Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. In this week’s lesson I give a brief review of the Winter Quarter and show how Jesus teaches his disciples the importance of perseverance in prayer. After teaching the disciples the model prayer (what we often call the Lord’s Prayer) he uses a parable to explain the importance of ever-persevering petitions. We need to pray and keep on praying. In this parable Jesus uses the example of a shameless neighbor and an earthly father to help his disciples understand that relationships matter. He also helps them understand that because of their relationship with God they can trust that God is a loving, merciful, kind, gracious, and generous God. Jesus helps the disciples to know that perseverance pays off. When we are in God’s will, God answers our prayers. He also helps them to know that we don’t pray to change God’s mind. God already knows what we need; we pray to get in God’s will. It’s our job to ask for God’s will; it’s our job to seek God’s will. When we ask for God’s will, when we seek and search for God’s will, God will open the door to answer our prayers. Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:
The Gospel According to Luke is the third of the four Gospels and the third of the three synoptic Gospels. Mathew, Mark, and Luke are synoptic whereas John is not. As I explained last week the synoptic Gospels, in large part, talk about the same things and talk about them in the same ways. The Gospel According to John stands alone. It talks about some of the same things but talks about them differently and it also talks about things the other Gospels does not mention.
Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that “the author does not identify himself by name, but does tell us a good deal about himself.” It notes that “the author is educated, with the best command of Greek of any New Testament writer. He also counts among his acquaintances a person of high social standing, the “most excellent” Theophilus.” Other important facts from Nelson’s include:
- As a Gentile the author is interested in Gentiles and equally disinterested in matters purely Jewish.
- Luke was probably written some time shortly after 70 A.D.
- Later tradition identifies the author as Luke, the companion of Paul.
- Luke is the most socially minded of the gospels.
The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that “Luke is most noteworthy for its narrative of the birth of Jesus (chaps 1-2), the lengthy “travel account” in the central section (9:51-19:48), and its unrelenting interest in the marginalized and the dispossessed.” So, in this Gospel we see how Jesus shows particular interest in the marginalized and dispossessed. Luke highlights these interactions while also highlighting the “theme of salvation for Israel.”
Our scripture text falls within the long travel account on the way to Jerusalem. This is Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. The NISB notes that “Jesus’ journey is especially concerned with the formation of disciples.” For example, in chapter 11:1 note how the disciples ask Jesus “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” The NISB also notes that this journey is “also characterized by a growing hostility that reaches its acme in Jerusalem.” Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that “knowing He is on his last journey to Jerusalem, Jesus instructs His disciples on a number of practical matters including prayer, covetousness, faithfulness, repentance (and more).” After the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem he faces the hostility of the Scribes and Sadducees. The hostility escalates until ultimately Jesus is crucified.
The eleventh chapter of Luke deals with what we call The Lord’s Prayer, perseverance in prayer, Jesus and Beelzebul, the sign of Jonah, and among other things Jesus denounces Pharisees and lawyers. The focus of this week’s lesson is perseverance in prayer. Some important terms to consider about this text include:
Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
In last week’s lesson Jesus gave his disciples an example of a kingdom seeking prayer. We often call this model prayer of Jesus the Lord’s Prayer. In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was showing his disciples a more excellent way to pray. He was correcting them so they wouldn’t pray like hypocrites. He was correcting them so they wouldn’t pray to be seen like others or to draw attention to themselves. When Jesus says “pray then in this way” He was teaching his disciples how to pray. That is to say, this is a better way to pray. He had already told them don’t pray like the hypocrites in the synagogue and in the streets. He had already told them don’t pray to bring attention to yourself. And it’s not as if the disciples weren’t already praying or didn’t know how to pray. This prayer Jesus was teaching his disciples continued his instruction on the new rules and new commands that would govern the citizens of the new kingdom of heaven. It is perhaps the most well known prayer of all time and many of us learned it at the feet of our mothers. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Perseverance in Prayer” Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Ever-Persevering Petitions.” The scripture text comes from Luke 11:5-13.
Again, these are the words of Jesus. He uses this parable not to give the disciples the answers, but to help them think through a situation and come to the right conclusion.
What Takes Place in This Passage:
This final lesson of the quarter opens at chapter eleven verse five. This is the 13th and final lesson of the Winter Quarter. Each of the 13 lessons focused on Honoring God. We began with David honoring God, then we saw how David remembered how good God had been to him. He knew where God had brought him from. God had been with King David down through the years and David wanted to honor God by building God a house. David’s heart was in the right place and he was well able to build a great house for God. But just because you can, don’t mean you should. It was not God’s will for David, but it was God’s will for David’s son Solomon. I talked about the Davidic Covenant and then moved on to unit two which focused on how Solomon honored God.
Solomon made a place for the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord and then he made sure to move the Ark so that only the priests would touch the Ark. Then Solomon made a great celebration to dedicate this new home for God. No longer would God dwell in the tabernacle, the moveable, mobile tent made by Moses; now the Ark of the Covenant would have a permanent place to dwell.
