Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Luke 11

He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father,
May your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come.
Give us each day the food we need.
Forgive us our sins, for we too forgive everyone who has wronged us.
And do not lead us to hard testing.’”

He also said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend; and you go to him in the middle of the night and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine who has been traveling has just arrived at my house, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ Now the one inside may answer, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already shut, my children are with me in bed — I can’t get up to give you anything!’ But I tell you, even if he won’t get up because the man is his friend, yet because of the man’s hutzpah he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
“Moreover, I myself say to you: keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who goes on asking receives; and he who goes on seeking finds; and to him who continues knocking, the door will be opened.
“Is there any father here who, if his son asked him for a fish, would instead of a fish give him a snake? or if he asked for an egg would give him a scorpion? So if you, even though you are bad, know how to give your children gifts that are good, how much more will the Father keep giving the Ruach HaKodesh from heaven to those who keep asking him!
Luke 11:2-13

I sometimes fail to notice how all these verses about prayer that we are so familiar with were all taught in the same moment. And as I read through them, they really build on each other as they teach us: what to pray for (vs 2-4), how we should pray (vs 5-10), the character of the One we are praying to (vs 9-13), and that the ultimate gift given through prayer is the Holy Spirit (vs 13).

In the first section, Jesus tells us what to pray for. I love that He teaches us to call God “Father” when we pray. To have this intimate, familiar name to associate with the Creator King – with YHVH Himself. God desires for that kind of relationship with us, and while we must always hallow His name, revere and fear Him for His “otherness”, He also wants us to see Him as our Father and us as His children whom He loves. We are told to pray for the furthering of His Kingdom. While we are here on earth, we must keep an eternal mindset at the forefront of our thinking. We need to be about ushering in His Kingdom, which is here in part, but has not fully reached its fulfillment. Peter tells us that we are to live holy, godly lives as we wait for the Day of the Lord and to hasten its coming.

After we acknowledge God and His Kingdom, we can pray for our needs – provision, forgiveness, and deliverance. The prayer for provision is that God would provide our daily bread – what we need today. In western culture, it seems as though we get so caught up in the things we don’t have, instead of being thankful for all that we do – which in comparison to the rest of the world is far greater. But I also think that there is an implication to the Bread that Jesus refers to when He says, “I AM the Bread of Life.” He tells us not to work for the food which passes away, but for the food that stays on into eternal life, which He Himself will give to those who come to Him. Yes, we need physical food to sustain us, but the spiritual food that Christ gives is far more precious and life-giving than anything we put in our stomach because it leads to eternal life!

Dr. Constable had interesting notes on the parts about forgiveness and deliverance:
The believer in Jesus has already received eternal forgiveness for the legal guilt of his or her sins. Therefore the forgiveness Jesus spoke of here is the forgiveness that is necessary for the maintenance of fellowship with the Father. A person’s unwillingness to forgive others who have wronged him or her may indicate that he or she knows nothing of God’s forgiveness. Conversely one’s willingness to forgive other people shows that one recognizes his or her own need for forgiveness.

The fifth petition requests divine protection. This request does not imply that God might entice us into sin. Nevertheless God does allow people to undergo temptation in the sense of the testing of their faithfulness. This petition expresses the disciple’s awareness of his or her need for God’s help in avoiding excessive temptation and enduring all temptation. It is essentially a request for help in remaining faithful to God.

Jesus moves on from what we should pray for to how we should pray. In His parable about the persistent neighbor, He uses a very common form of comparison to contrast the reluctant neighbor, who only gets up to answer the door because of the hutzpah of his friend, to that of God who is always ready to hear and answer our prayers. Hutzpah translates to the idea of shameless persistence, and that is exactly how Jesus is telling us to approach God, who is not annoyed or put off by our prayers. He tells us to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, because eventually God will respond. We should keep praying in spite of no immediate answers while keeping in mind that God does not always answer in the way we hope or expect, but He always hears and will answer in accordance to His perfect will and His perfect time. The shameless persistence of asking, seeking, and knocking invites us in to a more intimate experience of seeing God at work through our prayers. Often delayed answers help us to grow in our faith as we are able to look back over the period of our prayers to see how God’s sovereign hand was at work, even if we did not recognize it in the moment.

After encouraging us to be persistent in prayer, Jesus reminds us of the character of the One to Whom we are praying to. Who better to give us a glimpse of our Heavenly Father that the One who has been with Him since eternity past? Jesus reminds us that we, even as fallen sinful beings, enjoy giving good gifts to our children, so how much more does our Heavenly Father rejoice in giving good gifts to us? But the greatest of His gifts is more of Himself, more of His Spirit in our lives. And truly, the more of Him we receive, the more of Him we desire. Once we have tasted and seen how good He is, we don’t struggle as much with wanting to fill ourselves up with things that do not satisfy. Instead we desire to seek after Him more, and when we seek Him we lack no good thing.

Father, You are the source of every good thing! Thank You that You desire intimate relationship with us and that You have torn the veil so that we can approach You in prayer with shameless persistence and expectation! Continue to deepen my desire for more of You and to see You as the loving Father whose ears are always open to my prayers! AMEN!
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