Good News of Answered Prayer

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Luke 1:13-14; 24:49

From beginning to end, the Gospel of Luke sings about the way God answers prayer.

At the start let me say a few words about the Gospels. They’re a unique kind of literature. They are not biographies in the ordinary sense because they don’t tell about everything that happened in Jesus’ life. They’re selective. It’s mainly about the three years of his ministry and hugely about the last week of his life, his death and his resurrection. And yet they’re not stories either because they’re intended to communicate what really happened. We’re going to be looking in these next six messages at the Gospel according to Luke which someone has called “the most beautiful book in the World.”

And for me, as I’ve been studying the Bible and preaching the Word for almost 60 years now, this book probably has been more influential to me than any other in shaping the way I look at the world, my ministry and my grasp of what the gospel is.

This Gospel according to Luke is full of good news, and in the next six times we’ll be thinking about six celebrations of the good news in this Gospel. And the first one is today, the good news of answered prayer.

Luke Begins and ends with answered prayer

I’m struck by the fact that in Luke’s Gospel, at the beginning and the end, it’s about answered prayer. In the first chapter you read about Zechariah in the temple. He’s having a one-time experience in his life. He’s within the sacred precincts of the temple all alone, offering incense and praying on behalf of the people. And as he does that, God reveals himself to Zechariah and tells him that his prayer has been heard. Now whether that’s the prayer for the consolation of Israel or for the deliverance of Israel from the Romans, he doesn’t know at first. But then the angel tells him that his prayer has been heard and he, though he’s an old man, is going to have a son. And that son is John the Baptist. So right at the beginning there is a wonderful account of answered prayer of a prayer that Zechariah may have forgotten about, having prayed it a long time ago. But now the answer comes.

Then at the end of the Gospel Jesus is telling the disciples about how he is going to send the Holy Spirit upon them. That’s his promise. In the first chapters of Acts, also written by Luke, we read about how they all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication. They kept at that for days. Then, on the day of Pentecost, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. So right at the beginning: the good news of answered prayer. And right at the end: the same good news. These are the bookends of the Gospel that tell how God responds to the cry of his people. And all through the Gospel that’s what we read about.

Answered prayer in Jesus’ life

Think of answered prayer in Jesus’ life. Only Luke tells us that at the time of his baptism Jesus was praying. What was he praying for? For a sign? For equipping for his ministry? For the favor of God upon him? All three. And as he prayed the Holy Spirit came in power to equip him for his ministry. He prayed all night on the night before he chose his twelve disciples. What was he praying for then? “Father, which ones?” And praying that they’d be equipped, each one? His prayer was answered.

The next day he chose the twelve who became the key persons in the future of his kingdom. He was praying, Luke tells us, just before he asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They gave their answers. And when he said, “Who do you say that I am?,” Peter made his great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” I wonder what Jesus had been praying. Maybe “Father, open their eyes. Help them to see who I really am.” His prayer was answered.

He was praying on the Mount of Transfiguration. What was he asking then? That his glory would be revealed to these three who had come up with him, that he’d have an understanding about what was ahead in his ministry as he met there with Moses and Elijah? His prayer was heard. And then only Luke tells us that just before he taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer he had been praying. I wonder what he was asking then. “Father, give them a hunger to learn how to pray”? “Teach them to pray”? “Show me how I can encourage them in this”? And right after he finishes praying the disciples say, “Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” So we see in Jesus’ experience throughout the Gospel the good news that God answers prayer.

Answered prayer in Jesus’ teaching and ministry

We see answered prayer also in Jesus’ teaching and ministry. Remember how he said in Luke chapter 11, “Ask and you will receive. Seek and you’ll find. Knock and it will be opened to you”? He couldn’t say frequently enough, he couldn’t repeat forcefully enough, that our prayers, our seeking after God, will always be responded to. After he had said that three times, he went over the same ground again, “For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who seeks finds, and to everyone who knocks it will be opened.” Jesus never wearied of assuring his disciples that their prayers would never be in vain.

He told stories about persistence in prayer, about the man who had a guest come late in the day. The host had no food in the house to provide for him. So he went out at midnight to the house of a friend to try to get bread. The man was in bed when he heard the knocking on the door. He was reluctant to get up and give him any bread, but the knocking continued. Finally the man got up and gave him all the bread he had in the house. And Jesus said, “Though he will not give him anything because of his friendship, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” He labored that point.

He spoke another parable to them that they ought “always to pray and not to lose heart.” That lesson was about a judge who neither feared God nor had a concern for people, but there was this widow who kept coming to him and pleading with him to take her case and finally he said, “Though I don’t care about people, though I don’t fear God, yet this widow is going to wear me out with her continual coming, and so I’ll take her case.” And then Jesus said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And will not God hear the cry of his own chosen ones? I tell you he will hear them speedily.” So Jesus himself was always reminding his followers about this good news that the Father in heaven who loves his children with a great love will give answer to their prayers.

And then you see in the experience of people that met with Jesus the good news of answered prayer. A centurion appealed to Jesus that his servant might be healed. When Jesus was coming to his house he sent an embassy ahead to say, “Don’t bother to come under my house. I’m not worthy that you should come to me. Just speak the word and my servant will be healed.” Jesus marveled at his faith and answered his request. The servant was made well.

And when Jairus’s daughter was at the point of death, this ruler of the temple came running through the streets with his fine robes, and cast himself down before Jesus and said, “Master, oh, let my daughter live!” And Jesus was on his way to minister to that daughter and was delayed. The daughter died. But the appeal of Jairus was nevertheless heard and his daughter was brought back to life again.

A man had a son who was afflicted terribly and driven by evil spirits. He appealed to Jesus that his son would be delivered. The Lord heard his cry and the son was freed from that demonic control and made whole.

And when the ten lepers prayed that they might be healed, might be cleansed, might be made new, a great miracle in their lives, Jesus heard their cry. As they were on their way to show themselves to the priests, they all were cleansed and healed. The good news of answered prayer!

When the answer doesn’t seem to come

But I imagine some of you are saying, “Yes, but it hasn’t always been that way with me, though. My prayers haven’t always been answered when I hoped they would be, or in the way I expected.” I know what you feel. I’ve been there too. Think of Zechariah. He had prayed for long years about this child to be born and I guess had almost given up. Then the Lord said, “Your prayer is answered.”

Our oldest son Billy was stricken with encephalitis when he was just six years old and for the rest of his life, another 18 years, we kept praying that he would be healed. Sometimes answers are long delayed. Sometimes there’s a better plan.

Remember the man who had been delivered from all the demons and wanted to go with Jesus, and Jesus said, “No, you go back home and tell your friends what great things the Lord has done for you.” That’s why our Turkish language broadcaster Haluk went back to Turkey after he had been in the States. He had come to know the Lord there and was seeking to find “the good life.” The Lord spoke to him through that passage that he was to go back home to Turkey and tell his friends what the Lord had done for him. God sometimes has a better plan, and he doesn’t give us what we are asking.

Sometimes the Father says no. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me.” But that wasn’t possible. The cup didn’t pass. Paul prayed three times that his thorn might be taken away, but the Lord said, “My grace is enough for you.”

God answered the deepest prayer. Jesus’ deepest prayer was, “Not my will but yours be done.” Don’t lose heart! God answers prayer.