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Asking Who for What

Asking Who for What

It is such a privilege for us to be able to start another year together as the Epic Church community.  I have learned so much since we started this church almost 12 years ago. And here is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned:

The size of your vision determines the size of the asks you will make.

Starting Epic Church in San Francisco meant that I had to make some major asks. I asked a few people to leave their comfortable lives where they were and take a huge risk on starting something from scratch in this city. I had to make some major asks to many churches and people to fund this project. And stepping into this venture honestly caused me to ask things from God that I had never asked before.

As we begin this year together, I want to encourage each of us to pursue God’s grand vision for our lives and for our church. And there’s no way we can do this without becoming comfortable making big asks of God. Because of the vision we believe God has given us, it is our aim to build a “Big Ask” culture within Epic this year.

What if the future of our church is mostly determined by what we ask of God?

If I’m honest, I’d rather do things myself than have to ask someone else to do something for me. And I wonder what all I’ve forfeited by trying to do something in my own strength rather than asking God to help me.

What if the future of our church is mostly determined by what we ask of God?

Not how gifted our leaders are. Not how cool our new building will be. Now by how strong or weak our pastors might be. Not how compelling our social media posts are. What if it comes down to what we ask of God?

Along with this new teaching series, we also begin a churchwide initiative of 21 days of prayer, with a desire to fast from breakfast and lunch on Thursdays over these 3 weeks. The title of this series comes from a phrase Jesus uses multiple times whenever He is motivating us to pray: Whatever You Ask. And I’m calling this message, “Asking Who for What”.

Luke 11:1-13 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.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” 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.’ And supposed 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.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. “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. For everyone who asks receives, the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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!”

There are some things God will only give to those who ask Him.

Here are our two primary questions we’re seeking to answer today:

Who is this God we are asking?

What should we be asking this God for?

First the who, then the what. Jesus has just finished praying when the disciples ask Him to teach them to do what they just observed Him doing. And Jesus begins by saying, “When you pray, say: ‘Father.’” Before Jesus tells us what to pray for, He’s telling us who we’re praying to. Out of all the words He could have used, Jesus chooses Father.

And this makes sense to us if He’s merely telling us how He prays. Of course Jesus relates to God as His father. He could have said, “When I pray, I say, “Father…” But when you guys pray, you should use a less familiar and intimate word to address God.” But instead Jesus says, “When YOU pray, say: ‘Father.’”

Relationship is more important than form when it comes to prayer.

Let’s learn how to pray, but the biggest thing we must learn is who we’re praying to.

Who we believe God is to us will determine what we’re willing to ask of Him.

Jesus tells a parable about a man who has a friend come to him at midnight. What’s the reason the man initially refuses to get up? Because He is already in bed and so are his children. While the parable is intended to make another point, which we’ll get to in a moment, let me ask you this: How would this father have responded if his children asked him for something? Exactly.

Some of us don’t yet believe we have a heavenly Father who loves to give His children good gifts.

So Jesus says, “Would you give your son a snake if he asked for a fish or a scorpion if he asked for an egg?” Of course not. If you, though you are evil compared to God, know how to give good gifts, how much more do you think your Father in heaven knows how to do that?

“There has never been a human father who wanted to answer his child’s petitions as much as God wants to answer yours.” Tim Keller, Prayer

“The picture of prayer that emerges from the life and teaching of Jesus in the Gospels is quite clear. Basically it is one of asking, requesting things from God.” Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

And perhaps my favorite quote on this topic comes from Richard Foster in his classic, Celebration of Discipline:

“The reason God answers prayer is because his children ask.” Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Once we begin to understand who it is we’re asking, we’re all curious: What kinds of things should we ask our Father to do? Jesus doesn’t give us an exhaustive list, but He shows us some of the things we should be asking for.

God’s name to be Hallowed

“You’re praying that God would be known for who he is. That his name would be cherished and loved. Why? Because once you begin to have an impression of who God truly is, everything else fades into insignificance.” Dallas Willard, Life Without Lack

Pray that God would be known for who He truly is – in your life, your family, your friends, our church, this city, and our world.

For God’s kingdom to come to earth. Here’s a way to think about this part of the prayer:

If God were king over every person, every system, every nation – what would that look like? Pray it in.

Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your prayers to specific things.

Daily Bread

-Needs for today. In the parable it says the man gets up and gives his friend “as much as he needs”.

Forgiveness

Protection from Temptation and Deliverance from Evil

What do you think is the best gift God can give you?

Our answer to this question will be determined by what we want most or what we think we need most. Let’s go back to what Jesus said in verse 13: “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” The best thing God can give us is more of Himself. What your body needs most is more of God. What your kids need most is more of God. What you approach to work needs most is more of God. What our church needs most is more of God.

We have a God who loves to give more of Himself to those seek Him and ask Him.

Along with seeking God through prayer, we want to set aside time each week as an entire community to fast. We are asking everyone who is able to to fast from breakfast and lunch on Thursdays during these three weeks, beginning this Thursday. So if you’re able to, we’ll eat dinner Wednesday night and not eat a meal again until Thursday dinner. If you need to alter the way you fast, obviously feel free to do that.

Fasting is what Jesus did in the desert.

Matthew 4:1-4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

When we fast from food, we’re feasting on God and reminding ourselves He is what we need most.

“Fasting can bring breakthroughs in the spiritual realm that will never happen in any other way.” Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

While I hope you’ve learned some things about prayer today, my greatest desire is that you have been introduced to the God who longs to be a Father to you. Would you like for God to become your Father today? One more insight into the kind of Father He is:

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

He’s already given His best, He isn’t holding out on you. You can place your faith in Him now and become a child of God.

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