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On Prayer

Luke 11:1 -- 13

Lesson audio

Luke’s account of what is often termed “The Lord’s Prayer” seems somewhat abbreviated. Given the circumstances described, this is probably not the same event that Matthew records. We shall take it as it is given, for all Scripture is profitable.

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." And 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 also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" 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; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; 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.' "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. "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. "For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. "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? "Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? "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?"

(Luk 11:1-13 NASB)

Prayer teaching

It may come as a surprise to you: people need to be taught how to pray. It does not “come naturally.”

But what does come naturally is the desire to pray. At first blush this seems rather unprofitable; wouldn’t it be much easier to develop a schedule of sacrifices to appease the Deity? Worse, it opens us up to being changed by God! (And we know what little success we have in changing Him!) And both of these disadvantages are accompanied by the ever present fact that much prayer is answered in one word – “No.”

But still we pray. Why?

  • Because we want something.
  • Because we fear something.
  • And (sometimes) for the same reason God wants us to pray.

Ah, but just what might that be? Why does God want us to pray?

That you would come to know him

Is it not an awesome thought – the God of the universe desires that his creation know him! Just what about him is being taught here?

God our Father

The point is simple: God is “our Father.”

  • He is “our” Father – Christianity is not a solo flight; nor are you so important as to have him ignore your brothers and sisters.
  • He is our “Father” – this is a family, with a rather autocratic ruler – not a democracy.
  • He is “our Father” – this is the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.
He is holy

This is central to knowing him: he is holy, awesome, righteous and just. His name is holy; we should not use his name as a casual obscenity. But there is more to it than that:

  • We are not to give advice in his name unless it comes from his Word.
  • We are to revere that name, using it with respect.
  • In addition to that, the name is a sign of power; take the name of Jesus with you, child of sorrow and of woe.

That you would come to rely on Him

This just might be the hard part for intelligent, capable people. Anyone can see that the village idiot will rely on God. He has no choice. How much greater, then, is the Christian life for one who could be self-reliant – and chooses to be reliant on God? Is this really taught, though; could I really think such a think to be true? Listen to his teaching (I told you it doesn’t come naturally).

Give us this day our daily bread

Doesn’t this sound rather basic? It is.

  • We are to rely on him daily – not just once in a while when things get out of our control.
  • We are to rely on him for all things – even something as simple as bread. (You have no idea how much better my life at work became when I began to depend upon Him to provide in it.)
  • Most difficult of all: we are to accept it as a gift. We do not ask him to provide; we ask him to give.
Forgive us our sins

The translation used here makes it clear: our forgiveness is dependent upon our continuing forgiveness of others. The one giving us this condition is the only one who really has the power to forgive sin, for he is the one against whom every sin is committed. Only God can do this; that’s obvious. That’s also why our world insists there is no such thing as sin.

Lead us not into temptation

Do you know what you’re saying when you recite this?

  • You’re saying that you know who is Lord of time and space, controller of all things. It’s Him, not you.
  • You’re saying that you know that He is the best judge of what you can – and cannot – handle.
  • You’re are committing yourself to let him handle the thing – that he knows best what you can do.

It sounds rather humbling, doesn’t it? To whom would you trust such things, other than God Himself?

That your will be shaped by His will

How so? Consider the phrase, “your kingdom come.” How is this to happen?

  • First, by proclamation. Somebody has to tell others of the joy of Christ.
  • Next, by making disciples – both evangelization and discipleship. (Which is what we’re doing here).
  • Finally – by our example. Those who see us are drawn to the kingdom – while we are drawn closer in.
Your will be done

This is really simple. Give up. Recognize that you have placed Him in charge of your life. He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him – if they will let Him.

The hard part – persistence

All this sounds good on a Sunday morning – but what about Monday? Can we really keep this up? There are lots of good reasons for cultivating the habit of persistence in prayer; here are three:

  • As your mother said, it will develop character. You will learn not to give up so easily.
  • By simple repetition, you train your desires to conform to his will. This is an excellent way to stay out of trouble.
  • Greatest of all is this: as you persist in prayer, you open your heart to his leading, each and every day. He can then be persistent with you.
Ask, seek and knock

Ask first. It’s polite. And good manners are the lubricant of any solid relationship. Besides, you might just get it the first time.

Seek – or, don’t just sit there. Do you honestly believe that he will give you what you ask for, if you don’t show the gumption to get up and look for it? Besides, in the seeking, who knows where he will lead you?

Knock – don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. When you’re getting close to what your heart desires, start knocking. Be persistent every day, all the time. Remember your example: Jesus stands at the door and knocks too.

The end result

It is a simple thing, prayer. But in it you seek great things:

  • You seek to know him who created all things, and who loves you deeply.
  • You seek his sustaining power, which is sufficient in every circumstance and all things.
  • You seek to find your will – within His. You become a part of his kingdom, fitting better every day.
  • Finally, you fulfill the purpose for which you were created: to glorify God.[1]

It’s a life of joy, a life of peace, a life of love. Seek to learn to pray.

[1] Isaiah 43:7

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