As we approach prayer week , we want to understand the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer. Last week we considered Romans 8:26,27: “ Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” This text indicates that we must include the Holy Spirit in the work of prayer.
Our fallen nature is disinclined to do that which is right ( Romans 7). This includes our desire for prayer. We know that we ought to pray but we don’t pray!
What then shall we do? We must ask the Holy Spirit to help us. He is given by God to help us in our weakness. Not only that, but He also helps us to formulate effective prayer before the throne of grace. I trust that you are greatly encouraged by that knowledge, and that you will keep that in mind as you struggle with prayer.
And now I want to back up Paul’s teaching with Jesus’ own words . Turn with me to the Scriptures , as we read Luke 11: 1- 13 (ESV)
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”  And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread,  and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,  for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;  and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.  And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;  or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  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!”
The Lord Jesus Christ , being who He was , was a man of prayer. In taking on a human form He chose not to use the attributes which made Him equal to God (Phil 2:6) , but lived His life as we do on earth . One of the things that this means is that He needed to live in perpetual dependence upon God , His Heavenly Father. That is how we were created to live . That is what prayer expresses in essence . Prayer declares that we are dependent upon our Father in Heaven . We see this in Jesus . We see Him always praying. As a child He loved to be in His Father’s house of prayer. At His baptism (Lk 3:21) He prayed as the Holy Spirit descended on Him. He started His ministry with a 40-day fast. (4:1–15). Many times we see Him withdrawing to quiet places to pray (5:16). He spent a night in prayer before choosing the twelve disciples (6:12). Other instances of Him praying are found in Lk 9:18, 28 ). At the end of His earthly life we find Him praying on the Mt of Olives (Lk 22:39-46) and then finally on the cross ( Lk 23) as he gives up His spirit.
So too we find Him praying here in Luke 11: 1ff . The disciples saw how He drew His comfort and strength from His heavenly Father , and therefore they asked Him: “ Lord teach us to pray“. They wanted to be more like Jesus. Do you want to be more like Jesus? Then you need to be a woman or a man of prayer. Prayer is ultimately the greatest vote of confidence in God. When we pray we honour Him because we place our confidence in Him. We act like dependents – like children - like family who ask their Father for help, and who receive only the best from their Father. God is our heavenly Father . To Him Jesus is now directing His disciples’ attention .
Allow me to briefly point out the lessons that we learn from Jesus concerning prayer, before we focus on verse 13 .
1. Jesus teaches us that praying is a God centered activity ! Prayer is to be directed to your Father who is in heaven. True prayer does not put ‘ourselves’ at the center of prayer . We are not encouraged to begin prayer by saying Father … I need ….” . No ! You begin with worship . You begin by FIRST seeking your Father’s glory and His kingdom ( Praise and Missions) ! So you pray : Father , may your Name be made holy ; may your kingdom come … may your influence extend over me , my home , my city , country , continent , and indeed , the whole world . Christians must learn to FIRST desire the spread of the glory of God ‘s name in all the earth. (see Ezekiel 36:23) . Following this we are encouraged to seek everything that we need for this life - physically (daily bread) , emotionally ( forgiveness; healed relationships) and spiritually (protection from the evil one) . Please note that this too is part of God-centered praying . God is glorified when you consider Him as your Provider . People who think that their own hands produce the food they eat naturally do not see reason to give thanks. Don’t be like them ! Give glory to God in seeking first His glory, His kingdom and His ongoing provision in your life .
2. Jesus teaches us that prayer needs patience and perseverance . He helps us to see this point by telling us a story in vv 5–8 to illustrate this point . A man has a guest arriving , and he has no food to set before him. So he goes to his friend at midnight – an inconvenient time asking for a loan of three loaves of bread. The friend is already in bed and disinclined to get up , AND YET because of perseverance he will get up and give the man what he asks. Jesus sees a vital lesson for prayer in this : Ask … seek … knock ( 9-10 ) . The Greek tense is present continuous … keep asking … keep seeking … keep knocking. Jesus wants you and I to be persistent in prayer. What is the point of this illustration? Is God really an asleep , grumpy perso9nality who gives reluctantly , because He has to? We have to be careful with illustrations. This illustration is not meant to teach us anything about God’s character. The nature of God’s character is that He is a father . The story merely illustrates a principle in prayer – perseverance!
