Prayer (Luke 11:1-13)

Submitted by admin on Thu, 2008-06-05 08:20.

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The intimacy Jesus expressed in his relationship with his Father must have deeply impressed his disciples and would have been especially noticeable in his prayers. This may have prompted a number of the disciples to want to know how to draw closer to the heavenly Father and to express themselves in their own prayers. On one occasion, after he had finished praying, one of his disciples (probably a newer disciple who had not heard his earlier teaching) approached him and, also speaking for others, asked that he teach them to pray, just as John the Baptist had taught his disciples. (Luke 11:1) In response, Jesus repeated what he had said earlier (in what has come to be commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount).

According to the oldest extant manuscripts, prayer is addressed to the Father. Many later manuscripts read, “Our Father who [is] in the heavens,” as does Matthew 6:9. When directing their petitions to the Father, those praying would be expressing themselves as members of the family of his beloved children. (Luke 11:2)

The petition that God’s name be hallowed or sanctified could be a plea for him to make himself known as the holy God through a direct intervention in the affairs of humankind or an appeal that the number of people who honor him (the bearer of the name) would continue to increase. It is likely that the petition is directly related to the next one, “Your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:2) This suggests that the hallowing of God’s name relates to the sanctifying of his own name, making himself manifest as Sovereign by revealing his power. (Compare Ezekiel 38:23.)

Asking for God’s kingdom to come would mean praying for his sovereign will to be expressed. The ultimate result would be that competing demands from other rulerships would cease to exist. (Compare Daniel 2:44) In the world of mankind, believers have an alien status, for they are in the realm where God reigns by means of his Son. Their loyal submission to God’s will can result in suffering for them. To persons who are part of the world that is in a state of rebellion against God, believers may come to be objects of intense hostility. Therefore, the appeal for the kingdom to come expresses the believer’s desire for all the problems associated with disregard for God’s will to end.

The petition about being given our bread “according to the day [each day or day by day]” probably is to be understood as being for the needed or the essential sustenance for the day. (Luke 11:3) There is uncertainty about the Greek expression epioúsios that is linked to “bread.” Even Origen (185? to 254? CE) had not heard this word used in common speech or seen it in other writings. Therefore, he concluded that it was a coined expression. In association with bread, the words including epioúsios have been rendered, “the food we need” (CEV), “the bread we need” (Phillips) “our bread for the coming day” (Wuest), and “our daily bread” (NAB, NIV, NJB, NRSV, REB).

Sin is a failure to reflect the image of God in thought, word, or deed. It is an offense against him and frequently also a transgression against a fellow human. The petition to be forgiven of sin is coupled with an acknowledgment of a forgiving spirit. The heavenly Father is willing to forgive in a large way all who repentantly turn to him. Therefore, in imitating his compassionate example, the petition includes, “for also we forgive everyone who is in debt to us” (on account of having sinned against us).

For one not to be brought into temptation would include being strengthened to resist temptation and to be shielded from circumstances beyond one’s strength to endure. Many manuscripts add, “but deliver us from the evil [or the evil one].” To be delivered from “evil” would mean to be safeguarded from anything that could plunge one into sin, interfering with maintaining an approved relationship with the heavenly Father. If the meaning is the “evil one” or the devil, this would be a petition to be protected from becoming his victim as one induced to follow a God-dishonoring course. (Luke 11:4)

By means of a likeness or parable, Jesus next stressed the importance of persevering in prayer. A man woke up his friend at midnight, requesting that he lend him three loaves of bread. Unexpectedly, one of his friends had arrived from a journey, and he had nothing to offer him to eat. The one whom he had disturbed told him not to trouble him, for the door had already been locked, he and his children were in bed, and he was in no position to get up and give him anything. Although he would not respond to the request on the basis of friendship, Jesus did say that he would do so because of his friend’s persistence. (Luke 11:5-8)

On account of the slow means of travel available in ancient times and unfavorable conditions along the way, guests from distant parts often arrived late at night. Not to give them something to eat would have been considered a serious breach of customary hospitality. In small homes, the whole family would sleep in one room. Therefore, someone’s getting up in the middle of the night to respond to a request for bread would have disturbed everyone.

Applying the parable, Jesus gave the admonition to persist in asking, seeking, and knocking. The one asking would receive, the one seeking would find, and the one knocking would get a response. (Luke 11:9, 10) This is a general principle. A request cannot be granted without first being made. Lost items cannot be found if no effort is made to look for them. The door is not opened to a person who does not knock.

No father among those to whom Jesus spoke would have handed a serpent to a son who asked for a fish or given him a scorpion if he requested an egg. So if flawed (literally, “bad” or “evil”) fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more so will the heavenly Father “give holy spirit to those asking him!” (Luke 11:11-13) It is inconceivable that a father who had concern for his children would give them something harmful instead of needed food. Therefore, the heavenly Father would give only what is good, and his answers to prayers would always be in the best interests of those who persevere in prayer.

All appropriate prayer is offered with the understanding that God’s will be done. While not in every case corresponding to the petitioner’s request, the answer always will be in harmony with God’s love. The heavenly Father is not a reluctant giver who must be persuaded to respond, but those who pray rightly demonstrate earnestness, sincerity, and faith through persistence in their supplications. God’s giving holy spirit would include strengthening and sustaining those in distress by means of his spirit and providing them with his spirit’s guidance and motivating power to resist temptation and maintain upright conduct.