“How Much More” Week 3 — The “God’s Love Language” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Showed how much more fun — and meaningful — it is to preach THE BIBLE rather than simply BIBLE VERSES;
  • Had a sermon intro inspired by the method of Andrew Forrest;
  • Had a heavy dose of material from both family of origin and my own nuclear family;
  • Realized that when the disciples asked “teach us to pray” Jesus answered with “let me tell you about God”;
  • Landed at this pointed point:  Answering prayer isn’t God’s duty.  It’s his delight.


Today: awesome. We get to start a brand new series called How Much More and we get to do by looking at the most bizarre story Jesus ever told, a story he tells in response to the most innocent question he is ever asked, and he wraps it all up with the strangest analogy he ever made. Got that? Bizarre story, following innocent question, culminating in strange comparison. And the result of all that is that if you get this thing that I’m going to tell you in a little bit, your approach to faith, to God, to you, to PRAYER will never quite be the same. Because simply the enormous privilege you all give me of studying these things and getting this message ready has already transformed all of mine.

So it all gets started with this question in Luke 11:1 that Jesus’ closest followers ask:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Lord, teach us how to pray! I told you! Such an innocent question! Give us the system, give us the pattern, give us the method, we may have been hanging with you for a couple of years now, but still teach us how to pray. And while that question may not be the most urgent one in your life, maybe it should be. Maybe it should be, if not urgent, at least ultimate. Because I imagine we’ve got prayer novices here. It’s alien. It’s like the time when I was about 12, and my family at the time was not religious, and I was the least religious, most atheist of them all. And we had a religious aunt visit one day. Very proper religious aunt. So before Sunday dinner begins, room is kind of full of people and my mom says to 12 year old atheist me, “would you ask the blessing?” And then she closes her eyes and bows her head! I froze. Teared up. I had no idea. Fortunately, my Dad came to the rescue and said, “the prayer will be silent today.” And I was like “thank you Jesus!” (except I didn’t believe in him!). And maybe you’re that way – never prayed, it’s so strange, and part of the reason you like watching church instead of going to it is that you think we’re going to ask you to do the same thing my mom did me! (Next week.)

Maybe others of you, you pray, but it’s a chore. There’s not life in it. And you figure it is a chore for God to listen to. Sometimes you pray prayers you’ve heard before; other times you pray the App that gets sent your way, but all in all, it’s a stretch. And then I know others here prayed for a long time with the best of intentions – you even began the day in the Word and not in the world – but the answer didn’t come. Your dog still died. Your marriage still ended. Your sickness still remained. Your addiction still persisted. Your team still lost. You know.

So wherever you are on that spectrum and you see people who seem to have a glow, they seem so chill, they don’t self-destruct, and you know they pray. So you can sort of identify with the question in Luke 11:2 because you’d like some of what those people have. Teach us to pray. Give us the process. Teach us the system.

And it is so interesting. Wonderful, actually. They ask about prayer and Jesus answers them about God. Their question is about technique of prayer and Jesus’ answer is about the treasures of God. Because Jesus’ answer DOES give a pattern, but he breezes right over a shortened version of the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father)

 He said to them, “When you pray, say:

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.[b]
Give us each day our daily bread.

but it’s really an ABBREVIATED version (fuller one in Matthew 6).  Jesus’ hurry is because he quickly wants to answer their question about prayer by telling them about God and to do that, he tells one of the most bizarre stories he ever told followed by the strangest analogy he ever gave. I promised it. You ready? Look at Luke 11:5-6:

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’

OK: THREE characters. You. The friend who is sleeping, who we will call SLEEPER GUY. And the traveler who has oddly shown up HUNGRY in the middle of the night. We’ll call him TARDY GUY. You, Sleeper, Tardy. Now: this midnight visit by TARDY TRAVELER is unheard of in our times but not unusual back then. Motel 6 wasn’t keeping the light on in those days.

AND hospitality was an enormous cultural value (still is in the middle East) and in a lot of ways your reputation is on the line as to whether or not you will show hospitality to this TT. But YOU don’t have bread – did your family gorge? Are you gluten free? We don’t know because it don’t say! So YOU go over to SLEEPER and wake him up in the middle of the night (told you it’s bizarre!). Look at 11:7 and he says initially what WE’D say

 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’

– get lost, go to 7-11 or Gate or QT or something. That’s what WE’d say, but not them.  That’s why it begins with “suppose” — because they wouldn’t.  And Jesus is telling the story to THEM, not us.  The one in THAT CULTURE whose reputation is suddenly on the line is … SLEEPER GUY! He is on the spot to prevent YOU from being humiliated in your gluten free house lack of bread! I told you it was odd! He has to prevent you from falling on your face and so the burden is on him. And in the story the sleeper is … God. And God comes through.

I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

He answers in part because of YOUR persistence and more because it is HIS CHARACTER. How do we pray; I’m gonna teach you about God.

Then Jesus follows that odd story with these very comforting words in 11:9-10; it’s almost like he give a break from the oddity before returning to some strangeness:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Ah, ask, seek, knock. What’s important that is not the one knocking but the one on the other side of the door. Jesus is layering his answer, telling them about God. And then Jesus goes on in 11:11-12:

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Daddy, can I have a fish? No but how about rattler for dinner! Granddad, can I have an egg. No, sonny but I’ve been saving this scorpion just for you! Who would answer that? NO ONE WHOSE NOT ALREADY IN PRISON!

