Dr. John B. MacDonald
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Has a person in prayer ever caused you to become aware of the presence of God?

If so, you probably had the unsettling sense you were missing out on something greater.

I imagine the disciples experiencing this: 

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray …” (Luke 11:1)

Picture the scene: “Jesus was praying in a certain place.”

Was he sitting, standing, or kneeling? Was it indoors or out? 

The disciples were near enough to know when Jesus had finished praying. Were they watching him? Could they overhear his words? What impelled them to ask their question? 

No doubt the disciples heard and said many prayers from infancy – and yet, they were driven to ask: “Lord, teach us to pray …”

Their question admitted their need.  Somehow, they expected an answer that would radically change their understanding and practice of praying.

Notice, it was not “teach us how to pray,” but “teach us to pray.” It was not about about methodology or techniques – they wanted to pray like Jesus.

Their request was courageous. 

What would it take for you to ask? 

Context (11:1)

Take a moment to read Luke 11:1-13.

The preceding scene with Martha and Mary flows into this scene with the disciples. We are led to displace our practice of busyness with listening at the feet of Jesus, then to replace our ideas of prayer with our Lord's teaching on prayer. 

If you haven’t paused to listen to Luke 11:1-13 yet, please pause now to do that. Quiet yourself before you read; prepare your heart to listen. When you are settled, read the text slowly and engage with what you are hearing. 

We begin with: “Father.” 

What does that word evoke in you?

To whom is Jesus referring? 

The qualities of this “Father” are revealed in Scripture. For instance, “the Lord your God” manifests the best attributes of a father in Deuteronomy 8

  • Providing generously (8:7-9);
  • Protecting powerfully (8:14-15). 

When you're ready, continue to the next statement. 

Content (11:2-4)

Now that you have listened to Luke 11:1-13, let’s walk through some preliminary observations. 

In the Greek text, these 13 verses are 235 words. Only 38 of them (about 16%) are words to speak. Praying is not about multiplying words. 

Recall Clement of Alexandria’s description of prayer: “keeping company with God.” Praying is primarily relationship.  

  • Hallowed be your name” or “may your name be kept holy” (NLT). This concern for his “name” is about God himself, and how he is honored. It is a call to worship.
  • Your kingdom come.” Not only do we anticipate his kingdom, but also present our desire to be living the kingdom ‘here and now’ – as if it was “already, but not yet.” This is an act of praise.
  • Give us each day our daily bread.” You may wonder why the first request is for food. It is somewhat reminiscent of Israel’s wilderness experience and their dependence upon the Lord for the daily provision of manna.  

In our modern Western society, we may have weeks of food supplies stacked in our pantries. In our wealth, we lose something of this trusting expectation of “God’s provision for the basics of daily life” (Joel Green in The Gospel of Luke). 

I remember carrying home leftovers from a restaurant meal in Africa two years ago. I was approached by two boys asking for the food. Many in our world live in that 24-hour cycle. There are things I need to learn from that experience. 

  • Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” 

This request is about an unhindered relationship not only with God, but also with our fellow humans. Joel Green writes: 

… Jesus grounds the disciples’ request for divine forgiveness in their own practices of extending forgiveness. … Jesus spins human behavior from the cloth of divine behavior; the embodiment of forgiveness in the practices of Jesus’ followers is a manifestation and imitation of God’s own character.

These important life-giving practices are expanded in the series “Reclaiming Forgiveness.”

  • And lead us not into temptation.” 

We are not seeking for temptation with its conflict, difficulties, and suffering. On the contrary, as Joel Green puts it: 

… Jesus advises his disciples to ask God for the favor of being excused from further testing. In this way, they recognize and acknowledge their lack of what might pass as heroic faith and their need for divine care.”

Rather than simply repeating these "prayer" words, let their grace-filled truth transform you.

Confidence (11:5-13)

In our next post, I plan to continue with the rest of our text (Luke 11:5-13) which portrays the provisions and promises of "keeping company with God."

Until then, I encourage you to think about, and savor, what Jesus is teaching us, and what it means to pray. After all, you may need to make a request that will take courage.

Contact me if you have anything you want to add?

 

PREVIOUS post in this series, "Reclaiming Prayer"

NEXT post: "Do we have to beg God to be generous?"

Photo credit: C Jill Reed on VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

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