Lord, Teach us to Pray
July 24, 2022 | Lord, Teach us to Pray| Luke 11:1-13
We have before us the singular recorded time in which the disciples ask Jesus to teach them something specific. Luke says that after Jesus finished praying in a certain place, one disciple makes this request for the group.
Do not miss the significance here.
Even when Peter asked Jesus about walking on water, his request was ‘command me to come to you on the water’. When they were sent out to preach and heal, no request to teach them was recorded. But here, this group of disciples come to Jesus and make this request. Teach us to pray. And Jesus, desiring to withhold no good and necessary thing, answers their petition in ways beyond their limited imagination.
What follows is and will always be the greatest prayer of the church. Countless sermons from the early church fathers to the ancient theologians, to the reformers, have tackled this prayer. The famous Westminster Catechism bases its last nine questions on the Lord’s Prayer. Which may be more accurately titled ‘The Disciple’s Prayer’.
This prayer, some 2,000 years old, along with its accompanying teaching, still retains the power to inform, transform, and conform our prayer life as followers of Christ.
That is unless we reduce it to merely a prayer we recite, something we say, and altogether miss the beautiful instruction contained within.
If we are honest, this request resonates with us today as much as it did with the disciples then. Prayer has been a popular topic for Christian authors during all times of the church. Out of curiosity, I went to Lifeway’s website and entered prayer in the search bar and was met with 3,883 books, studies, and journals on the topic of prayer.
Similarly, a quick search of Amazon brought back over 100,000 resources.
In my life, one of the greatest struggles as a disciple of Jesus has been prayer, both private and corporate.
I cannot speak for you but if you are like most of us, a healthy prayer can sometimes seem just out of grasp. But it need not be. Jesus did not leave us without the instruction we need if we will only heed his words.
So we turn to a very familiar passage. My fear is that its familiarity may cause us to miss important truths, so let’s pray for fresh ears, minds, and hearts so that we may not discover something new, but perhaps finally see the old truth within. Amen.
As we make our way through these first 13 verses of Luke chapter 11, we will use a simple outline to work our way through this teaching of our Lord. The Pattern of Prayer, the Position of Prayer, and finally the Promise of Prayer.
We will spend much of our time on the pattern of prayer.
My prayer for you if you are a follower of Jesus, is that you will have the flame of your desire to pray fanned, your understanding of prayer deepened, and your dependence on prayer enlarged.
If you are here today, and you would not consider yourself a follower of Jesus, I pray that His teaching on prayer will open your eyes to the heart of the Father, your desperate need for Him and that you would understand how to call out to Him in prayer.
Luke 11:1-13 (ESV) 1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 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 Pattern of Prayer
The Lord’s prayer has been called the model prayer, that which we pattern our prayer lives after. Not in a wooden, stifling way, but in the sense that it provides wonderfully clear banks in which the river of our prayers are free to rush towards God. He gives us in this pattern, a foundational element, a vertical element, and a horizontal element.
The Lord’s prayer... provides wonderfully clear banks in which the river of our prayers are free to rush towards God.
Foundational Element- Father
Jesus begins this prayer with one simple word that has widespread implications. Father. We are so used to hearing prayers addressed to “Our Heavenly Father, Father, Father God” that we fail to understand the significance and radical nature of this address.
In all of the 39 books of the OT, God is only referred to as Father fourteen times, and always in reference to the nation and not individuals. The Jews were so concerned with the sovereignty and transcendence of God that they were careful to never repeat his covenant name and invented a word Jehovah to use instead.
In contrast, Jesus addressed all his prayers to God as Father. In the four gospels, Jesus uses the term more than sixty times.
Jesus took a distant, often frightening, God and told his disciples to call on him using terminology that would be something like Dearest Father in our language. Not informal like daddy, and not overly formal like Father, but Dearest Father.
Vertical Element- two petitions
Hallowed be your name-
May your name be revered, specifically here your name of Father.
A name for the Jews was more than a label, a name was considered to indicate character.
