Decision-Making and Prayer

This is the sixth study in the series about Decisions: Seeking God’s Guidance:

Luke 11:1-13; 18:1-8

Purpose: To encourage us to keep praying about the decisions we face.

Billy Graham has said, “Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask.”

What has been your most amazing answer to prayer?

Corrie ten Boom once asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” How would you have answered her?

Although most Christians believe in praying about important decisions, they often make their decisions without prayer. There are many reasons for this: They question whether the particular decision they are facing requires prayer. They do not have time to pray because a decision is needed immediately. They do not know what to ask. They don’t really believe that God will give them an answer. Even Jesus’ closest disciples needed instruction in prayer. Read Luke 11:1-13.

1. What one idea about prayer stands out to you the most in these verses?

2. What kinds of things does Jesus tell us we should pray for in Luke 11:2-4?

The petitions of the Lord’s Prayer include

  • “Father, hallowed be your name” – a request for a proper attitude toward God
  • “Your kingdom come” – a desire for God’s kingdom to be fully realized
  • “Give us each day our daily bread” – acknowledgment of our continual dependence on God
  • “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” – a recognition of the need to forgive and be forgiven
  • “And lead us not into temptation”-a realization of our weakness and the ease with which we give way to the temptations of the world.

3. Which of these has been most prominent and most lacking in your own prayer life?

4. How would you feel about a friend who would be so persistent in bothering you in the middle of the night (Luke 11:5-8)?

5. How would you characterize the awakened neighbor?

Here’s some helpful background information: The setting is a small village where there are no shops. A household would bake its bread each morning. Jesus pictures a man whose household has used its supply and on whom a journeying friend makes an unexpected call. It is at midnight, which probably means that the friend had traveled after dark to avoid the heat. The man must feed his friend, for hospitality was a sacred duty. So he goes to another friend for three loaves, after all, three small loaves which would suffice for one man. But this second householder has shut his door and gone to bed with his children. Evidently he was a poor man living in a one-roomed house. The whole family would sleep on a raised platform at one end of such a room, possibly with the animals at floor level. A man in such a situation could not get up without disturbing the whole family. He raises no difficulty about giving the bread, but the bother of getting up is quite another matter. It is much easier to stay where he is.

6. How does the awakened neighbor differ from God?

The point of this parable is that God is not like the awakened friend. If even an imperfect human being, notwithstanding the inconvenience to which he is put, will arise at midnight to give a friend what he needs if he comes and asks him for help, how much more will God, the heavenly Friend, who is perfect in love, listen to the sincere prayers and supplications of His children who are really in need!

7. In what ways are we to be like the persistent neighbor?

It is important that we should remember that in the parable there is a friendship existing between the one who asks and the one who rises and gives, and that the request arises out of necessity and not out of selfishness.

8. How are we to practice asking, seeking and knocking?

The lesson is clear. We must not play at prayer, but must show persistence if we do not receive the answer immediately. It is not that God is unwilling and must be pressed into answering. The whole context makes it clear that He is eager to give. But if we do not want what we are asking for enough to be persistent, we do not want it very much. It is not such weak prayer that is answered.

9. What assurance do we have that God will give us good gifts (Luke 11:11-13)?

No regenerate child of God should ever doubt that when he prays to God out of real need his prayer will be answered. He who doubts this does Him the greatest dishonor, for by not believing that He will give what we really need we in fact appear to regard Him as less sympathetic and less faithful than an ordinary earthly friend. Therefore unbelief in relation to the answering of prayer is not only a weakness, but a serious sin and utter folly.

10. Read Luke 18:1-8. Why would Jesus compare God to an unjust judge? How does this comparison help Jesus to make his point?

Jesus is certainly not suggesting that God is like the unjust judge. This is a parable of contrasts. If a wicked man can sometimes be cajoled into doing something good, then how much more will God do right.

11. When in your prayer life have you felt like the widow in this parable? How do you think that God would prefer that you pray?

The widow stands in “sharp contrast to the elect of God who call upon Him in prayer. In the eye of the unjust judge she is an unknown, troublesome person in whom he takes no interest and about whose fate he does not worry. But the chosen ones of God are well known to Him and loved by Him, and He takes the keenest interest in them.

12. How do the lessons of these parables apply to your prayers concerning your decisions?

Thank God for his past answers to your prayers and ash again for his guidance in the decisions you face.

Now or Later

“Reading a book about prayer, listening to lectures and talking about it is very good, but it won’t teach you to pray. You get nothing without exercise, without practice. I might listen for a year to a professor of music playing the most beautiful music, but that won’t teach me to play an instrument” (Andrew Murray, “The Spiritual Life,” Christianity Today 34, no. 2).

Outline of Luke 11 – Warren Wiersbe

His Generosity (Luke 11:1–13). If Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Twelve all needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray! We must put God’s concerns first (Luke 11:2–4), because prayer is based on sonship, not friendship. God is a loving Father, not a grouchy neighbor; He gives us what we need. He neither slumbers nor sleeps; and He doesn’t become irritated when we ask for help (James 1:5).

His Authority (Luke 11:14–36). More dangerous than open hostility (Luke 11:14–22) is attempted neutrality (Luke 11:23–26), for an empty life is an opportunity for Satan to move in and take over. The only sign we need is the “sign of Jonah,” our Lord’s resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:22–36). Jesus has won the victory over the prince of darkness. Obey Satan and you let in darkness rather than light, and soon you will not be able to distinguish between them (Matthew 6:22–23).

His Honesty (Luke 11:37–54). He was a guest in the home, but Jesus did not flatter His host or the other guests by avoiding the truth. He exposed their hypocrisy and condemned them for their sins (Matthew 23). They defiled people (Luke 11:44), burdened them (Luke 11:46), and locked the door on them (Luke 11:52), all the while posing as holy men of God. Instead of taking the opportunity of repenting and being forgiven, they opposed Jesus and attacked Him. What fools!

Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man’s will done in Heaven, but for getting God’s will done in earth. -Robert Law

Outline of Luke 18 – Warren Wiersbe

Confident Prayer (Luke 18:1–8). If an unjust judge helps a poor widow, how much more will a loving Father meet the needs of His children? We have open access into His treasury (Romans 5:2) and can claim His gracious promises (Luke 11:9–10), so we ought to pray with faith and confidence. No need to argue—just come!

Arrogant Prayer (Luke 18:9–17). True prayer should humble us and make us love others more. We should be like children coming to a Father and not like attorneys bringing an indictment. If prayer doesn’t bless the one praying, it isn’t likely to help anybody else.

Ignorant Prayer (Luke 18:18–34). Although the young man had many good qualities, one of them was not spiritual understanding. He did not really see himself, Jesus or the peril he was in because of his riches. The publican went away justified (Luke 18:14) while the young man went away sorrowful (Luke 18:23). What happens at the close of your prayers?

Persistent Prayer (Luke 18:35–43). The blind man was not to be stopped! He had his great opportunity, and he would not let it pass. Our Lord stopped, looked, listened—and healed! Jesus is not too busy to hear you. Just be sure you are in earnest when you pray.

The revelation of our spiritual standing is what we ask in prayer; sometimes what we ask is an insult to God; we ask with our eyes on the possibilities or on ourselves, not on Jesus Christ. -Oswald Chambers

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