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How To Get the Attention of God

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 11:5–13

Jesus’ teaching on prayer is not only informative; it is also encouraging. He affirms that God answers sincere and honest prayers and is not reluctant to do so. Nothing is too big or too small for Him, and there is no time our prayers are inconvenient for Him.


In our last Wisdom Journey, Jesus answered the disciples’ request to teach them how to pray. The model prayer He taught them was thirty-six words in English and can easily be spoken in less than twenty seconds. But it is a prayer packed with power. Still, I can imagine the disciples sort of sitting there, thinking, Is that all? Are we really going to get the attention of our heavenly Father with a twenty-second prayer?

And Jesus is reading their minds—He is aware of their questions and doubts. And He is also aware that they don’t know much about God the Father—and that is the deeper issue. Beloved, I am convinced the challenging issue is not so much that we do not know very well how to pray but that we do not know very well the living God to whom we pray.

So, Jesus begins teaching them His disciples a little more about the nature of God the Father. He does this by launching into two parables about prayer. But understand this ahead of time: these parables are designed to teach them—and us— more about our heavenly Father.

The first parable begins here in Luke 11 at verse 5:

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’?” (verses 5-7)

Which of you has a friend who would act like that? Well, the Lord is expecting the disciples to say, “Friends don’t act that way.”[1]

People in that day often traveled at night to avoid the heat of the day; so, they might show up at the homes of family members or friends unannounced and unexpected. In their culture, hospitality was a matter of personal honor. It was a duty, and it was shameful to refuse it. This neighbor did not have any food for his unexpected guests, and he had a crisis on his hands.

So, he keeps on knocking at his friend’s door. Jesus continues here in verse 8:

“I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence [persistence] he will rise and give him whatever he needs.”

Now many Christians will read this and say, “I get the point. I need to keep pounding on the door because God will get tired of me knocking; He will eventually give in, and I will get what I want.”

But that’s exactly the opposite point Jesus is making. Jesus is not giving us a comparison; He is giving us a contrast. Your friend might be reluctant, but God is not like your friend.

God the Father will never think you are a nuisance. “Oh, here he comes, knocking again!” Jesus continues:

“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.” (verses 9-10)

In other words, there is nothing wrong with being persistent in praying. Persistence reflects your passion and your predicament. Just know that persistence is not a means of wearing God down so that He finally gives in.

Someone spoke these insightful words:

Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His willingness. Persistence is not an attempt to change God’s mind but to get ourselves to the place where we accept His answer.[2]

Think about it: every prayer He does not seem to answer is actually answered. The answer might be, “No, not now,” or it might be, “No, not ever.” It might be, “No, not that, but here is something better.”

Now many Christians have taken this text to mean that Jesus is giving us a blank check to get the answer we want or everything we ask for. Just keep knocking, and God will eventually give us our will. No, beloved, true prayer is submitting our will to His.

The point Jesus is making here is that you can always knock, you can always seek, and you can always ask because God is always available. You can’t come to Him too often.[3] You can’t come to Him at the wrong time. You can’t come to Him with something too small. Jesus is describing God the Father as always reachable.

Jesus also describes God the Father as always honorable. And that is the point of the second parable, which begins here in verses 11-12:

“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?”

A man’s son wants a fish for lunch, but his father slips him a snake. More than likely, the snake referenced here is a tiny water snake often used in those days as fishing bait.[4] So instead of a fish, he hands his son some fishing bait. Or his son wants an egg to eat, and his father hands him a dead scorpion, which, when dead rolls up to about the size of an egg.

Jesus is saying, “Can you imagine a father doing this to his son?” The Lord is expecting a negative response—of course not! No decent father would do that. Even most sinful fathers would not deceive their children like that.

Now it is possible that you might find some father on earth that disgraceful and that deceitful and that dishonorable, but God is not like any father on earth. He is honorable; He will never deceive His children or look for ways to harm them.

Jesus is answering the questions we have about prayer: Does my heavenly Father really care about me? Is He really listening? Does He get tired of me? Is He willing to help me? And the answer is yes. He cares, He hears, He knows. Your heavenly Father is the perfect Father. And that is the point of the parable here, as Jesus says, in verse 13:

“If you then, who are evil [sinful], 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!”

If a father knows how to give good gifts, imagine how thrilled God the Father will be in sending His gifts to us—including the gift of the Holy Spirit, who indwells us and guides us today.

So, as you go spend time praying to your heavenly Father, do so with the confidence that He is available and His intentions are always honorable. Prayer can be a conversation you begin in the morning and you continue at times throughout the day.

I remember reading about the time when Billy Graham arrived at the Today show studio to be interviewed on live television. When he arrived, one of his assistants was informed that a private room had been set aside for prayer before the broadcast. Billy Graham’s assistant explained that the room would not be needed. The staff member was a little surprised that he would not want to pray some, before going on a live television show. His assistant explained, “Mr. Graham started praying when he got up this morning, he prayed while eating his breakfast, he prayed on the way over here in the car, and he’ll probably be praying during the interview.”[5]

That is a worthy example of a conversational prayer life. But it is based on the biblical revelation of the nature and person of God the Father. He is always reachable, always honorable, and always available; so you can come to Him with the simplest, most sincere prayer—anytime and all the time—knowing that He hears, He welcomes you, and He will answer to your benefit and for His glory.

[1] David E. Garland, Luke, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2011), 465.

[2] These words or very similar ones have been attributed to Martin Luther and Phillips Brooks. The source is unknown.

[3] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Augsburg Publishing, 1946), 627.

[4] Bruce B. Barton, Dave Veerman, and Linda K. Taylor, Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke (Tyndale, 1997), 293.

[5] Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley, The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham (Zondervan, 2005), 293.

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