December 14, 2017

Sunday’s Gospel: Lord, Teach Us to Pray (Teaching One Another)

By Chaplain Mike

On Sundays, we hear the Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary. Sometimes, I share a message based upon this text. On other weeks, I ask you to share your observations for us all. Today, we’ll be teaching one another again.

Today’s Gospel
How many times have we had this desire in our hearts, if not on our lips—“Lord, teach us to pray!”? As Jesus leads the way to Jerusalem, and as his friends learn what it means to be his disciples; as the opposition increases and the road gets more challenging, there comes a point where it becomes absolutely necessary to talk about this all-important aspect of life.

This is what it means to be a Christian—to have a conversational relationship with the living God. From the earliest chapters of the Biblical story, when people “called upon the name of the Lord” and “walked with God,” to today, his people live in this world while maintaining communication with the One who dwells in invisible reality all around us.

Luke 11:1-13 (GNT)—

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.

Jesus said to them, When you pray, say this:

Father:
May your holy name be honored;
may your Kingdom come.
Give us day by day the food we need.
Forgive us our sins,
for we forgive everyone who does us wrong.
And do not bring us to hard testing.

And Jesus said to his disciples,
Suppose one of you should go to a friend’s house at midnight and say,
Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. A friend of mine who is on a trip has just come to my house, and I don’t have any food for him!

And suppose your friend should answer from inside, Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything. Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.

And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks. Would any of you who are fathers give your son a snake when he asks for fish? Or would you give him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Teaching One Another
Some observations and comments on today’s Gospel for you to think about as you study and meditate on this text:

  • The “Lord’s Prayer”. . . is a prayer for people who are following Jesus on the kingdom-journey. . . . This is a prayer which grows out of the mission of Jesus himself. (Tom Wright, Luke for Everybody, p. 135)
  • The prayer Jesus teaches his disciples authenticates his prophetic mission, for it shows that what he proclaims and performs in his ministry expresses the deepest reality of his own relationship with God. (Luke Timothy Johnson, Sacra Pagina: Luke, p. 179)
  • Life is lived more effectively when one appreciates where history is headed. In the context of eternity, our temporal requests make more sense. (Darrell Bock, NIV Application Commentary: Luke, p. 309)
  • So how should one approach prayer? Jesus has told us what to pray, but how should we come to the throne of grace? Since God is holy and the Creator of the universe, should he perhaps be approached rarely and only in moments of dire need? Such thinking is dead wrong. We should pray with a spirit of dependence and humility, looking for God’s gracious provision. Jesus therefore goes on to present a parable that emphasizes that God is approachable, gracious, generous, and ready to hear our requests. (Bock, p. 310)

I hope this has primed the pump. Now it’s your turn to help us learn what it means to pray. “Lord, teach us to pray!”

Comments

  1. Is the last part of this passage where “You’re Best Life Now” gets its inspiration?

  2. Chris K. says:

    To me, this is an intimate conversation between each of us and our Father- we honor Him and acknowledge His will by making it part of the conversation. We also learn that any time is the ‘right’ time to call to our Father and that He greatly desires to give us what is good and necessary for His children: the Holy Spirit.

  3. I am saddened how Osteenism and name-it-and-claimed it has cast a very skeptical and even cynical shadow over praying for something. God has become the Santa Claus or spiritual vending machine. This is definitely wrong. What is so powerful about Jesus’ teaching on prayer is that over and over again he admonishes his disciples to “ask!”. Not only ask Jesus, but ask the Father directly in His name. There is something earth-shattering here that I probably can’t explain. Many people believe that God is impersonal and deterministic. Jesus resoundly declares, “not so!”. God is not only there, but He is a Person – not an abstract power or foundation of existence. He is aware of us and hears us. He wants us to speak to Him. He not only hears us, but he answers us. Prayer is a bold protest against determinism. Prayer believes that God not only hears but changes the course of the universe based upon our prayers. This may be more painful for some of us, who frequently pray but rarely see that outcome. Perhaps it is easier to believe in an impersonal, deterministic deity than to struggle with the question why God doesn’t answer all our prayers.

    • JoanieD says:

      dumb ox writes, “Prayer believes that God not only hears but changes the course of the universe based upon our prayers. This may be more painful for some of us, who frequently pray but rarely see that outcome. Perhaps it is easier to believe in an impersonal, deterministic deity than to struggle with the question why God doesn’t answer all our prayers.”

