When did you learn how to pray and how did you learn?
Jesus’ disciples have been with him for a couple of years now and are ready to declare Jesus as God’s Messiah (Luke 9:20). Jesus has turned his face in the direction of Jerusalem where he will go and lay down his life for all who put their trust in him. Many are drawn to him but find it hard to let go of the pull of this world. In chapter 10, Jesus sent 72 others to go from town to town to preach the gospel (Luke 10:8-9) but only if welcomed to do so. Judgement on this world begins now, measured by how welcome the kingdom of God is now. Gospel work is compared with a spiritual battle. That as the gospel is proclaimed, Satan and his minions are being attacked. But what is important is not that the battle is being one but that the disciples’ names are already written in the book of life. While Jesus calls and directs his disciples to go on mission, he sets it in the context of an eternal relationship with God the Father (Luke 10:21-24). Following Jesus is not just about knowing the truth and fighting for truth, it is more importantly about knowing God the Father and being known by him.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.g
And lead us not into temptation.’ ”
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘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.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
- 1-4 Jesus’ prayer content
- 5-10 Jesus’ prayer approach
- 11-13 Jesus’ prayer expectation
1-4 Jesus’ prayer content
“Lord teach us to pray…” What a great question that one of the disciples has blessed the whole church in history with. This one man saw a prayerfulness of Jesus that he admired and saw a lacking in himself that he sort to correct. John the baptist clearly had taught his students how to pray but it is the lesson of the Lord that has been passed on to the Christian community, preserved for all time.
The disciple saw a prayerfulness in Jesus that he desired for himself. Before we look at the content of Jesus’ prayer, we should notice that Jesus was known as a prayer and took time and relief to pray.
The Lord’s Prayer
There is so much to discuss with this prayer that it cannot be covered in this space. Volumes have been written about the Lord’s prayer such that, anyone who believes they can say everything in a brief time either boasts too much or is unaware of how deep this prayer is. What follows will suffice to scratch the surface and enable discussion in the right direction.
“Father”. Note that when we compare this prayer with the parallel prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, the phrase is “Our Father in heaven”. It is likely that Jesus taught this prayer format on two different occasions but an alternate theory that Jesus taught it only once but Matthew and Luke placed them in different parts of their narrative. The former theory is probably right given the differences in the prayer and the context of the lessons. We could study this prayer by combining and comparing the two but, for the sake of studying Luke, we’ll follow Luke’s recorded prayer. It differs on three major moments and on each occasion, Matthew’s account is longer. The prayer that we recite in church follows Matthew’s format.
“Father…” When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray he instructs them to call God, the Almighty, the Ancient of Days, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the Judge – Father. Luke and Matthew do not include the word “Abba” which is famously taught as an intimate word for Father, like Daddy. Jesus used this address of God in Mark 14:36 when he prayed in Gethsemane. Paul invites us to share that intimate relationship because of the Spirit in us (Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6). While we could say that no Old Testament prophet or writer ever taught us to approach God with even the formal title of Father, we shouldn’t go too far with this. The Psalms contain great examples of intimacy and trust between the writer and God and we they shared the same Spirit as we do with the same effective act of salvation through the Son as we do. But Jesus taught his disciples to call God “Father”.
“Hallowed by your name, your kingdom come.” The name “Father” is accompanied with the descriptions of holiness and authority. The prayer knows his place in the universe and in this relationship of prayer. While we come to God in the context of a real relationship, we also know that his place before us is great. While we know that his place before us is great, we are still able to come! What a privilege is it to be able to speak directly to the ruler of all creation. His authority is great and his intentions and actions are holy, perfect, pure and just. When we come to him in prayer, we are not only coming to a being with all authority, but we are coming to the God who acts righteously. And our conversations with him should both respect who he is, as well as be prepared to speak accordingly. He desires us to desire what he desires.
“Give us each day our daily bread.” We do not ask the world of God but we can ask what is good and right. The daily bread reminds us of our dependence on God not to desire more than we need nor to have so much in reserve that we forget that we need him.
“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” A sinner forgiven is a person who understands forgiveness. A person who deals mercifully with others demonstrates that they know the mercy of God themselves. Some will ask, “what if someone has sinned against me but is not repentant and doesn’t care? Must I forgive them in order to be forgiven myself?” The simplest reply is that we must always be willing and ready to forgive even if forgiveness has not been sort. Our forgiveness comes with repentance. That should be the model for us also. But the bible demands that we always show love, even to our enemies and those who hate us. And love does not keep a record of wrongs (1 Cor 13). Blend all of these ideas together and you can see that the forgiven sinner is already ready to forgive those who have sinned against them. The harder question is, are our hearts at the ready to forgive. Are we ready to let go of our anger, and hate. Those who have wronged us and not repented will get what they deserve from our Father.
