CARE & PRAYER
Jesus was a praying man who taught and demonstrated the power of prayer. After watching him routinely spend time in prayer and witnessing some of the mind-blowing things that he was able to do for people, his disciples finally just straight-up asked him:
"Lord, teach us to pray."
In Luke's account of the life and work of Jesus, he records Jesus' answer to his disciples' request about prayer. Jesus teaches them what to pray for when they are praying alone but then also goes on to teach them how to pray for the needs of others.
Jesus shares a story that resonated with the culture of that day and their customs in regard to hospitality. We might retell his story to his disciples like this:
"If a guest arrived at your house one night in need of some food, and you knew that your friend down the street had some extra loaves of bread available, would you not get up immediately and go to your friend's house and ask him to give you some of the extra bread for your guest that needs some? Even if it was in the middle of the night, you would go and do something like this to help a weary guest in need. And even if your friend with the extra bread initially says no because he doesn't want to get up and disturb his family that's asleep, you know that you would keep asking for his help because he's your friend and you expect him to help. And if you shamelessly and boldly keep asking your friend to help you meet the need of your guest, will he not eventually get up and give you what you need?"
In the words of Andrew Murray, "This parable is the perfect storehouse of instruction regarding true intercession." Jesus is teaching his disciples that we can care for the needs of others by shamelessly and boldly asking God for his help in meeting their needs.
This story teaches us that we have a responsibility to care for the needs of those we encounter and that we must pray for God's help on their behalf based on our own relationship (friendship) with God.
Care for Needs
The first thing that we learn from this story is that there ought to be a love within us that seeks to help those in need around us. The desire to help a guest in need was ingrained into the hearts of those living within this first-century society. The honor of your family and even your entire village was at stake whenever you were presented with an opportunity to show hospitality and to feed a visitor.
And so, even though it was a cultural custom ingrained in people's hearts to meet the needs of guests, it ought to be a "Christian custom" ingrained in the hearts of all Jesus-followers to love others and to meet any needs that we become aware of. This is first and foundational in our approach to reach others.
Is there a real love within us that seeks to help those in need around us?
And even if there are little feelings of love within us, is there a desire within us to still do acts of love anyway?
The love for us that Jesus has demonstrated through giving his life to meet our greatest need ought to be leading us to actively look for ways to love and meet the needs of others. If the gospel is not giving us a stronger desire to love others then there is a dangerous crack in the foundations of our faith.
Jesus woke up each morning and walked through each day looking for moments to love others. We ought to do the same. Caring for the needs of others must become a new way of life for us.
Pray for God's Help
The guy in the story encounters a guest in need, and immediately he desires to help meet this need. Now, if he would have had any bread himself then he would have gladly given it to his guest. But he cannot supply what his guest needs so he immediately goes to his friend who he knows has more than enough to meet the needs of his guest.
This is the second thing that we learn from this story: We should meet the needs that we can meet, and pray with people for the needs that we can’t.
We must never use prayer as a way out from personal sacrifice or responsibility. What would we think of the man in the story if he had three extra loaves himself but instead of using his bread for his guest, he kept asking his friend for his bread? What should we think of ourselves when we ask God to meet a person's need that we could easily meet ourselves?
James writes about this kind of thing in his letter when he says:
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:15-16)
We should meet the needs that we can meet, and pray with people for the needs that we can’t.
The guy in the story has encountered a guest in need, and he wants to help him. He cannot supply what the guest needs, but he is friends with the one who can. And so, he immediately goes to his friend on behalf of his guest to ask for what he needs.
This demonstrates perfectly how we ought to practice the act of care and prayer in our approach to reach others. As we encounter or learn about a person in need, we must have a desire in us that wants to help them. And even though we may not be able to supply what the person needs, we are friends with the One who can. And so, right then and there we ought to immediately pray with the person in need and ask God on their behalf to supply what they need.
Our Relationship with God
The guy in the story goes to his friend with confidence because of his friendship with friend. He has a special relationship with his friend that his guest obviously doesn't have, and so he goes to his friend on behalf of his guest.
It is in our practice of intercession (care and prayer) that our love for men and our faith in God is tested. It is here that we actually find out if our love for others is so real that I'm willing to take time, sacrifice my schedule and even inconvenience myself to seek what they may need. And it is here that we actually find out if our faith in God is so real that we come to him in confidence knowing that we can ask him anything and that we can shamelessly and boldly keep asking until he gives it.
Even though we may not be able to supply what others need, we are friends with the One who can.
The practice of care and prayer is based on our special relationship with God that we now experience because of what Jesus has done on our behalf. We are now children of God with him as our Father. We are now friends of God with the same Spirit. We have a special relationship and a special kind of access to the Creator and King over all of creation that others may not have. And so, it is our great responsibility and a great honor to come before God and ask for specific things on behalf of others.
The practice of care and prayer is simple and yet supernatural. It requires little of us except a real love for others.
All we must do is actively interact with those around us and engage them enough to hear their struggles, stresses or specific needs. Then we simply ask them immediately right then and there if we can pray that specific need. If they say yes, then we bow our heads and bring them with us before our God asking him in a straightforward manner to please meet this person's specific need. We may have to keep asking in our own personal petitions and prayers, but we must always do so expecting him to give us what we have asked for in our effort to love others.