KEEP PRAYING

 

Week of March 12, 2006

 

Bible Passage:  Luke 11: 1-13.

 

Biblical Truth:  Christ’s followers grow in spiritual effectiveness as they follow Jesus’ teachings on prayer.

 

Pray Intentionally: 11:1-4.

 

[1] It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” [2] And He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come. [3] Give us each day our daily bread. [4] And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”   [NASU]

 

The disciple is to look to God in prayer. This point comes in three steps. In Luke 11:1-4, Jesus’ model prayer expresses the disciple’s dependence on God and their desire that God’s will and glory be revealed. In 11:5-8, a brief parable exhorts disciples to be bold and aggressive in prayer. And in 11:9-13, there appears a two-part exhortation to prayer. Disciples are to come to God as a child comes to a parent, knowing that God meets their basic needs. Jesus promises that those who ask will receive spiritual blessing, pointing out that the Father’s kindness is greater than a human’s compassion. The disciple’s requests are for God’s presence and insight, and the initial fulfillment of this promise is the coming of the “promise of the Father”. 

 

[2-4] That we have two versions of the prayer [see Matthew 6:9-13] makes the point that the issue is not the prayer’s exact wording, but its themes. It is important to recognize that the prayer’s emphasis, both in its teaching and in its corporate thrust as a community prayer, is not on personal items. But rather the emphasis is on a shared concern for the relationship with God and approach to him. One way to divide the prayer is to regard it as having two parts. The first portion gives a set of second-person singular declarations to God, followed by first-person plural requests. The prayer is simple, having an address, two statements, and three requests.

 

ADDRESS: Father. This points to respect for the Father’s authoritative rule, though it also suggests intimacy. The title’s isolated use without a qualifier is unusual, as is its personal use in a prayer. As such, the address presupposes a close, intimate relationship between the disciple and God. It is to a caring, kind Father that Jesus’ disciples can make their requests.

 

FIRST DECLARATION: Hallowed be your name. Addressing God in intimate terms need not nullify respect. Thus the prayer’s first declaration is that God sanctify or hallow his name. The God addressed is holy and is to be approached with that recognition. Letting the name be sanctified asks that God establish and show his uniqueness, since to refer to his name is to refer to his person. The disciple opens the prayer with recognition of the one being addressed, trusting and hoping that God in his greatness will manifest himself (note that the passive verb looks to God to act).

 

SECOND DECLARATION: Your kingdom come. The hope is in the full realization and culmination of God’s promised rule. God is holy, set apart from all others, and the kingdom’s coming will show this to be true in a way that nothing else can. It is this desire for God to visibly manifest himself that is at the heart of this second affirmation. The kingdom program may be in progress as a result of Jesus’ presence, but it is its culmination that will show to all the greatness of God’s love, justice, and righteousness. Ultimately, it is the eradication of evil and the manifestation of righteousness that is anticipated. God is honored by such a total revelation of his person and power. As Jesus’ model prayer begins, God’s greatness and the desire that he manifest himself through his kingdom program set a tone of worship and awe. Having established God’s character and authority, Jesus will turn to requests. Once we reflect on who God is, we can better approach him.

 

FIRST REQUEST: Give us each day our daily bread. The first personal request is for daily provision of food. Such a request suggests the disciple’s recognition that God is the provider, while expressing gratitude to the heavenly Father for his provision.

 

SECOND REQUEST: Forgive us our sins. BASIS: For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. The petitioner is to ask for forgiveness, not because it is deserved, but because the petitioner is forgiving to others. The connection between the request and the willingness to forgive shows an inherent recognition that what the disciple asks of God one should be ready to do as well. The lessons learned from God should influence how one treats others. A forgiven person is to be a forgiving person. When the community asks for “our” sins to be forgiven, it shows itself to be a community of compassion and forgiveness touched by an awareness of God’s forgiveness.

 

THIRD REQUEST: Lead us not into temptation. The final petition in Luke’s version is a request for spiritual protection. There is a desire to avoid falling into the situation where one needs forgiveness. The request implores divine aid to prevent succumbing to sin’s power, not because God desires the disciple to fall into sin, but because he can prevent it from overwhelming the believer. In short, the wise disciple knows that the only way to avoid falling into sin is to follow where God leads and to be dependent upon him and his protection. The disciple praying a prayer like this expresses both the community’s and one’s submission to God and the desire for his glory to manifest itself. Disciples want God to be honored, and they want to honor God.

 

Pray Persistently: 11:5-10.

 

[5] Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, Friend, lend me three loaves; [6] for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him; [7] and from inside he answers and says, Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything. [8] I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. [9] 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. [10] For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”  [NASU]

[5-7] Jesus’ model prayer does not address the attitude that one is to have in approaching prayer. As a result Jesus turns from what one should pray to how one should undertake such intercession. A brief parable found only in Luke makes his point: God is approachable and should be approached often and with confidence. The parable is presented as a question that runs through 11:7, with the answer and the point given in 11:8. The question is almost lost in the story. The picture introduces a problem that reflects the ancient culture. In first-century Palestine, food was not as readily available as it is today. The host in this parable has a real problem: he has a late night visitor and no food to offer. If the host called on the neighbor, then culturally the neighbor would be under obligation to respond. One other item should be noted: the ancient house was basically a one-room affair, so waking the master of the house was likely to wake everyone else. Getting up will wake the children. And the door to the house would have had a wooden or iron bar placed through rings in the door panels, and removing it would be noisy. The hesitation that the neighbor expresses is not so much a lack of ability to provide the food but an unwillingness to do so because of the chaos it would cause.  In effect, Jesus begins the account by saying, “Which of you has the nerve to wake up the neighbor – and his family – at midnight to ask for bread?” The picture is vivid and somewhat humorous, but the tension is real. God is not to be compared to the neighbor and his irritation, but contrasted to him, since 11:9-13 shows God to be gracious in granting requests for aid and provision. The point of the parable is that if an irritated person responds to boldness, so you can be bold with the Gracious One. Thus, continually pray.

