28 July 2013Luke 11:1-13
“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial” (v 4)
This passage gives teaching from Jesus about the spiritual practice of prayer and in particular how to pray for 'our' not just 'my' salvation. One meaning of the verb 'to save' (relating to salvation) is to rescue from danger and to restore to a previous state of safety and well being.
Broken or distorted relationships are a powerful threat to the safety and well being of a community. Jesus continually challenged people to love their enemies, to make peace quickly with those they had fallen out with, and to value the marginalised and those they had a social prejudice against. Just before this passage is Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), where a man who was robbed was not helped by those in own Jewish community but had to receive help from a Samaritan, someone his community despised and the last person from whom he would have liked to receive help.
Jesus knew how difficult it was for people to change their attitudes to those who, for some reason, they felt they had good reason to hate or to keep at a distance. It could seem impossible. Verses 5-13 talks about perseverance in prayer. People had to keep focused on bringing the person or situation before God in prayer, persistently asking for God's way or guidance. They had to trust that God could find a good, saving way through. Just as God would not give them a snake instead of a fish as an answer to their prayer (verse 11); they had to trust in God's love for all people - their opponents as well as themselves.
The strength to persevere in prayer like this comes from a deep recognition that there have been many times when we have been forgiven for missing the mark and given a fresh start. This can fuel our compassion to keep on praying despite our anger, hurt, anguish for this person or situation.
The next part of the prayer is about not being brought to the time of trial. It seeks to pro-actively keep relationships healthy to avoid the need to offer prayers for costly reconciliation.
- Remember the details of a time when you or someone else had to receive help from someone you really didn't like or want to know. How were you changed by the experience?
- Remember a time when you have persevered in praying for healing in a messy relationship or a situation which was threatening the inner peace of mind and outer well being of many. How did you manage to keep going in the praying?