Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
What’s the most difficult thing that we are experiencing in this world? Of course, there is no one single answer because we are all different. However, we cannot deny waiting is one of the hardest things that we are experiencing on earth. Then why does waiting come into our life? Because we want something, and what we want does not come by easily. Thus, our wait becomes painful.
Then why we want something? Because we feel something is lacking in our life, and we want to fill the void with something. This is the nature of our human beings. We are constantly searching for something that would satisfy us. However, this is an elusive goal like catching the wind.
One day, one man got up in the morning, and suddenly realized that one thing was missing in his life. The missing one was a bicycle. He was able to see. With his own bicycle, he can easily move around freely including going to the market that he could not go every day because it was too far to walk. He really wanted to have a bicycle. He saved money while patiently waiting for that day that he was actually able to buy a bland-new bicycle. After a year’s saving, he was able to purchase a brand-new bicycle. He was extremely happy. He joyfully rode the bicycle back home. He showed the brand-new bicycle to his wife and children. He even rode the bicycle with his children. His children were happy too. He also showed the brand-new bicycle to his friends and neighbors. All praised the brand-new shinny bicycle, and some of them looked at the new bicycle with envious eyes, which in fact made him even happier. However, the joy of the new bicycle did not stay long with him. Soon he realized it was not easy to carry a big load with the bicycle especially when climbing up a hill. He could not paddle the bicycle on a slope because he was carrying a heavy load on his bicycle. Thus he had to walk with the bicycle with the heavy load. When he was slowly walking up a hill with his bicycle loaded with full of merchandises, one motorcycle swiftly passed by. And the motorcycle also carried a huge load on its back. Then he looked at his brand-new bicycle. It looked not so attractive anymore although it is still the same brand-new bicycle. His heart started yearning for a motorcycle while rationalizing that with a motorcycle, he would quickly move while carrying lots of his mechanizes to sell them at the market. His happiness with the brand-new bicycle was suddenly ended, and it was replaced by his envy of a motorcycle. Of course, he worked hard to get a motorcycle. About an year later, he purchased a new motorcycle. Will he be happy forever with his new motorcycle?
We know the answer. The answer is no. Although we all know the answer, we constantly desire for something, while believing that our happiness is limited by the thing that we don’t have. This is our human nature. As long as we are on earth, we will continue desiring something that we don’t own because we think that the thing missing in our life will make us happy forever. However, we know that such desire will not be quenched because it cannot be satisfied. As we talked about above, the man who owned a bicycle soon wanted a motorcycle. Surely, he would desire a small car instead. Then he would wanted to have a bigger car, a luxurious car, and multiple cars, on and one. Our desire is a bottomless pit. It can shallow even the whole earth without being satisfied.
In fact, nobody lived on earth has been satisfied by filling one’s desire with earthly things.
he who rules his spirit [mightier] than he who takes a city. (Proverb 16:32)
Bible tells us that one who controls over one’s own heart is mightier than one who conquers city. What’s the first step against our earthly desires? To control our heart rather than feeding our desire with earthly things, which will create a monster that enslaves us eventually. This is the true wisdom.
Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. (Proverbs 9:10)
The foundation of our “true” wisdom is fear of the LORD, Our God. This means that we acknowledge that everything belongs to God, and everything comes from God. God alone is the very source of everything – what we see, and touch (i.e., everything around us and the whole world), and even ourselves. Our God is not just a creator of all things As earthly parents actively care for children and involve in their lives for their goodness, God, Our Heavenly Father, truly cares for us, and actively involves in our lives to minute details with His unfathomable love.
And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30)
Is there any parent who has actually counted one’s own children’s hairs and know the exact counts? Absolutely, none. Although we dearly love our children, we don’t know even how to count children’s hairs. Bible tells that our Heavenly Father counts every hair on our head, and He exactly knows the hair count of each of His children. He also knows we lost how many of them yesterday, and how many are newly growing now. Certainly, Our Heavenly Father surpasses our earthly parent’s love and care far beyond than any parents ever lived on earth. Thus, we are able to lean on Our God, the Ever-Loving Father.
Most importantly, God exactly knows our true nature and limitations. This is our assurance of God, as being Our Ever-Loving Father. He constantly and carefully governs everything in our lives to make sure for us to have the most precious and perfect gift –salvations, and to complete our salvations through Jesus Christ. Like earthly parents, God loves to hear His children’s voice. Our prayer is our voice to God that He dearly wants to hear from each of us.
One day, Jesus was praying in a quiet place. As He finished, His disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” His disciples saw Jesus praying and even the disciples of John the Baptist. The disciples really wanted to know how to pray. (Please note that the disciples had the same limitations, wishes, dreams, desires and pains that we have.)
Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:
“Father, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.” (Luke 11:2-4)
Jesus taught His disciples how to pray by providing an example prayer. It included
1. Praising to God, Our Father’ name to be kept holy, and His Kingdom come
2. Asking our basic needs of food
3. Pleading His forgiveness of our sins, as we forgive others who sin against us, and
4. Asking God’s protection on our weakness not to fall in temptations
What should we pray first? We pray for His name to be kept holy and His kingdom to come. Then, our basic and essential needs should follow. Are we praying to God in this order? If not, starting from today we pray for His name and kingdom first before asking our needs. In fact, God knows our basic needs, and has already prepared as earthly parents prepare food and clothes for our children. Even so, as earthly parents love to hear children’s voice, God loves to hear our own voice in our prayer. Please look at our earthly parents, who do not give food to children, not because children ask for food, but because earthly parents love children and provide food to children because earthly parents know children need food. To parents’ ears, children’s voices are the most beautiful music, and to Our God, our prayers are.