Oh then the kicker from that strangest of analogies:

13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

You know enough not to do that, then HOW MUCH MORE does God. That’s right! It’s been about God the whole time, guys.

You’ve wanted to know the system and I’m telling you about the source. You want to know the process, let me show you about the power. Let me tell you about the Father – he is the one who will act consistently with his character, who won’t humiliate you when you harass him, he’s the one who is open before you even knock; he’s not a grouch who gives his gifts reluctantly; he a gem who gives them eagerly. And best of all, even if your daddy – whether a bad dad, ok dad, really good dad, the best dad (like Julie had) knows how to give you good stuff, lay that beside God’s ability and desire and there is not comparison! HMM! Giving is God’s love language! And so here it is when you ask questions about prayer and Jesus answers about God: Answering prayer isn’t God’s duty. It’s his delight. It’s less about you tapping into just the right technique and more about you understanding just how much you are his treasure.

Answering prayer isn’t God’s duty. It’s his delight. 

Now I’ve told some of you about my dad before. And you know about love languages – some people express love through touch or words or service or gifts. My dad – you didn’t go to him if you wanted to cuddle. Not his style. Or he wasn’t one to tell us he loved us until we grew up and started telling him first. Serving? Not really. But gifts? Oh, when I was 11 and came downstairs on my birthday he reaches behind his chair and says HERE! And tosses me an ABA basketball. Perfect! When I was 12, it was Paul Simon’s album with “Kodachrome” on it. Perfect. When I was 13 it was a PBJ sandwich waiting for me in the back seat of his car when he’d pick me up from school to take me to practice tennis. Gifts, gifts, gifts. What he wasn’t good at saying he was great at giving. Guess what. Even THAT, even the BEST MY DAD DID does not hold a candle to our Father in heaven. It’s wired into HIS DNA.

Answering prayer isn’t God’s duty. It’s his delight. 

Or it’s like a friend from the church in Monroe who went off to CIU and because it was the 90s sent me a post card. “Talbot, I saw the coolest thing in chapel from Zephaniah 3:17! (We get a bit antsy when our charges become more spiritual than we!) Check it out! READ & AV. “Can you believe it, Talbot? God DELIGHTS in us! He smiles at us!” Well, I think I get it better now than then.

Answering prayer isn’t God’s duty. It’s his delight. 

Or even the little boy at the candy store, the kind where you can reach in and grab a handful and put it in a bag. Big man behind the counter. And mom says the boy can get his candy. And he refuses. Back and forth. Finally, the man says, “would you like me to son?” The boy nods his head. Towards the car afterwards, mom asks, “why were you so stubborn? Why’d you make him get it out?” “Because,” the boy says IN A MOMENT OF GENIUS. “His hands are bigger.” So are his.

Answering prayer isn’t God’s duty. It’s his delight. 

See, our problem is not that we ask for too much. It’s that we ask for too little! And we ask for too little because we thing we have to pry the good stuff from God’s hands when in reality they’re already open, longing to pour out to us! He is more eager to give than we are to get. But look at how the analogy ends; look where the HOW MUCH MORE leads us: we ask for stuff and he gives himself. He gives the Holy Spirit. Lining up our desires with his delight. God doesn’t want to give us all the stuff we think we need; he does want to give us the one who is the resource so we’ll prevail.

And the fact that he is not grumpy but joyful, that giving to us is not a burden but a blessing, that delight is the source of all our confidence in praying. But it makes it so that our desires line up with God’s desires. I’m not talking about “Lord, send me a new husband because I don’t like the one I have!” Nope. Won’t be honored. “Father give me a new house with no debt.” Nope. “God, we’re robbing this bank but we’ll tithe if you let it go well.” Nope. God, when I pray for the kinds of things YOU WANT IN MY LIFE, especially the filling and re-filling and re-re-filling of the Holy Spirit, oh how much more do you love to answer. And the Holy Spirit is the ongoing power of God at work in the world, allowing you to live a life of impact, influence, and get this, integrity. That’s what most of you want more than anything in the world – to be the kind of guy or girl your dog thinks you are! To act in ways that line up with what you believe and that help you avoid a hint of self-destruction. The glow that comes over you and within you when you know God is doing for you what you could never do for yourself. The crazy fact that a 12 year old atheist who couldn’t pray at the table now preaches as a calling. That’s it.

Answering prayer isn’t God’s duty. It’s his delight. 

So: have you prayed to receive him in that way! For this church to have maximum impact because people are totally filled? Have you? Have you prayed for people in your life who are have not said yes to Jesus to do just that? Have you?

Here’s a bit how it worked with me and with us. It’s so funny how this works. I remember years ago that my peace was a family of three. Me, Julie, and our young daughter Taylor. Set as far as I was concerned. Wasn’t much interested in a second child and knew I couldn’t be a good dad to a son. So what happens? Second child. Son. Life, interrupted. Insecurities faced. So for whatever reason, as that son was growing up, when he’d be asleep, I’d go in there and pray that he would grow up to love the bible. Just led to pray that even if I didn’t know why. Who knows? Maybe God smiled when I did.

Fast forward to just a couple of months ago, where we’re in a staff meeting at GS and it’s a deep dive into the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 10. A guest led it that day. Who? Son, wife, a couple who very much … what? … love the bible and minister today in the Czech Republic. God taught me how to pray by teaching me about himself. And I think he laughed the whole way through.

Closing exercise where I have people SMILE as they pray with palms lifted.

Here’s what it looked like: