Sunday

24 July 2016

“He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 138


Background

As a young child, I watched in amazement as the 'balloon animal' man made his creations, and at the end of his performance I asked him, "Can you teach me how to do that?" I wonder if something similar is happening here in this passage. We are told that Jesus "was praying in a certain place". There was nothing unusual about that of course - Jesus often prayed - but I sense that perhaps today "one of his disciples" was watching him. When his prayer time had come to its end unnamed disciple to approached Jesus, and asked"Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."

Jesus responds by offering what was surely intended as a template for our prayers, laying down two foundational principles. Firstly, our prayer is based upon our relationship with God ("Father" (v. 2)); and secondly acknowledges our reliance on him for physical and spiritual needs ("give" and "forgive" (vv. 3, 4)). Squeezed between these two is a constant recommitment to seek and work for the purposes of God in the world ("your kingdom come' (v. 2)).

Luke's Gospel  then continues to explore the theme of prayer in the life of disciples by drawing together two others stories.

Firstly, there is the curious incident of the visitor in the night, who insists that his friend gets out of bed to provide food for an unexpected guest (verses 5-8). Persistence in prayer is the key theme of the story - but surely we are not intended to understand that if we nag God enough then, in the end God will give in to us as if to a tiresome toddler. Instead, our persistence in prayer shows that we understand our need sufficiently to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17); that our approach the Father will be greeted by his extravagant generosity which gives us "whatever [we] need" (v. 8).

The generosity of God is underlined again in the third segment of the reading. Illustrations about fish and snakes, and eggs and a scorpion (verses 11-12) can leave us puzzled. But the words which unlock our understanding come in the middle of verse 13 when, describing our heavenly Father, Jesus says "how much more will your heavenly Father give …" . God does not need to be persuaded to bless us, but delights to do so.


To Ponder

  • What aspects of prayer do you find most challenging?
  • In what ways does it help or hinder your prayers to meet with other people?
  • Reflect on a period in your life when you have need to prayer with persistence. What did you learn?


Bible notes author: The Revd Mark Dunn-Wilson

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