One commentator put it this way, “may you be given that unique reverence that your character and nature as Father demand”
This is a prayer for divine action. That God would move and people would experience him as Father. It is also concerned with our own life. That we hallow his name with both our words and actions. People recognize our Father because our relationship with Him so changes us that we reflect his character. Think of it like this, when we observe notable behavior in a child, maybe a kindness, or gentleness, some admirable quality, we recognize that this is due to his parent’s influence and we admire that parent’s work in their child’s life. Conversely, the same can be said for their negative behavior!
Our minds are first drawn to our relationship with our Father and then upwards towards his character and name, that others would not only revere and experience him as father but that he might be glorified through our lives as well. The next petition is also vertical in nature.
Your kingdom come-
as I understand it, the verb tense of come here refers to a decisive time in the future when the kingdom will come once and for all. This is the second coming of Christ, when he will return, judge the world, and set up his eternal kingdom. We should pray often for Jesus to ultimately return. As believers we should look forward to that day with breathless anticipation, when Jesus will return to take his bride to himself.
But as we saw a few weeks ago, there is a sense in which the kingdom is already here. Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God was near. Later in Luke, Jesus says the kingdom of God is in your midst. So it is in a sense, future, but it is also a present reality. When men and women come into a saving relationship with the Father through the son, they become citizens of the kingdom of God. Our allegiance, our loyalty, and our hope is no longer in this world but to the Father and his kingdom. When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are in essence repenting of the ways we live for our own kingdoms and the kingdoms of the world and we are asking God to help us live lives characterized by obedience to our king.
What he desires is what we want to desire, where he is leading is where we want to go, and furthermore, we want to see others come into the kingdom to experience it as well.
If we would only grasp these two elements, I believe not only our prayer life but our lives would be radically changed.
Jesus invites us to come to the personal, loving, caring Father of Heaven and to first and foremost pray that his name would be revered and his kingdom would advance in our lives and in the lives of those around us. After our minds have been drawn heavenly and we are focused on what God would have us focus on, Jesus leads us to pray horizontally, or about the things we need as disciples, namely, bread, forgiveness, and strength when facing temptation.
Horizontal Element- three petitions
Give us each day our daily bread-
Can be translated ‘(ESV) our bread for tomorrow’ The idea is to give us what we need in the immediate future, with reference to later today or tomorrow. Isn’t it freeing that the first petition Jesus tells us to make is for something so simple and mundane as the bread we need. Often we think our prayers need to be hyper spiritual and lofty. We only bring the ‘big things’ to God. Often times because we foolishly think we will take care of the small things ourselves.
Not so, Jesus says, our father cares that we have the things we need.
One commentator wisely said, notice that Jesus does not instruct us to pray for extravagant main courses or dessert! God is not concerned with lavish lifestyles or material prosperity, rather he desires that you have what you need for your body, implying that with these things we should be satisfied. There is a wonderful proverb that encompasses the wisdom in having just enough.
Proverbs 30:7-9 (ESV) 7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
My kids do not worry about how much food is in the house, right? They only care that there is something to eat right now. They trust that it will be there, because they trust that we care enough to provide it. How much simpler our lives could be if we adopted this mindset of trusting in God to meet our daily needs. The second petition concerning our needs is forgiveness.
forgive us our sins,-
There is a reminder in this pattern that we are in constant need of forgiveness. That is, in pursuit of revering God’s name, in living in line with the new kingdom of which we are citizens, we will struggle and fail to follow Christ in the way we should. We are reminded that just as we need daily bread, we need daily forgiveness.
This much we understand, but Jesus goes on to add a qualifier statement.
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.-
In Matthew’s gospel, it is worded forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors. St. Augustine called this the terrible petition because if we pray this prayer with an unforgiving heart we are actually asking God not to forgive us. If that was not sufficient the New Testament is full of similar exhortations.
Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV) 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 5:7 (ESV) 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
James 2:13 (ESV) 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Matthew 18:32-35 (ESV) 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Whatever else you believe about these verses, it suffices to say that this petition serves as a heart check. When Jesus so intimately ties our forgiveness to the way we forgive, we are forced to ask, is God’s grace at work in my heart so that I find forgiveness for others possible?
Does this mean forgiveness comes naturally or easily to the Christian? Absolutely not, but the inclusion of this topic in this model prayer should cause us to want to be forgiving, even if it is a struggle for us. Having asked for our needs and our forgiveness, having been reminded of our dependence on the Father and our need for his help in forgiving, Jesus gives us our final petition concerning ourselves.
And lead us not into temptation-
The meaning of this verse has led to much speculation and disagreement on what it means and there is no way to examine all of the various ways it has been interpreted.
Here is what we need to know foundationally as we approach this verse. The idea here is the temptation that if we yield will lead to sin. Two, the Bible is clear that God does not tempt anyone to do evil. Three, God can and does use temptation to mold and shape us.
Jesus’ ministry began with a season of temptation in the wilderness and ended with a night of temptation in the garden where he prayed earnestly that the cup would pass from him.
James tells us the purpose of our trials and temptations in his letter.
James 1:2-4 (ESV) 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
All great followers of Christ have endured great trials, tribulations, and temptations.
So if temptation is necessary for growth, then what is the petition here?
I believe it is asking God for strength and for him to deliver us from overpowering temptations, knowing that we are liable to fold under such enticement and assault.
One commentator put it this way, lead us not into temptation that is beyond our capacity to withstand.
This again reminds us of the loving nature of our father, who knows intimately what struggles will grow us and what struggles will crush us. It is the latter that we ask our Father to deliver us from.
Should all of our prayers follow this pattern? I don't think so. We can and should use it to help us pray, but overall I think it is a valuable tool in evaluating our prayer life.
Do we not only recognize but embrace the intimate relationship we enjoy with God the Father, through God the Holy Spirit, because of God the son?
Is our prayer life filled with concern for our brothers and sisters, the 'ours and us' of this prayer? Do our prayers lift our hearts and minds to the things of God, his name and his kingdom? Do we yearn for his presence in our lives and in the lives of others?
Does our prayer life show a daily dependence on God for what we need, do our prayers of forgiveness come from a forgiving heart, do we face temptations steadfast, asking God to help us overcome, knowing they produce growth? See how these questions can begin to shape our prayer life in dynamic ways. Far from a simple prayer to repeat, the Lord’s Prayer invites us deeper into the presence and power of God with each subsequent line.
Far from a simple prayer to repeat, the Lord’s Prayer invites us deeper into the presence and power of God with each subsequent line.
But Jesus goes on beyond this pattern of prayer and gives us the position of our prayers and the promise of prayer.
The Position of Prayer
By position we do not mean whether we kneel or stand with outstretched hands. We mean the manner in which we are called to pray, the position of our hearts, if you will.
Jesus moves from the model prayer to a short story involving a dire need and a sleeping friend.
Jesus sets the story in the familiar culture of the time. In this time hospitality was seen not just as a good thing but a morally obligated thing to be. In this day traveling was much more difficult than it is now. There were no Buc-ees on the road. A traveler was likely to be hungry, tired, and in need of a shower when they arrived. This particular traveler arrives late and the host is not ready for him. He is desperate, so he goes to his friend's house at midnight and asks for what he needs for his guests.
He gets the answer you will probably get if you ever come to my house at midnight looking for bread! Go away, we are already in bed, the door is locked, and the children are asleep!
But because this man is persistent, the friend gets up, gets him his bread and sends him on his way. Jesus is clear, this friend did not do this because of his friendship or even because he felt like he owed it to him, but because of the shamelessness of this man, he does it.
Shamelessness is not often a good quality, but in light of the extraordinary demands of hospitality in this time and place, his shamelessness is praised.