In unit three we see how Jesus honors God as he teaches about true worship with single minded obedience, piety, prayer, and perseverance. First God dwelt in the tabernacle. Then God dwelt in the Temple. Now God dwells in our hearts and it’s our duty to honor God even in our prayers.
Verse five begins with Jesus asking his disciples a rhetorical question. He asks “suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and ask your friend for three loaves of bread.” Jesus isn’t really expecting the disciples to give an answer. This is a parable. Jesus is about to teach his followers an important lesson. Westmininister’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines parable as “A short story based on common experiences that contains a meaning.” This is a common experience that his followers would be able to identify with. Lexham Bible Dictionary explains that Jesus’ parables:
- Are often introduced with a question.
- Use everyday images.
- Uses nameless characters.
- Often describe the Kingdom of Heaven.
- Sometimes have a shocking punchline.
It continues, “parables were not stories that merely educated, entertained, or satisfied curiosity; they demanded interpretation and application.” It is the interpretation and application that nourished and inspired his followers and confounded and confused his detractors. Lexham also notes that ““parable” occurs 48 times in the synoptic Gospels and twice in Hebrews. And while Jesus used metaphors such as light, vine, gate, and shepherd in the Gospel of John, none of Jesus’ teachings recorded there are considered parables and the word “parable” is not mentioned in John.”
One of the points of this parable is to highlight that perseverance pays off. The friend is in bed. He and his children are asleep. If he wakes up to get the loaves of bread not only will it disrupt his sleep, it will also wake up the entire family. Jesus uses everyday images and situations that made his listeners think. He didn’t give them the answers in his parables. He helped them think through to their own conclusions. Was it rude to wake the friend and his family? Was it even more rude to not provide some food for a friend who has probably been traveling through the day and arriving late at night. Townsend’s Commentary notes that “Hospitality was an important cultural practice. The suggestion that the sleeping man would deny his friend’s request was unthinkable in their culture.” It seems to me that this parable is also about relationships. Their is relationship between the traveller and his friend. There is a relationship between the person asking for bread and the sleeping friend. The friend asking for the loaves was not ashamed to keep knocking, to keep asking. It is his perseverance that gets the result he wants. Likewise, it can be our perseverance that gets the results we want when we are in line with God’s will. God knows what we stand in need of before we ask. Yet, it delights God to answer our prayers. 1 John 5:14,15 reminds us “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.” Perseverance pays off. When we are in God’s will, God answers our prayers. We don’t pray to change God’s mind, we pray to get in God’s will.
In verse nine Jesus continues, “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” That’s the point Jesus is driving home. Prayer is important. Making our requests known to God is important. Trusting God to answer our prayers is important. God is a generous, loving, kind, and merciful God. It’s our job to ask for God’s will; it’s our job to seek God’s will. When we ask for God’s will, when we seek and search for God’s will, God will open the door to answer our prayers.
I need to interject here to say that sometimes we really don’t know God’s will. I’ve been in situations in my own life where I honestly didn’t know which way to pray. The only thing I knew how to do was to trust that God was still a loving God, that God was still merciful and kind. And that I was still God’s son. Sometimes you don’t know what to do, and sometimes there is nothing you can do; but simply trust God.
In verses eleven and twelve Jesus continues “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg will he give him a scorpion?” Jesus is making the point that God can be trusted to treat God’s children right. Our God is a loving, merciful, kind, gracious, and generous God. It is unthinkable that any loving parent would give their child a snake instead of a fish or a scorpion instead of an egg. Likewise, it is unthinkable that our loving God in heaven would give us something harmful instead of something good.
Verse thirteen closes this lesson with Jesus stating the obvious to his disciples. 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!” In other words, if your earthly fathers know how to give you good gifts, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts? Jesus is making his point by moving from the disadvantaged earthly father’s perspective to the omnipotent heavenly Father’s perspective. If your disadvantaged earthly father knows how to give good gifts, how much more will the God of the universe do for God’s children.
People who say God may not come when you want Him, but He’s always right on time, say that because they have probably experienced God for themselves. They already know that God is an on time God. Jesus has already taught the disciples the model prayer and in this parable he is teaching them to persevere in prayer. He is driving home the point that persistent prayer, persevering prayer, changes things. What we should know and believe is that prayer changes things. If not our circumstances or situations, then perhaps us.
Parable – A short story based on common experiences that contains a meaning. Parables make up approximately 35% of Jesus’ recorded sayings.
Perseverance – persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:
1. Prayer changes things.
2. Why do we pray?
If God already knows what we need before we ask why is it important to ask?
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week is the first week of the Spring Quarter. The focus for next quarter is justice and the prophets. The lesson for March 1, 2020 comes from Amos 5:18-24 and is titled “Called to Accountability” and “A Call to Accountability”.
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