Tuesday 25 June 2024

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)

Luke 11:1-13 Sunday 23 June 2024

Psalm 149


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 today one of his disciples was watching him. When his prayer time had ended, the unnamed disciple approached Jesus, and asked "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." (v. 1)

Jesus responds by offering a prayer that is surely intended as a template for our prayers, laying down two principles. Firstly, our prayer is based upon our relationship with God; and secondly acknowledges our reliance on him for physical and spiritual needs ("give" and "forgive" (vs 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).

The passage continues to explore the theme of prayer in the life of disciples by drawing together two other 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 (vs 5-8). Persistence in prayer is the key theme of the story. But surely we are not intended to think if we nag God enough then in the end God will give in to us as if to a tiresome toddler. Rather our persistence in prayer shows that we understand our need sufficiently to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17); that our approach will be greeted by God's 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 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 pray with other people?
  • Reflect on a period in your life when you needed to pray 'with persistence'. What did you learn?

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
(vs 2-4)

Previously published in 2016.

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