Knocking on Heaven’s Door
July 9, 2023

Parables to Live By

“Knocking on Heaven’s Door”

Luke 11:5-13

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In 1973, Bob Dylan wrote what some consider one of the most famous folk songs in the U.S. It was written for the movie, “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” entitled, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

There were only a few lyrics but the most telling was when he said, “I feel I’m knocking on heaven’s door. Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.”

And while it really has no reference to the subject of today’s parable, it does have the overarching theme of knocking on God’s door, and in our parable, it’s about wanting God to hear our plea.

The Parable is known as “The Friend at Midnight.” And it answers some of the fears and frustrations we all have in our relationship with our heavenly Father. We wonder, Does God even hear us, and if so, why isn’t Heanswering?”

The story Jesus gives is to assure us that God is indeed hearing our prayers, and His delight is to answer, but the way He lets us know through this parable is rather unorthodox. But before we delve into this unusual parable, it’s important to see what prompted Jesus to tell this story, and to see the larger context of its meaning. So, let’s pick up our reading in chapter 11:1-4

“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’ So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Luke 11:1-4 NKJV)

Luke’s account of the Lord’s Prayer is not the most familiar nor repeated, but it is nonetheless well known. It is given based upon a request from one of Jesus’s disciples, which one we don’t know, but his request is that Jesus teach them to pray.

Now, it’s important to note that the disciple doesn’t ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, but rather to pray. There’s a big difference. G. Campbell Morgan, an author of over 60 books and pastor of Westminster Church in London during the early 1900’s said concerning this disciple’s request.

“This man wanted to know, not the method, but to find the secret of praying; two very different things. There are many people who know how to pray, but they do not pray.” (G Campbell Morgan)

Jesus’s answer to this request was to give what many consider the model for prayer, but not one to be memorized and constantly regurgitated back to God. Jesus never said, “Say these words,” but rather, when we pray to use them as a template.

Matthew’s gospel quotes Jesus saying, “In this manner, therefore, pray.” (Matthew 6:9 NKJV)

This is a pattern for prayer, not a substitute for prayer. Now, from Matthew’s account, and even Luke’s, this prayer Jesus taught can be broken down in much the greater detail. Many books have been written on this prayer alone and many sermon series have been preached on prayer because of it.

But seeing that this isn’t the focus of our time together, let me just suggest the two parts that this prayer is divided into, which should help our prayer life tremendously.

Acknowledge God and Honor Him

All prayer should begin with our acknowledging who it is that we’re talking to. When we call someone on the phone we always ask and acknowledge the person we are calling. Well, it’s no different with our prayers. Sometimes we get so wrapped up with what we’re calling about, what we’re praying about, that sometimes we forget who we’re praying to.

And so, what Jesus tells us is that we need to acknowledge the Lord God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life. It acknowledges that He is in charge and that He is holy and sovereign.

So, our prayers are first to adore and worship the Father, and to honor Him.

Request for God’s Help

In bringing our requests to God, prayer then is our declaration that we depend upon God for all things. It’s asking God for our needs, not our greeds, hence, “Give us each day our daily bread,”, not “Give me enough bread to last a lifetime.”

What our prayers should contain is our cry for God to supply our daily necessities, forgiveness, and protection. It asks God for His help from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Prayer understands that we need God, and that we cannot make it on our own.

And so, the prayer Jesus models for us not only reverences God and declares our dependence upon Him, but also expands the point of our need to pray. And it is in this regard that Jesus now tells this parable and follows it up with an illustration. The whole idea is that we are not to hesitate in bringing our requests to God, and that God delights to answer our prayers. These are the two aspects Jesus brings out in our parable.

1. God is Always Ready to Answer

The first reason is seen in what I described earlier as coming in an unorthodox way, and that is through contrasting God with a friend that is inconvenienced by his neighbor.

“And He said to them, ‘Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him;’ and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you?’ I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” (Luke 11:5-8 NKJV)

If you ever had someone come knocking at your door after you’ve gone to bed, or if someone calls in the middle of the night, then you know just how this guy might have felt at this intrusion and interruption.

What Jesus paints for us is a picture of a person who was disturbed by his neighbor, but catch this, it wasn’t for selfish reasons. He didn’t come for his own needs, but rather for the need of someone else. This teaches us two things about prayer that gets God’s attention.

First, prayer that God hears is not selfish in nature, but is more interested in the needs of others. But also, what we see is that the needs and problems that arise in our lives are unexpected and they don’t follow our plans.

During these times, it was not uncommon for people to travel at night to avoid the heat of the day, something we in Mesquite can attest too. It also wasn’t unheard of for people to travel late into the night in order to stay at a friend’s house, rather than spending money at an inn, or out in the open where critters and robbers might come for a visit.

You see, in those days, hospitality was a necessity and a commandment. And that’s because the Jews had themselves been aliens in a foreign land, and dependent upon the Egyptians, who later mistreated them. But God commanded that the Jews were to care for the needs of those who were aliens among them (Leviticus 19:33; Deuteronomy 10:17-19; 24:17-22)

So, when the friend dropped by unexpectedly, the man was anxious to show hospitality and to meet his needs. The only problem is that he came after the evening meal and there was nothing in the house for him to eat, not even a loaf of bread to make a MLT (Mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich). Remember, bacon was not on a Jewish menu.

So, he went to his next-door neighbor in the middle of the night after they were asleep. Now to understand the full ramifications of this request, the houses back in those days generally consisted of a single room, and so everyone would be sleeping all in the same room. And so, the neighbor would have been somewhat annoyed at having to get everyone up, and that’s because the food would have most likely been stored underneath the beds.

