Bible Passage – Luke 11: 1-13
Jesus 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.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
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.’
And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 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!’
The words in this passage are possibly some of the most familiar words to us all. The disciples ask Jesus ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ and he does just that. But not by giving a lecture, or talking about the various postures, methods or formulas. Instead he invites them to join in and take an active role in developing a prayerful relationship with the father. And so what we read in our Gospel today are the words of the Lord’s prayer.
It is a truth that I believe to be universally acknowledged that whilst there are various methods of learning, we develop best when we put what we have learnt into practice consistently, and according to Luke, persistently. Having been a teacher I am inclined to agree that all the fancy teaching, lecturing and memory techniques in the world don’t really come close to actively getting involved in something. So what Jesus does here is the same as what he always does, he provides the disciples with far more than what they originally asked for. H e invites them to enter into a relationship with the Father in the same way that he has a relationship with the Father. He doesn’t just tell them, he shows them.
This isn’t the only place that we hear these words in our Gospels. There is a longer version in Matthew’s gospel but the way in which both writers recount this differs because they have different audiences. Luke’s gospel is addressed to the Gentiles, those to whom prayer is potentially a totally new concept. Matthew’s, however, is addressed towards a Jewish audience who would already have an established pattern of prayer in line with Jewish teaching. The wider purposes of Luke and Matthew are aligned, but the nuance with which they write each version is designed to meet the needs of their relative audiences.
So as we read Luke’s version today what emphasis does he want us to find? Well, I believe the second part of the passage answers that for us quite neatly. Persevere. Ask. Seek. It is our individual responsibility to nurture our relationship with God the Father. But we are to persevere in prayer. Relationships don’t just happen, they require time and attention. If we ask for a relationship and seek the Father, it will be granted. But we have a duty to maintain our life of prayer in order to get the best from our relationship.
These words give us the foundation for all of this. They form the basis from which all prayers stem, from which all relationships with the Father can grow. The Lord’s prayer says everything we need it to and draws us into God’s presence every time we use it. We can pray with confidence every time we use these words that our Lord taught us.
Revd Peter Reiss