Luke 11:13 (NIV)
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!”
As you can see, the topic of prayer (communication with God) is being examined … and more specifically … the aspect of “asking” God for real needs in our lives. I think it very important to examine this verse in the surrounding context because it follows Jesus’ teaching of a “model prayer” … followed by a parable … that leads to a teachable moment … and culminates with the life application of our verse … which should itself prompt us to seek and ask God for His incredible gift … His indwelling Holy Spirit! Follow along with me:
Luke 11:1-13 (ESV)
The Lord’s Prayer
1 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.” 2 And He said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins (debts), for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
Parable of the Inopportune Friend
5 And Jesus 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,6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 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’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence* (or persistence) he will rise and give him whatever he needs. (*The NIV Translation renders the expression “shameless audacity”.)
9 And so I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What fathers among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
13 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!”
Now, given the background and foundation laid here, it is evident to me that the focal point of this passage is Verse 13. Jesus begins with teaching that prayer is about connecting with God the Father. Prayer acknowledges God is … His dominion … His power. We are to show Him reverence – “hallowed be your name”. “Your Kingdom come,” means God has authority and sovereignty over all HIS creation … including us. Jesus encourages us through prayer to ask for our physical needs … to request forgiveness … and to avoid the temptation of evil. But then, Jesus shares a parable to emphasize our need to be “persistent” in prayer. It is as though we are urged to be bold and tenacious in the expression of our hearts before God. But why the need for perseverance? Perhaps our resolve and steadfastness in prayer reflects the sincerity of our hearts … that we have not come before God with just some vague hope laced with doubt or a general wish for something without deep expectancy to receive it.
I find confidence in that Jesus moves into an imperative concerning prayer at this point: “And so I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” If prayer was futile or pointless, why would Jesus instruct us to ask, seek, and knock during prayer AND assure us the Father will favorably respond? Jesus goes on to compare the responses of human fathers to their children when they “ask” for various physical needs. He observes, “if sinful human fathers know how to respond to requests based upon their mortal capacities to give, then how much more will our perfect Heavenly Father know how to respond to His children when they ask for even greater needs … something so “audacious” or “outrageous” as to want the Holy Spirit? Yet, Jesus indicates that the baptism or infilling of the Holy Spirit is exactly what we should be asking to receive! I dare say, He is indeed our greatest need!
I know that I have quoted this passage quite often, but I believe it shares great insight into this issue:
2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, 4 by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
- His divine power (the Holy Spirit) is a gift. (Cf. Acts 1:8; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:45)
- His divine power (the Holy Spirit) is promised. See Joel 2:28-29. (Cf. Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:33, 39; Ephesians 1:13)
- His divine nature is effectuated in us through the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Cf. Acts 10:38; Romans 15:13, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 2:4; Ephesians 3:16)
You might note that most of the cited cross-references above point to the power of the Holy Spirit to endue the ability to proclaim the Gospel … the Word of God … with boldness or with tongues (other languages) so that the message of Jesus Christ is spread to anyone and everyone who will hear or listen. I believe the reason this “power” is so prominent it because the Word of God induces genuine faith (Cf. Romans 10:17); and it is faith in Jesus Christ that effectuates the divine power we need for a transformed and Spirit-filled life as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) Indeed, His divine power is essential for the Kingdom of God to be realized in our lives; and I believe that is our greatest need to be sought through prayer. As Jesus shared, we should ask the Father for the Holy Spirit (His divine power) with “shameless audacity” and “persistence”! And although I think such brash language was used in His parable to urge us to be fearless and courageous as we approach the Father, I cannot help but believe we should always be humble and reverent before Him … even when feeling zealous for His precious promise. And this is His promise: Our Heavenly Father, who is perfect in all His ways, WILL give His Spirit to those who ask Him.
One final thought:
James 1:5-8 (NIV)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
So when you ask God for anything … believe God! By His own glory and excellence, God has promised to grant us His Spirit, and He has promised to grant us eternal life through His Son, Christ Jesus. And so my prayer is that you and I will believe His great and precious promises in these latter days and ask for them with expectant boldness! Amen.