The Gospel of Luke 11:1-13
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, `Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
This Lord’s prayer is noted for its simplicity and brevity; it is a powerful prayer put in simple terms. This prayer speaks of an earnestness and intensity; all too often, our prayers can be merely wishes cast up to heaven, and not real prayer. So, when the disciples saw Jesus in prayer many times as Scripture tells us, he would often go away to a lonely place and pray. They knew that His relationship to the Father was something wonderful and amazing and were certain that prayer was a significant part of that relationship. They wanted to understand the significance of prayer and to have an insight into His relationship to His Father so that they too might understand what it means to walk in a deeper relationship to God. Jesus then gave them an example of how to pray.
He begins, “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.” He is our Father and he is also to be highly honored. Your kingdom come… Let your kingdom come into my life, and let it come into all the earth. Your will be done on earth… Not, our will but God’s will be done on earth. Give us this day our daily bread… We look to you, God, for our daily provision. We trust that You will provide what we need each day. Forgive us our sins, even as we forgive our debtors… Prayer is about changing each of us. God wants us to forgive others that trespass against us; He really does. But if we refuse to forgive, then we are being stubborn in our relationship to God. This is about our heart before God. Someone might say, “I can’t forgive because they don’t deserve it.” But we didn’t deserve it either and yet God forgave us. But if we refuse to forgive, that root of bitterness will affect every area of our lives. What Jesus is saying is that a root of bitterness will even prevent us from having the relationship with God that He desires with us. Lead us not into temptation… Probably the best explanation for what Jesus is saying is to be found throughout the bible itself.
To illustrate that God can be trusted to respond to our prayers, Jesus tells the parable of the friend who calls at midnight. Hospitality was of paramount importance in the biblical world, and when a guest arrived — even unexpected, even at midnight — there was no question that hospitality must be extended. So, when the man in the story finds himself without enough bread for his guest, he goes to a friend and asks to borrow some, even though he must wake up his friend’s entire household. A typical Palestinian village home had one room. The whole household, and often its animals, all slept near each other. It was virtually a religious obligation to offer food and lodging to visitors, be they friend or stranger. A visiting guest was considered a guest of the entire village so anyone in the village was obliged to help the hosting household if necessary. In the close-knit village culture with its many kinship ties and communal interdependence, friends treated each other as if they were family and neighbors were considered family. During the day a neighbor in the close-knit community would be welcome to enter the home. For security against marauders from outside the village, the door was normally secured at night. We see though through his persistence the neighbor finally gets up. As we continue through this Gospel, we are told to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. Persistence in prayer is asking, seeking, and knocking. So, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you: As we keep asking and seeking and knocking we find we need more faith to trust the timing of the Lord’s answer. We aren’t very good at this because we live in a culture that prides itself on efficiency and we want God to answer our prayers right away or we become impatient. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the passage because our experiences contradict Jesus words. So often we have asked and not received; we have searched and not found in spite of our most fervent prayers for their health and safety, we have lost loved ones to cancer and senseless accidents. In spite of the fervent prayers of the people around the world, daily we hear of tragedies, of violence, hinger, disease and natural disasters. Jesus told his disciples to ask, seek and knock, persistently and boldly, and relentlessly. We need to do this with gratitude for the path we have been led to gives us confidence in Jesus’s words that God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. To pray with boldness, means persistence. Not like a nagging child, badgering God into giving us what we want, but with a focus on what we are searching for, an understanding, almost, to make us pay attention to the Spirit. As a way to change and refocus our own heart and mind, to understand and express the intensity of our own need, and to recognize God’s presence around and in us. As often as we read and say the Lord’s prayer do we take it seriously? We want God to take our prayers seriously, and God want us to take His Word seriously.
Let us Pray the Lord’s prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.