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LESSON 6 - PRAYER POWER (PARABLES SERIES: LUKE 11 & 18)

     Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references
     are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are
     found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses
     a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: This week we learn about prayer and how God reacts to
our requests for help through the study of parables that teach us
about prayer. Let's dig in!


I. PRAYER EXAMPLE

     A. Open your Bibles with me to Luke 11:1. Read.

          1. One of Jesus' disciples, seeing Jesus praying, wanted
          to learn how to pray. The disciples were adults. Why
          would they ask to learn to pray? (The disciple felt a
          need for improvement.)

          2. Do you feel a need for improvement in the area of 
          prayer? (This is an area where I feel the most need "for
          improvement.") 

     B. Read Luke 11:2-4. (Might make brief comment about NIV 
     "missing text," "Textus Receptus" and how in 20th century
     discovered manuscripts from the second century AD, including
     one on this very text --Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV. Note also
     expanded version in Matthew 6:9-13.)

          1. What is the first impression you have of this prayer?
          (It is short!)

               a. Since this is an example, does it mean that all
               prayers should be short? (Notice the reference in
               v.1 to John teaching his disciples a prayer.
               Barclay says that it was the custom of a Rabbi to
               teach his followers a simple prayer that could be
               used often. W. Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, p.
               143.)

          2. The very first word of the prayer is "Father." What
          significance do you see in that? (I love it. The very
          first impulse in prayer, the very first attitude, is that
          we are coming to someone who is our father and wants to
          be called our father.)

          3. We have three main points to this prayer. How would
          you describe them?

               a. First, acknowledgement and praise to God.

                    (1) What point is being made in the phrase, 
                    "your kingdom come?" What does that say about
                    things now? (Things are not yet right. We are
                    in a battle zone where our King has not yet
                    swept the field of combat.)
                    
               b. Second, physical needs.

                    (1) Why not just say, "give us sufficient 
                    bread?" Doesn't "each day our daily bread"
                    seem redundant (for a very short prayer!) and
                    needlessly detailed? (Have you seen the bumper
                    sticker, "One day at a time?" I do not care
                    for it or identify with it because I am a
                    planner. Does that bumper sticker reflect some
                    truth from our sample prayer? (Yes! Jesus is
                    saying, when it comes to physical needs,
                    depend on God and not on "the plan."  Our
                    daily dependence on God IS THE PLAN!)
                    
               c. Third, spiritual needs.

                    (1) Jesus refers to both sins we have committed
                    and future temptation. Why not say "forgive me
                    for the sins I committed and help me not to do
                    it again? Why talk about "temptation?"
                    Temptation is not sin, is it? (Jesus is
                    looking to past sins and the future.  But
                    future problems are stated in terms of
                    temptation. If you stay away from temptation
                    you stay away from sin.)

          4. Do you think this order is important? Did Jesus intend
          to give us an example in which we pray for our physical
          needs first? (This is remarkable, but I cannot believe
          that this order is inadvertent. God knew we would be
          concerned about out physical needs and He says it is "OK"
          to bring them up before spiritual needs.))

II. A FRIEND IN NEED IS A PAIN IN THE NECK?

     A. Jesus goes beyond the mere recitation of a "sample" prayer
     for His disciples. He tells them stories that further answer
     the request, "teach us to pray." Read Luke 11:5-8.

          1. In simple terms, what is at stake in this story for
          the guy who is making the request? If he is denied, what
          is the downside? (Pride and late night hunger.)

               a. What was Jesus' first miracle? (John 2:1-11: Cana
               wedding, water to wine.)

                    (1) What was at stake in the Cana wedding 
                    request? (Pride and thirst.)

               b. Is this just coincidence? (I think Jesus is 
               making clear that He wants to hear about our
               concerns even if they are not critical needs.)

          2. What reasons does the rudely awakened man give for not
          handing over his bread? (The door is locked and we are in
          bed.)

               a. Does that sound like a real excuse to you?

               b. How about the request? Does that seem reasonable? 
               Why are visitors showing up at midnight?  Why
               wouldn't they call first? (Alex Bell was yet to be
               born. The visitors were not setting the "cruise
               control" on the chariot so they could judge exactly
               when they would arrive.)

               c. Now that we have considered the times, how many
               rooms do you think the rudely awakened man had in
               his home? (Wenham suggests a "small, dark, one-room
               house" with the animals in the front, and the
               family sleeping on mats "perhaps under one
               covering" in the back.  The door is crudely barred
               during the night. "It was a considerable nuisance
               to be asked to get up and find some bread." Wenham,
               Parables of Jesus, p. 180)

          3. Does friendship win out?  Does the rudely awakened man
          get the bread because, after all, it is his friend who is
          asking? (No! v.8)

               a. So why does he get the bread? 

               b. What does it mean that he does it because of the
               friend's "boldness" (importunity -KJV)? (I think it
               means that if the rudely awakened fellow were to
               look at this logically, he would decide that the
               friendship did not merit his getting himself out of
               bed.  Instead, the fact that this guy was willing
               to wake him up at midnight and ask for bread caused
               him to give him some.)

