Have you ever sensed God’s presence when someone is praying?
If so, you probably had the unsettling sense you were missing out on something great and wonderful.
This seems to have been the experience of the disciples:
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—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 methodology or techniques—they wanted to pray like Jesus.
Their request was courageous.
What would it take for you to make this request?
Take a moment to read Luke 11:1-13.
The preceding scene with Martha and Mary flows into this scene with the disciples. First, like Mary, we are encouraged to sit attentively at the feet of Jesus. Now, like the disciples, we are taught to learn about praying from the Lord Jesus. Note the progression: first listening to God quietly and attentively then praying to God intelligently and earnestly.
If you haven’t paused to read or 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:
When you're ready, continue to the next statement.
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.
In our modern Western society, we might 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 a few 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.
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.”
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 glibly repeating these “prayer” words, let their grace-filled truth transform you.
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 as Jesus prayed. After all, you may need to make a request that will take courage.
Contact me if you have anything you want to add.
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