[8] Jesus applies the picture, but leaves unstated the implication that the disciple is to emulate in prayer the petitioner’s boldness. The stress is not on persistence or repetition of the request, as much as it is on the boldness or nerve of the request (see 18:1-8 for the parable that stresses persistent prayer). This petitioner is willing to go to great lengths and to suffer great rebuke to get the bread so that he could be a good host. The argument here is a lesser-to-greater argument. If a person responds this way, surely a gracious God will respond to those who have the nerve to make their requests. The point of the comparison is not between the neighbor and God but between the petitioner and the disciple. Answer to prayer is not wrung out of the Father with much effort like water from a towel. He gives willingly. Disciples are to make their requests boldly to God. They have access to God and are to make use of it. 

[9-10] So I say to you indicates that Jesus is now applying the parable and developing the response that should emerge from it. The three present imperatives indicates that disciples are to ask, seek, and knock continually. In asking, there is an invitation to pray. In seeking, there is an invitation to pursue God and his will. The seeking of kingdom goals is especially to be first in the disciple’s heart. The disciple is to seek the things that bring righteousness and advance God’s plan. In knocking, there is the picture of coming into God’s presence and blessing. To each action, there is a corresponding response: it will be given, the disciple will find, and the door will be opened. God supplies as the disciple seeks, and the disciple discovers what God supplies in his response. The point is not that one gets exactly and always what one asks for, but that God supplies graciously in terms of the request. The disciple, aware of personal need, asks earnestly, seeks the answer, and brings the request directly to God. The threefold image is reinforced by the assurance of a response to all who ask, seek, and knock. These prayerful disciples receive, find, and have the door opened for them. One is to ask with faith in God’s desire to respond appropriately.

 

Pray Expectantly: 11:11-13.

 

[11] “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? [12] Of if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? [13] 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?”  [NASU]

 

[11] Jesus now illustrates his point about God’s willingness to answer prayer. Jesus has intensified the image by moving from an illustration of friendship to that of parent and child. Jesus makes the minor-to-major argument clear. Surely God will respond graciously, since sinful people do.

 

[12] Jesus gives a second image to make the same point. Jesus’ point is ironic. In asking for essential items, no one would supply dangerous ones. And if even an earthly father provides his children with nothing but good things, and not with things that could harm them, how much more will the heavenly Father give His children what is best for them.

 

[13] Jesus now makes the point and also reveals the subject of his teaching. This how much more argument is frequent in rabbinic literature. It emphasizes the point that if something is true in this little instance, how much more so in the larger case. In this case, if sinful people can give good gifts to their children, how much more can the heavenly Father make provision for his children. He who doubts that his prayers will be answered does God the greatest dishonor. For by not believing that He will give what we really need we in fact appear to regard Him as less sympathetic and less faithful than an ordinary earthly father or even an ordinary earthly friend. Therefore unbelief in relation to the answering of prayer is not only a weakness, but a serious sin and utter folly. Thus the illustration is designed to encourage the disciples to pray boldly, believing that God will provide for His children.

 

SUMMARY:  Luke 11:1-13 speaks of the importance of looking to God and of approaching him. In teaching the model prayer and in addressing God as a heavenly Father, Jesus shows that God has a tender concern for his children. He is not so great or so distant as to be unavailable. The disciples should be bold in their requests for blessing. Be assured that God is more gracious than human parents who give good things to their children. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches about the disciple’s fundamental attitudes in prayer: a concern for God’s character and honor and the desire to see him overcome evil in his kingdom. Perhaps the most ignored feature of the prayer is that it is a community prayer, not an individual one. Provision, forgiveness, and protection are asked for the community.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.      List the five things Jesus instructs His disciples to pray for. Do you think the order is important? How do your prayers tend to follow these priorities? Why do you think Jesus tells us to start with God in our prayers before we bring before God our needs?

 

2.      What do you think is the point of the parable in verses 5-8? What is being compared and what is being contrasted by Jesus? How does the model prayer in verses 1-4 inform us about how we are to understand the meaning of verses 9-10?

 

3.      Describe the “how much more” argument of verses 11-13. What is Jesus telling us about the heavenly Father? What relationship is implied in these verses? Why do our doubts when we pray bring great dishonor upon the Father?

 

References:

Luke, Darrell L. Bock, Baker.

Gospel of Luke, Norval Geldenhuys, Eerdmans.

Gospel According to Luke, William Hendriksen, Baker.

Luke, Walter L. Liefeld, EPC, Zondervan.