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:31-34)
Have we thought about what would be the most precious act between human beings to God’s eyes? It is forgiveness. It is not a hidden secrete. Please look around. All conflicts, fights and wars are originated from unforgiven hearts. Trying to get even while demanding one’s justice caused a conflict and led to a quarrel, but if not quenched, sometimes it grew up to a big war. Jesus literally asked us to pray for forgiveness, “as we forgive those who sin against us.” In other words, we should forgive others and theirs sins before asking forgiveness of our sins. Yes, it is a really hard pill to shallow for all of us.
Finally, temptations. We talked about one man who wanted to have a bicycle, and waited patiently. Then he got a brand-new bicycle, which gave tremendous joy and satisfaction. However, his joy and satisfaction did not last when a temptation came for a motorcycle. What is the solution? As we talked before, the solution is to control over our heart against temptations constantly coming into our lives.
Here is a real question: have we tried to control our heart when a temptation comes? Have we won? No. We defeated. As we tried hard to rule over our heart with our strength, the temptation is even getting bigger and stronger till we were defeated. We are so weak to overcome temptation coming into our lives. Then how to win over temptations? Only is the answer to pray to God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit provided by God, we can overcome temptations and be victorious.
Before monstrous temptations, we all are powerless. The most faithful king of all before God was King David, but he knelt down before temptation of his eyes on Bathsheba. He sinned, and to hide his sin, he setup and killed Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband as if he was killed by enemies at a battle field. No. Nobody is above temptations except Jesus who endured Satan’s temptations after His forty day’s fasting. Jesus experienced the enormous power of temptations. But He won over the temptations using God’s Word. Today Jesus sympathizes our weakness. Thus, we are confidently praying to God while exposing our weakness while asking His mercy and grace over our weakness especially before formidably strong temptations.
Then how to pray? Praying just once by asking Him to protect against temptations coming quickly toward us like a roaring lion to shallow us?
Jesus gave a story to His disciples about how to pray:
Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. (Luke 11:5b-8)
In Jesus’ story, what did the man do to get three loves of bread? He had to go to his friend’s house at midnight when his friend and his family were sleeping in his bedroom. He knocked his friend’s house. How many times did he knock? Just once? No, he knocked and knocked. Kept knocking till his friend brought out bread. The shameless persistence paid off, and he got three loaves of bread for his friend visiting him.
What does the above story teach us about our prayer? First, we need to be persistent in our prayer. The most formidable enemy against our prayer is not being persistent in our prayer. Bible tells about “shameless persistence.” Anyone who really have prayed to God before should easily agree that persistence in our prayer is the most formidable challenge. Why? We pray for something lacking now, while expecting to get in faith that God would provide. It would be relatively easy to pray once or twice while hoping that we would get through prayer from God soon. However, we quickly lose our faith if we don’t see any change or any glimpse and/or sign that what we pray for will come true soon. We pray and pray, but there is nothing changed. Nothing. Yes, nothing. Then our hearts become deeply troubled.
Then what shall we do? The answer according to Jesus is to continue praying. What? Praying again? Yes, it is right. Our persistent prayer is, in fact, our spiritual fight against our weak faith. Our persistent prayer is a proof of our enduring faith because our prayer is not based on what we see and touch, but faith.
Doesn’t God not know what we really want and what we truly need? No. God exactly knows what we want and what we need. Why God’s silence over our prayers? Here are two reasons:
1. To build up our faith through our shamelessly patient prayer, and
2. To revel His ultimate goodness toward us.
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:11-13)
No earthly parents give bad things to their children. When children ask for a fish, no parents give a snake instead. When children ask for an egg, no parents give a scorpion instead. We sinful parents know how to give good things to our children. Then how much so for God, our Infinitely Good Father? Surely, He gives the best. Not the second best. Our Heavenly Father has never hidden the best to give the second best instead. Our God always gives us the best! How should we respond to God who always gives the best? Give thanks to God, and we ought to praise Him.
Let’s also think about what is more precious? Getting what we want, or knowing, experiencing and growing into God through our prayer? I would say the latter is more precious. Whatever we get on earth will remain on earth. We know that nobody ever took his or her possessions with him or her when leaving this world. Yes, everything gained on earth will remain on earth eventually. Thus, if we pray for something earthly, although we received from God, it will remain on earth. It will not be ours forever. However, the knowledge, experience and deep relationship with God will say us forever.
Also please carefully read the last part of the above Jesus’s explanation:
how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:13b)
Jesus clearly told to His disciples what to ask. Ask for the Holy Spirit! Yes, we ask for the Holy Spirit in our prayer. Through the Holy Spirit, we know Our Father God, and we have power to overcome temptations and forgiving those who sin against us. The Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus to His disciples before He took the cross for sins of the world.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. (John 14:16, 17a)
As promised, the disciples later received the Holy Spirit. Then they became His faithful followers despite of all harms and threats, and changed the world. In fact, this is the very reason why the name of Jesus was known to us. We believe the Good News, and we become His eternal children of salvation through Jesus Christ. Before receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples were a just bunch of carnal Christians. But when they received the Holy Spirit, they became God’s brave soldiers who transformed the world. We, as we are, are weak and powerless before the world and temptations of the world. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we are not of the world, but of God who is the creator of the universe. Thus, we continue praying to God for the Holy Spirit without ceasing. Through the Holy Spirit, we can overcome our temptations, our unbelief, and our lack of faith. Continue fighting the good spiritual fight of persistent prayer, and overcome temptations. Then let’s be brave soldiers of God to glorify His name on earth as well as in Heaven. This is our victory in our persistent prayer.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10)