiritual fruit grow in our lives (John 15:4-5).
Pause and reflect:
- Are you known as a persistent friend? Why or why not?
- What obstacles stop you from being bold in prayer?
- How can you start being persistent with God in prayer?
You can count on prayer
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”Luke 11:9-10 NLT
Jesus teaches us that we can count on prayer. If we keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking, we will receive what we ask for and find what we are looking for. God wants us to talk to him and share with him all our hopes, fears, and dreams because he cares about us.
For those of us who are single, dating is a huge part of life. We can spend a lot of time thinking about dating and talking with friends about dating, but it’s important to ask ourselves how much we pray about dating.
Before I started dating Messer, I remember having about six people in my close friendship circle and three of these friends were women. These girls were cool, fun and spiritual, but what I appreciated most about them was their friendship. We talked with each other about our lives, futures, and dreams.
As time went on, I became more interested in wanting to be in a steady relationship. I was lucky enough to have these three great friends who were women, but I wasn’t sure if I should pursue one of them in the hopes of dating. I tried to figure it out for months.
In my pride, I thought I could figure this out on my own. And like usual, I was wrong! I didn’t know what to do. I remember talking to a friend of mine about what was happening. He asked me a simple and profound question: “Have you prayed about this?”
Of course, I laughed, and I said no. I had done everything but pray.
For the next few months, I prayed consistently about my relationship with these three friends and for God to make clear to me if I was meant to date one of them.
From this experience I learned that I could even talk to God about dating. God answered my prayers, and one of these friends eventually became my wife. That time really strengthened my belief that I could talk to God about anything because he cares about everything in my life.
For every prayer that I can remember that was answered like the one I just mentioned, I could tell you about other prayers that seemed at the time to be unanswered or unheard. But the truth is that God heard them all.
Whether we pray out loud, or whisper, or even if we are unable to get words out at all (Romans 8:26), God hears everything and he will answer us. Sometimes those prayers take years or decades to be answered. Sometimes God shapes our prayers differently like a great parent, coach, or teacher because he sees what we really want and need. But when it’s all said and done, we can be confident from the Scriptures that if we are persistent and determined to talk to God, he will answer our prayers.
Pause and reflect:
- Identify one or two things you have stopped praying about. Why did you stop praying about those things?
- What’s your favorite quality of your best friend? Do you see that quality in God?
- What one change do you want to see happen that you can start praying for?
In closing, let’s review a few things to remember and take away from our short study:
- Friendships bring a lot of emotion into our lives, including anxiety, stress, and unexpected ups and downs. This is a normal part of being connected to people.
- God is a friend who is available day and night and who cares about what we need.
- Even when it’s hard, it’s important to keep talking to God. This is how we will overcome the obstacles that sometimes get in the way of seeing him move in our lives.