Jesus says, if a grouchy friend will respond to our shameless petition, how much more will a loving God respond when we shamelessly bring our petitions from the Lord’s prayer before God.
Knowing that God has what we need, knowing that we desperately need it, we come boldly to the throne of God.
To further emphasize his point Jesus says And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
When it comes to prayer, we are commanded to be constant in our prayers.
The verbs ask, seek, and knock are both progressively increasing in intensity and all in the present imperative tense. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.
This is the attitude of someone who is confident they will get what they ask for. This is a call to passionate, intentional prayer.
God does not need to be convinced or bothered into answering, that is not the point. The point is if we believe God will give us what we need and we believe that what he has to give is what we desperately need, we will not stop asking, seeking, or knocking until we are in the position of receiving it. I think it is also important to put it in the context of the implicit nature of the Lord’s prayer that we come daily. It is a constant seeking of God in prayer.
This is the confidence we have, everyone who asks, receives, everyone who seeks, finds, everyone who knocks will find the door opened to them.
Having taught us the pattern of prayer in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus teaches us our position of prayer, we put ourselves in an earnest and ongoing dependence on the Father to answer our prayer that have been asked according to his desires.
And then he finishes by giving us the great promise of prayer.
The Promise of Prayer
Luke 11:11-13 (ESV) 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 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!”
He takes us back to the opening words of the Lord’s prayer.
God is your father, Jesus says. Let’s for a moment consider you earthly fathers. Not one of you would give your son a serpent when he asked for a fish or a scorpion when he asks for an egg.
Of course not! When Jesus says what father among you, he is asking this question in such a way that the answer is of course you wouldn’t.
Here is his application.
If you fathers, who are evil, that are tainted by sin and bent towards selfishness, know how to give good gifts to your children when they ask, how much more must God the Father be willing to give good gifts to you, his children.
The promise is this.
You can trust God to give you good gifts because he is a good, caring, willing, and caring Father. Compared to him, the best fathers fall immensely short.
Then Jesus finishes in perhaps the most surprising way.
How much more will the heavenly Father give you the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
The high point of the pattern of prayer, its vertical and horizontal dimensions is that God will give you his Holy Spirit.
This is the promise that God made in the old testament and fulfilled in the New. He poured out his spirit on his sons and daughters, on all who would ask.
Don’t miss understanding prayer in light of this promise.
Hallowed be your name- Father through the presence and power of your spirit may you be glorified in and through me.
Your kingdom come- give me more of your spirit’s presence in my life so that I may experience more and more of your kingdom here on earth in anticipation of its fulfillment in heaven.
Give us each day our daily bread- May your spirit ultimately satisfy me, may I seek the things of the kingdom knowing that you will provide the things I need.
and forgive us our sins- may your Holy Spirit convict me of sin and convince me of my need for repentance and forgiveness daily
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.- May your spirit produce in me forgiveness, mercy, and grace to those around me.
Lead us not into temptation- may your holy spirit empower me to overcome the world and lead me out of temptation when it is too strong for me.
Furthermore, I can come boldly to you with these requests because this is what I ultimately need and only you can provide.
And finally, I can trust that you will give me more of yourself because you are a good, loving, caring Father who desires for your children to know you intimately and completely.
Lord, teach us to pray.
Here is the good news as we close.
Jesus did not make prayer some secretive thing where we had to know all the secret religious lingo to pray rightly. He did not make it so only the super-spiritual could pray.
He gave us everything we needed to fully engage our heavenly father in prayer. The pattern, the position, and the promise.
His answer to his disciple's petition is the answer you need today.
Have you never come to God in prayer? From the very beginning, Jesus reminds us that we are not coming to a cold distant God but a loving Father. I pray that you will be encouraged to approach him, maybe for the first time.
Is your prayer life stagnant?
Jesus has given us everything we need to engage our Father in deep and meaningful ways.
Do you not know what to pray for? Ask God for more of His Spirit, more of His presence in your life.
May we all leave here today, with not just an understanding of how to pray but a desire to pray.