Exploring the Scripture
Today’s text includes a version of Christianity’s best-known prayer. Jesus is asked to teach the disciples how to pray. While Luke’s version is slightly different and a bit shorter than the version in Matthew, both follow the same basic themes. They are: recognizing God’s holiness; the wish for God’s kingdom to come to Earth; our dependency on God (“give us each day”), our sinfulness (“forgive us”), and our lost-ness and vulnerability (“do not bring us to the time of trial”) (vv. 3–4).
One subtheme worth lifting is the simplicity of the prayer. Jesus taught that, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:7). He was plainly modeling this teaching by the brevity and directness of the prayer he taught.
The parable and Jesus’ explanation that follow this sample prayer speak volumes about the value and need for prayer. Jesus uses the story of the man who goes to a neighbor seeking bread for unexpected guests to say, “Could this ever really happen?” The cultural expectations of the day about hospitality would forbid the neighbor from refusing to get out of bed and help. And even if not to obey those cultural habits, the man would eventually get out of bed just to get the neighbor to stop knocking on his door.
Jesus goes on to say people, then and now, should ask, search, and knock because God wishes to provide. Jesus notes the man’s “persistence” (v. 8) in knocking and suggests we should be persistent in our prayers as well. Jesus may have been suggesting we should be shameless in asking, searching, and knocking.
Jesus closes the lesson by using another illustration to describe God’s wish to bless us, his children. He points out that even imperfect humans would not give a snake to their children instead of a fish or a scorpion instead of an egg. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).
- It is important to pray in ways that recognize God’s divinity and sovereignty and our dependence on God.
- When we pray, we should not use unnecessary and flowery words, but words that carry the message humbly.
- We should be persistent (or shameless) in our praying, much as Paul suggested to the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- We should expect God to answer our persistent prayers—by asking, we will receive; by seeking, we will find; by knocking, doors will be opened.
Questions to Consider
- Jesus’ inclusion of the phrase “Your kingdom come” (v. 2) might have been a reference to his mission as outlined in Luke 4 and captured in Community of Christ’s five Mission How is your congregation engaged in Christ’s mission? What might it need to do to be open to a new ministry or going deeper into the mission of Jesus Christ?
- When have you been blessed by praying persistently?
- What spiritual practices have you found helpful in making your prayer life more significant?
- Have you ever been the neighbor who refused to get out of bed to help when someone has been “knocking at your door”? Has that someone ever been God?