     B. Read Luke 11:9-13.

          1. Does the story of the rudely awakened fellow
          illustrate how God treats our prayer requests?  If not,
          why did Jesus tell this particular story? (v.13 tells us
          the story of the friend and the father are in CONTRAST
          with these stories.  The rudely awakened fellow gave his
          friend bread because the friend was an obnoxious pest.
          When you have a "father/son" relationship (as Jesus
          asserts in v.1) then physical assistance is given out of
          love and the nature of the gift reflects this love.)

          2. If this is true (that we have a Father/son"
          relationship), then why do we have to ask?  We give lots
          of things to our children even though they do not ask.
          (The gospel is a "team effort." We show that we depend
          upon God by asking, and He rewards our faith by
          answering.)

          3. Both the story of the friend and the illustration of
          the father talk about food being given.  This accords
          with the "sample" prayer "give us our bread." Why does
          Jesus wrap this up with (v. 13) "how much more shall your
          heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask?"
          Isn't this the ultimate "mixed metaphor?" (Jesus is
          saying that God is concerned about our physical needs,
          but what He really wants to give us is Himself.  The best
          gift is His presence and comfort.)
          
III. HERE COMES THE JUDGE

     A. Read Luke 18:1-2. What an interesting description for this
     judge: he feared neither God nor man.

          1. Do you want your judge to fear man?  Is this good or
          bad that he does not fear man? (I don't want my judge to
          fear man when I am arguing an unpopular cause.  I want a
          judge to make decisions based on the law and not upon
          opinion polls.)

               a. Would a judge who did not fear man worry about
               the justice of his decisions? (No. He would not be
               worrying about his "reputation" in the community.)

     
          2. What if your judge does not fear God? Is that good or
          bad. (I want a judge who fears God.  If he does not "fear
          God," then who knows the basis for his (or her) decision:
          laziness, dishonesty, etc.)

          3. If this judge does not fear man or God, knowing what
          you do about human nature, what do you think formed the
          basis for the decisions of this judge? (Greed! He would
          think only about himself, so he would look for the
          "angle" to the case that benefitted him.)

          4. In Indiana state courts they have this rather unique
          system whereby you get one automatic opportunity to
          reject the judge assigned to your case.  I would reject
          this judge.

     B. Read Luke 18:3. The plaintiff in our case is a widow. What
     kind of social standing and political influence would be
     possessed by a widow? (Widows and orphans are traditionally
     the most powerless and needy individuals in society.)

          1. In a sense, The fact that this judge did not fear man
          might be good when you are a widow. What about the fact
          the judge did not fear God? (He was open to be bribed.)

          2. What was the widow's litigation strategy? (Pestering!)

     C. Let's see if the widow's strategy pays off. Read Luke 18:4-
     5. Did the strategy work at first? (No. "For some time [the
     judge] refused.")

          1. Why did he refuse? (We do not know for sure, but he
          did not want to rule in her favor. He preferred her
          adversary for whatever reason.)

     D. Ultimately, the strategy does work. Why? (The judge acted
     in his own self-interest.  He was tired of being bothered.) 

     E. Do you like this picture of justice?  

          1. On what is justice based? (Not on the merits of the
          claims.)

          2. Is justice done? (We have no idea.)

          3. The widow says, "grant me justice" (v.3), and the 
          judge says "I will see she gets justice." (v.5) Doesn't
          this show justice was done? (Unless human nature has
          changed in 2000 years, every litigant thinks his cause is
          just, otherwise they would not be in court.)

     F. Read vv. 6-8. Jesus says, "Listen to what the judge says."
     What does the judge say here? (If you bother me enough, I will
     grant your wish.)

          1. Whoa! Is this a principle of life that we should 
          adopt?  Do you kids badger you for stuff?  What if your
          decisions were based on how long they had badgered you? 
          I'll bet some of your decisions have been based precisely
          on that. Are you proud of those decisions?

     G. Does this parable liken God to an unjust judge?

          1. If so, do you like the picture? (No. This does not 
          say God is like an unjust judge, it DIFFERENTIATES  God
          from the judge. It says, "If a low-life will cave in to
          someone who pesters, how much more will God, who cares
          about you, answer you.)

          2. Does this suggest we should pester God? (No. It 
          suggests that we do pester Him!)

     H. When we looked at the parable of the friend, we noted that
     it dealt with our physical needs.  What need does the parable
     of the unjust judge deal with? (The second coming. God will
     not only help us with our physical needs now, but (looking at
     v.2 in our "sample prayer") God's kingdom is going to come. He
     is going to make things right. He is going to execute justice
     for those who call out for justice (Rev. 6:10). Praise God,(to
     quote a popular tune), "next time around, there will be no
     speculation the King will wear His crown!" 

IV. Next week: Parables on humility. Study!