“And lead us not into temptation.” The very act of prayer puts us in a good place to avoid or flee temptation. It ought to be our first strategy against sin. When our heart is tempted to wander and take something that is forbidden, then take our desires to God in prayer. Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” When our mind is meditating on God and engaged with Him, we are choosing to love Him more than sin. James 1:13 tells us that God never tempts anyone. The Lord’s prayer, however, takes us to the very place that we need to be before God. Under the care of our Father, longing for His will or kingdom to rule over ours, knowing that all good things come from God and our needs are met in him, that forgiveness, mercy and grace are at the heart of His kingdom, and ready to turn from evil rather than running toward it. “Lead us not into temptation” is equal to “lead us into righteousness.”
5-10 Jesus’ prayer approach
Jesus tells a story to illustrate that those who ask receive because they presume to be helped. Jesus describes a request asked at a bad time and yet the answer to the request is still yes. God is not to be compared exactly with the friend who was woken to give bread, but the illustration means that we ought to ask. Look at the final sentence in the story…
“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”
“Shameless audacity…” This is a description of boldness. A risky move that shows no restraint. Politeness, patience, social etiquette and worthiness are not part of the process here. Imagine how bold we must be to approach a holy God to ask for anything!
“…as much as you need.” The content of the prayer is not outrageous that we are asking for straight A’s without putting in the effort, or a Ferrari at no cost and so on. Our requests a both necessary and able to be supplied by God.
The difference between this illustration and our prayer requests is that God is not like the grumpy neighbour who feels bothered. If our neighbour will agree to do it, how much more will our loving heavenly Father who invites us to pray, respond to our requests.
So, we should pray. We should ask. We should not wait. We should pray with the expectation that God will respond positively. James 4:2-3 speak about our stupidity of not asking God but also about have a love for God over love of the world when we ask.
So, Jesus follows this illustration with the next to highlight the love of our heavenly Father…
11-13 Jesus’ prayer expectation
“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
The neighbour in the first illustration got out of bed and gave what was asked even while wishing the other neighbour would go away! But in contrast, our great God loves us. Jesus asks us to think of our earthly fathers and then imagine how much better is our heavenly Father, who is perfect.
And the great gift that we need is the Holy Spirit! On a section of scripture about prayer, how amazing is it that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate gift to us. Better than material possessions is the living God dwelling in us. Better than success in this life is the seal of the Holy Spirit confirming our inheritance for eternity! Better than a desire to know how to pray better is the Holy Spirit who knows us intimately and knows the Father intimately too. He is our intercessor in prayer! The disciples asked for directions on how to pray and what they got was an invitation to ask the Father for the Holy Spirit. And a promise that he will give the Spirit to those who ask him in faith.
Jesus demonstrated a keenness to meet with his Father in prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus to help them with prayer, they received a model of what to ask for, what to expect from their heavenly Father and an invitation to ask for the eternal God to dwell with them. Prayer is so much more than a time of meditation and grounding oneself in the presence of God. It is an open door to the King who cares. Let us not treat prayer like it is a burden or a discipline. Let’s learn to approach God often and with great requests.
Topic A – Practical tips on prayer. Discuss in your group some practical tips on how and when to pray. For some ideas, consider praying through parts of the bible, praying at a particular time and place, the PrayerMate app, a prayer partner, a prayer diary and journaling your prayers. While “praying continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:16,17) is a beautiful way of living life, it is nourished by regular, drawing aside times of communing with God. Jesus himself displayed a habit of withdrawing from others in order to pray.
Topic B – The content of our prayers. Write out a list of things that you would like to ask God for or about. Keep the list to yourself at first before sharing a couple with the people around you. What does your list teach you about your love of God and your love for the world? How has your knowledge of God through His word and by His Spirit, helped you to refine your list? When our desires are in tune with God’s then we know that we can ask with shameless audacity. Genesis 4:26 gives the first indication of prayer in the bible and it is a call on God to fulfill his promises (Genesis 3:16). We can pray boldly when we know that our prayers are filled with the things God has promised us.
Topic C – Awareness of the Holy Spirit through prayer. All Christians are in fellowship with the Holy Spirit. He is our seal that confirms our salvation. He is at work in us to sanctify us. To complete the work that God has promised to do in us. He is also our best friend when it comes to prayer. Before we even approach the throne of God in prayer, our God is with us to provoke us to pray. The Son has opened the doors of heaven so that we can come unashamed. The Father loves us and has invited us to come to him and ask what we need. When you pray, bring to your mind the promise that the Holy Spirit is at work in you. And when we doubt the generosity of God, remember that he has promised to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.
“And now, as we leave the passage, let us ask ourselves whether we know anything of real prayer? Do we pray at all? Do we pray in the name of Jesus, and as needy sinners? Do we know what it is to “ask,” and “seek,” and “knock,” and wrestle in prayer, like men who feel that it is a matter of life or death, and that they must have an answer? Or are we content with saying over some old form of words, while our thoughts are wandering, and our hearts far away? Truly we have learned a great lesson when we have learned that “saying prayers” is not praying! If we do pray, let it be a settled rule with us, never to leave off the habit of praying, and never to shorten our prayers.” J.C. Ryle
Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.