Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Why were Jesus’ followers drawn to ask Jesus about prayer? (See Luke 11) Were they really wanting Him to take their needs to God? Was it curiosity as to what went on between He and God? Was it the broader implication of the national situation they were in?

Or, was it because they knew they were in the so-called, “elite” group, somehow better than those following John the Baptist, and may have felt they had been short-changed in some of the things John taught his disciples?

Was it his basic disposition – the peace, contentment, and sense of having things together that was always there? Was it the evidence that God always seemed to listen to Him? Or was it really a desire to discover more about His ways that made them want to learn more about the sacred space of His prayer life? Was it because they had already seen God at work in their own lives in ways they couldn’t understand, and couldn't adequately explain? Were they being emotionally drawn, or was there genuine interest?

Whatever the reason, they were both respectful and courteous when they asked Him if He would teach them “to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

Why would Jesus attempt to teach them the intricacies of an intimate prayer life with a sixty-five word model prayer that could be learned and quoted with relative ease? Or, was this a test of their hearts?

Could it be that Jesus saw that the Holy Spirit was presenting Him with an opportunity to address the relentless needs that drove them to ask Him the question in the first place. In John 17, we learn about the heart of Jesus, as he communed with His Father, but here, it seems to me, that we see Jesus capturing the heart of God the Father.

“Our Father”. Jesus starts out by referencing the Fatherhood of God. This concept would be infinitely more than they had experienced in their culture, where women were downtrodden, and children lived in dread of their fathers. He demonstrates that prayer is first of all acknowledging God as Father. He is both distinct from - and apart from - us. He is bringing a kingdom, which needs to be discovered, and a will that needs to be cooperated with – in earth as it is in heaven.

“Give us this day our daily bread”. Jesus understood why they really needed to learn about prayer. He was to be the open access to “God, the Ultimate Provider” for every conceivable human need in life. He had already explained how God desired them to be happy, in the Sermon on the Mount.

“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Is this not the first test of prayer? We need to have been offended, yes, offended enough in order to need to forgive another. Is this what clarifies their motive in learning how to pray? If they had indeed wondered about being treated differently than John's disciples, their sense of equilibrium had already been damaged. They had failed the first basic test of all religious endeavor – realizing that a sense of being treated unfairly was really a blessing. (Matthew 5).

The condition of the world was desperate, and headed for destruction. So, in order to vindicate His own nature, the wonder of His own creation, and the desperate state of affairs, God sent His own Son both to picture what human life was designed to be, and allow Him to be brutally put to death, and to pay the price of redemption for a restored relationship, and a restored image, and a life that could be enjoyed in eternity.

If indeed it was their need to see God, in the beauty of this new relationship with Jesus, their own vision or sense of appreciation for the way life was supposed to be, had now been suddenly ruined again by their own sense of justice. However, under Jesus’ instruction, they began to see and practice mercy towards each other, as they began to observe where life came from, and how prayer related to life.

"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (or the "evil one"). They then would discover that temptation was designed to demonstrate dangers and vulnerabilities, and was meant to provide further opportunities to learn about themselves. The plea to God would be that He would not find it necessary to lead them into temptation, but would rather provide an opportunity for them to experience deliverance from the grip of the evil one. This proves areas of understanding that need to be developed, in light of the Glorious Good News of the coming of Christ.

The illustration that follows about the neighbor who found it difficult to get a benevolent loan of food in an emergency, proved that the problem wasn’t there because of insufficient resources, but rather because of a limited view of its availability, and the reasons why it was being withheld. A new viewpoint was essential!

All around us are friends we have never met. Their desire is the same as ours, and ours the same as the disciples, because we have nothing to set before them in the hour of their need. We also feel the irritation, since we view ourselves as needing to be left alone with what we already have. It is such a distorted view of who the human race is, after the provision of God's sacrifice for sin. The average view is that the human race has been befriended by God, but demonstrate that they do not understand true friendship.

If we have reasoned correctly, the desperate need, then, is the window through which we see our encouragement to ask God for His resources in the hour of our need to avoid being "impossible" when faced with the needs of others. (Like a stone, instead of bread.) To seek God for His wisdom in the hour of our need to avoid giving dangerous counsel to others, (A serpent instead of a fish). And finally, to knock on God's door of Grace with, or on behalf of our friend, in order to demonstrate life and not destruction. (An egg, instead of a scorpion.) All of these represent the work of the Holy Spirit in life. Luke 11:1-13.

If this is what Jesus meant, why don't we all avail ourselves of the Friend called Jesus, who shows us the true nature of God?