      There is a lot of wisdom in these words, dumb ox. I am reading RIchard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and he has some great things to say about prayer. The other disciplines, like fasting and others, can help us to pray. I think I need to look more seriously into the fasting aspect of the Christian disciplines.

    • Prayer is a bold protest against determinism. Prayer believes that God not only hears but changes the course of the universe based upon our prayers.

      Very well said, Sir ox. I needed these words today, thank you.

      Greg R

  4. Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

    I’m going to approach this passage from a liturgical standpoint, and make a few observations based on personal experience.

    A little background (I’ve mentioned this before): I grew up 50/50 Catholic and Episcopalian, spent Jr. High in generic Protestantism, spent high school through my late 20’s in Messianic Judaism, and have spent the last few years back in Anglicanism.

    In traditional Jewish prayer, the core passage is Deuteronomy 6:4ff, known as the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. . . .” They pray this (along with a post-exilic prayer called the Amidah) at every one of their services. Orthodox Jews pray it several times a day. If you have to abbreviate your prayers, this is the one that remains no matter what. In Jewish theology, the Shema with its emphasis on God’s “one-ness” is the most important liturgical self-identifier.

    In traditional Christian liturgy, it seems that the pater noster/Lord’s Prayer/Our Father fulfills a similar role. This is very interesting as it’s not so much an affirmation of a belief as it is a petition. I guess you could say that the belief affirmation is that of God as our provider and we as his dependents. The other prayer that seems to be in most every service of traditional Christianity is the Creed. Here in the West, it’s the Apostles’ Creed during regular prayer and the Nicene Creed when celebrating the Eucharist.

    I also find it interesting that for the Jews, main biblical prayer, the Shema is essentially a creed, while their main extrabiblical prayer, the Amidah, is essentially a series of petitions. For traditional Christianity, it’s the opposite. I doubt this really means much in the big scheme of things, but it is an interesting observation. I have heard some people draw interesting parallels between the Pater Noster and the Amidah, however. And the parallels between the Shema and the Christian Creeds seem pretty obvious. That said, note how much shorter the biblical prayers in both traditions are compared to their respective extra-biblical ones!

    When attending my grandmother’s Catholic funeral, my brother (who is a convert to Judaism and a rabbinical student in Israel) remarked to me that the liturgy is “bastardized Second Temple Judaism” (his words; I know it’s a bit crude). To which my response was “Duh, where do you think the early Christians got their model for prayer?”

    Two final observations: First, I’ve been praying the Anglican Daily Office for about a year now. The only bits I have completely memorized are the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Second, I really like how the priest leads us into the Lord’s Prayer by saying something to the effect of “And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say . . .” That’s neat to me as it emphasizes both that Christ taught us this prayer and that through it he gives us permission to go boldly before God’s throne.

  5. In his book ,Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, author Kenneth E. Bailey writes an entire section on The Lord’s Prayer. It’s been years since I read it, so I’m fuzzy on the details, but I remember his words on the part about “daily bread” – that the exact translation of original language is lost. What stuck with me was his assertion that whatever the true translation was, it was clear we should never be ashamed to ask God for the mudance things – daily food for example. God made us to need food and therefore to ask Him for it is okay.
    Growing up Christian I was constantly admonished to “not be greedy” and surrounded by people who prayed for “big” things. I developed a strange idea that I shouldn’t bother God with my daily needs, and only approach Him in prayer when I had a big problem. Being so scared of turning God into the afore mentioned “spiritual vending machine” has pushed me to the opposite side: I use prayer as a last resort, only when all my own attempts to solve an issue have failed. As if I can only bother God once I have failed, as if He will get angry with me for bugging him over something petty, as if He’s too big to deal with my smallness. How wrong this is! Jesus himself asked for bread, why am I scared to “be bold” as another commenter said, and ask for what I need? ~ L

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      Steve Brown tells a story about when a lady asked one of the famous preachers of yesteryear (I don’t remember whom) whether it was OK to pray for little things. I loved the preachers response:

      “Madam, can you think of anything that’s not little to God?”

      • Thank you for sharing that – I had never thought of that perspective. But that is true. What is big to me is not big to God…. ~ L

    • Damaris says:

      I heard of a Christian woman who had been in a frightening and dangerous situation. When she was later describing her experience, she said unself-consciously, “Whew! I’m glad that worked out! I thought I was going to have to pray!”

      You also hear a lot of people say with a sigh, after everything has been tried, “Well, I guess there’s nothing to do now but pray.” As if prayer were the most remote and least useful attempt to deal with a situation.