3. You have a Father in Heaven : Here we find the key to prayer and the encouragement to all prayer . Here we find the reason why we must persevere. We are in the hands of our Heavenly Father. In His nature He is loving and benevolent . He is for us , and we are in the hands of One who is sovereign and who knows the beginning from the end. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what is ultimately good for us. This fact is illustrated in vv 11 -13 . A good father will not give his son a serpent if he asks for a fish. He will not give scorpion when you ask for an egg. A good father will only give his children what is good for them. So , when God is pleased not to answer our prayers immediately , we must understand that He is in the process of giving us what is best! I trust that this encourages you.
Asking God for the Holy Spirit
I would like to spend a bit more time on this aspect of Jesus’ teaching since we are interested to learn what the Holy Spirit’s role in prayer is.
When we speak about the Holy Spirit , then we understand that we are speaking about the third person of the Godhead. He is a person distinct from God the Father. The Holy Spirit is God of very God. Within the Trinity He fulfills a specific role - one which particularly comes to light in the New Testament and subsequent to Christ’s ascension to heaven . The gospel of John helps us to understand His work when Jesus teaches us concerning Him:
(i) He is the Spirit of Truth - whom the world doesn’t know , but who will be with and in each believer (Jn 14:17 ; Jn 16: 12)
(ii) He will teach each believer and remind them of the things that Jesus had said (Jn 14:26)
(iii) He convicts the world of sin (Jn 16:8)
(iv) He glorifies Christ by drawing attention to Him and the Words that He has spoken (Jn16:14)
Returning back to our text in Luke’s gospel , Jesus is saying that if there is any aspect of prayer in which we ought to prevail , it is that the Holy Spirit might be given : "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!"
We need to see the importance of what Jesus says here. The Holy Spirit is vital to powerful and effective prayer . We see this in Jesus’ own life . Remember how in Lk 3:21ff we saw that whilst Jesus was praying, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove. We see that in response to the prayer of the gathered people in Acts 1 , the Holy Spirit is poured out in Acts 2 ( By the way – “Acts” is Luke’s second volume !) . In my next sermon we shall look at a text in Acts 4 where in response to prayer , the place was shaken and all were filled by the Holy Spirit. It is remarkable to see how often the Holy Spirit and prayer are seen together ( see also Acts 8:15 ; 13 :2,3 ) . Even when He is not mentioned explicitly it will be reasonable to say that the Holy Spirit is always implied in the work of effective prayer . True and effective prayer can only ever be when the Holy Spirit energizes that prayer . That is what we have learned from Romans 8:26,27 , and it is a principle that effective prayer must always be in the Spirit ( Eph 6:18) .
It is in this matter that we must persevere. We may be weak in prayer ; we may sense powerlessness , but all that should not discourage us . We must ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit , so that He can take our feeble prayer and present it rightly before the throne of grace . Persevering prayer in this matter is what opens the door to a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit , because it is the Spirit that changes hearts and circumstances . But we need to persevere, and keep on asking , seeking , knocking !
We need to hear this , and we need to be encouraged to pursue this promise. Unfortunately we are not a people who are inclined to wait. Our instant , ‘ now’ , impulsive society demands instant solutions. Well, not in this case! God is teaching us to trust Him by patience and perseverance.
The encouragement that we have received today from this Word is that God is willing to give good gifts to His children. What kind of prayers must you persevere in? What prayers is God likely to answer when we persevere?
1. We must persevere in wanting God’s glory outpoured upon the earth. We must pray for the coming of his kingdom. Think about that . How much better for the world will it be when Jesus reigns in the hearts and minds of many people ! How much more peace and love there will be.
2. Practically this means that the kingdom must come in many people, for the kingdom of God is primarily a kingdom that has people in it. How can a king rule, if he does not have people? So pray with perseverance for those that are entrusted in your circle of influence: your immediate unsaved family, unsaved friends; the many unconverted in your country, your continent and the world. God is inclined to answer this prayer. That is why it is important now that we get together and encourage one another in this church to pray.
So let us enter this week of prayer knowing that God is for us. He is our Father, who designs and desires only our good. But since we are so weak and disinclined to pray , let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us to pray. Persevere in this! God is for you when you ask in this way. Amen !