But the midnight caller was persistent and kept on knocking and calling out. Now, the key to understanding this for our prayer life is the word Jesus uses for persistence. It’s only used this one time in the New Testament. It has the meaning of being without shame in the request. Here this man is knocking and crying out for his need to be met, and in the process presuming upon his relationship with his friend and neighbor.

Now, the lesson of this parable is not of our need to persistently bug and annoy God so that He will get tired of listening and grant our request. Rather it is a lesson of contrast, which Jesus later points out in his illustration, which is why this lesson is so unorthodox.

Even if an imperfect neighbor will forgo the inconvenience to answer this request, then how much more will our perfect heavenly Father answer our requests?

The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV)

The word “boldly” means with all speech, that is, prayer. Therefore, what Jesus did for us upon the cross, dying for our sins, is that all those who accept His sacrifice for their sins can now bring their requests before God.

And Jesus, in using this parable, encourages us to unashamedly call upon God in our time of need. And in this next section he addressed our overall prayerlessness and unwillingness to ask God for our needs. And here is the point, if  this man had the audacity to call on his neighbor at midnight, we should have the boldness to call upon God at any time.

The Apostle James attacks this same issue and tells us that our prayerlessness is mainly due to a pleasure contaminated life.

“You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2 NKJV)

In other words, instead of asking God, we take matters into our own hands, where lusting, coveting, arguing, and fighting take the place of prayer. But Jesus encourages us to persistently pray and gives us a three-fold charge that would intensify our prayers.

Let’s take a moment and look at what Jesus goes on to say.

“So I say to 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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10 NKJV)

  • Ask – Asking is the starting point in all prayer. Asking is to declare our need to God. And in the ask there is also a statement of humility that we are dependent on God to meet our needs, and this is why many people don’t pray, they hate to be dependent on God or upon anyone for that matter.
  • Seek – To seek means we are putting effort into our search. Whenever we lose something, the first thing we do is look in all the obvious places. But if we fail to locate it at first glance, then we start the seeking process. We’ll dig through a drawer and even the garbage, that is, anywhere and everywhere.
  • Knock – This is an insistent and persistent asking and seeking. That’s what Jesus is saying here, as He uses the present imperative in the Greek language describing these three verbs, that is, we are continuing to ask, seek, and knock.

Now, what is neat about the parable is there is a corresponding promise attached to it. And that is when we continue to ask, we’ll receive, and when we continue to seek, we’ll find, and when we continue to knock on heaven’s door, it will be opened, and we’ll receive the fullness of what we ask and seek after.

This parable also forces us to ask another question which leads to the second reason why we shouldn’t hesitate to bring our requests before God.

2. God Knows How to Answer

This reason is intimated in the parable itself, but it is brought out in full measure in the illustration that Jesus followed with.

“If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, 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 NKJV)

The image is of a son asking his father for something to eat, something that is good, something that is a necessity of life. And what Jesus says is that no father, no matter how bad he may be, is going to do something that will potentially harm his son, when all his son asks is for something simple and that is good.

And then Jesus draws the contrast; that if a father who is evil and sinful in nature knows how to answer these requests, how much more and how much greater will the answer be from our heavenly Father who is the very personification of goodness.

God knows what is best and will answer our prayers, and these answers will always be to our good, and never meant to harm us.

But the obvious response to what I said is that we have asked, and quite persistently at that, but still we haven’t received. Well, the Apostle James deals with what might be the reason why.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3 NKJV)

And so, what God gives in response to our requests may not be exactly what we requested, but it will be what is best for us.

But Jesus doesn’t stop at that, He goes on to tell us that if we know what is good for us, we’ll ask not for the gift, but for the Giver of all good gifts, and that is the Holy Spirit. That when we ask for the Holy Spirit through whom all gifts come, He will give not so much the gift but something even greater, He will give of Himself.

“If you then, being evil, 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 11:13 NKJV)

Therefore, we need to stop asking so much for our specific requests and start asking the Father for the Holy Spirit, the giver of all good gifts, and then He will give to us above and beyond what we have asked for.

And so, the gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s all-encompassing gift who makes our lives victorious, joyful, and full of blessings. And so, we’d be crazy not to ask, and as I always say, we are just one ask away.

But here’s the sticking point, one that has divided the church for centuries, and that is our asking for the Holy Spirit’s presence.

When we come into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is automatically given. The Bible says that when the disciples came to belief right after the resurrection, Jesus breathed on them as said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And then right before He ascended to heaven, He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit so that they could be enveloped in God’s heavenly power.

But if they already had the Holy Spirit, then why did Jesus say for them to wait for a greater empowering? And here in our parable, Jesus said that they were to continue to ask, and then how much more would the Father give the Holy Spirit.

And so, the question becomes, why ask for what we already have?

For myself, I see the Scriptures pointing to subsequent fillings of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, and that there is a Baptism in the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus, and that this is something that the Father desires above all else to give on a constant basis to those who continue to ask, seek, and knock upon Heaven’s Door.


Therefore, from our story, what actions do we need to take

  • First, we must never hesitate to pray, even though we’re not sure what is best for our lives.
  • Second, we must always trust that when we pray God will give to us what is best, and what is for His glory and honor.
  • Next, we must continually ask for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives and make this our request above all others.
  • And finally, we need to pray in the Holy Spirit, and while there are many definitions as to what that is, let me give you an all-inclusive answer. Praying in the Holy Spirit is prayer directed and guided by the Holy Spirit, and not from ourselves or out of our own desires.

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