THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
Luke 9:51-19:48

The Disciple And Prayer
Luke 11:1-13

. INTRODUCTION

Starting in Luke 9:51, Jesus begins the last year of His life on earth. During that last year Jesus will visit Jerusalem at least 2 times, during the feasts of Tabernacles (Sept.-Oct.) and Dedication (late Dec.). The rest of the time He spends in the region to the east of the Jordan River (Perea), the Judean countryside, or in Samaria. The whole time though He focuses on Jerusalem and His upcoming scourging, death, and resurrection. Everything He does in that last year is done in light of that upcoming event.

One of Jesus' main emphases in this year is the training of His disciples. Since the future of Christianity (from man's viewpoint) depends upon these disciples, Jesus spends most of His time preparing them for the time when He will be gone. One of the areas He trains them in is that of prayer.

Just a cursory reading of Luke-Acts reveals the significance of prayer in the life of believers. Zacharias is praying whenever Gabriel appears to him, informing him of the coming birth of John the Baptist. After Simeon had prayed for years in the temple area, the Lord revealed to him that Jesus was the promised Christ. In Acts the early church prayed for at least 10 days before the Holy Spirit fell upon them. The church was praying when the angel released Peter from prison. Likewise, the Antioch church was involved in intensive prayer and fasting when the Lord instructed her to launch the great mission to the Gentiles with Paul and Barnabas at the helm.

Prayer though was not only an integral part of the life of the early believers; it also played a vital role in the life of Jesus, God's Son, Himself. It was while Jesus was praying that God spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit came upon Him during His baptism. Jesus spent an entire night in prayer before He selected which of His disciples would become the 12 apostles. He prayed for Peter's spiritual protection right before He was arrested. (See also Luke 5:15, 9:29, and 23:46) The truth is that if Jesus, God's Son, felt it necessary to pray in order to have spiritual victory on earth, how much more should be pray?


THE LORD'S PRAYER (11:1-4)

The disciples were impressed with the amount of time Jesus engaged in prayer and also with the quality of His prayers. Being a disciple means that I imitate the one discipling me; therefore, just like John the Baptist's disciples had John train them how to pray, so Jesus' disciples here ask Jesus to train them how to pray.

An interesting part of Jesus' response is that He says: "When you pray, SAY . . ." In other words, Jesus' prayer here should play a major role in the way we pray. Now we can be like some Christian denominations and simply repeat the prayer, a practice called "reciting the pater noster." I feel though that Jesus wants us to use this prayer more than just simply as a type of mindless repetition. Rather it should govern the way we pray.

God impressed this upon me over 3 and 1/2 years ago. As a result, nearly each and every morning I work through the Lord's Prayer during my morning prayers. I will start out saying, "Our Father" and then meditate and pray about what that means for me that day. Then I work through the other statements in the prayer. It is incredible how the Lord's Prayer gives your own personal prayers a depth and breadth that they otherwise would not have. There are simply some things I would not think about praying for if I were not working through the Lord's Prayer. I don't know if we have to use the Lord's Prayer this way; however, I feel it is a legitimate way to honor Jesus' command here in v. 2.


The Fatherhood of God

Jesus begins His prayer by calling God "Father." This greatly impressed the early disciples. Too often God was thought of in more cosmic terms, such as, the Creator and the God of the universe. Although there are hints of God being our Father in the OT, most of the passages simply compare God to a father and do not necessarily call Him "Father" (Ps. 103:13 "Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him").

Jesus though does not compare God to a father; He calls Him "Father." Jesus was claiming for Himself a unique relationship with God. Jesus calling God "Father" Abba impressed itself so much upon the disciples that the NT writers preserved this word intact without translating it. When Mark writes about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he does not say Jesus called God "Father," rather He called Him "Abba," the precise word Jesus would have used. Jesus as the eternal Son of God has every right to call God His Father.

What is exciting though is that because of our relationship with God's Son, we too now can call God "Father." At the point of salvation the Spirit of God's Son came to live in us. We now become as much God's children as Jesus is God's Child (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1, 2). Because of our relationship with Jesus we have as much right to call God "Father" as Jesus Himself has.

How should this affect our prayers? We need to come to prayer fully confident that the One we are praying to loves us. I feel like I am a pretty good dad. The best experiences I have is when I spend time with my family. Well, as good a dad as I try to be, I will never be the kind of Dad God is. As much as I want to spend time with my children, how much more does God want to spend time with His children. Reflect on that. What a great honor it is that the God of the universe, the Creator of heaven and earth, wants to spend quality time with me, not on an occasional basis, but on a consistent basis, that is, confidently.

Moreover, since the God I am praying to is my Father, I can have confidence that He will hear me and respond positively to me whenever I pray according to His will. Look at the prayers of God's sons and daughters in the OT. Elijah prays down fire from heaven; Hezekiah prays for the deliverance of Jerusalem from the hands of the Assyrians; Moses prays for God to give the Israelites victory over the Amorites; etc. In each instance God's sons and daughters are not timid in their prayers; they are bold. Why can we enter into these prayers with such boldness? Because God is our Father and expects us to approach Him as His sons and daughters.


Reverence for God and an Accurate Evaluation of Who He is

Next Jesus prays: "Hallowed by Thy name." The word "hallowed" refers to God's holiness, that is, "He is not us." He is far greater than you and I can even possibly imagine. Isaiah writes about God: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways higher than yours" (Isaiah 55:8-9). If God created just the earth, that would be amazing enough. I've seen Pacific islands, the sunny French countryside, the plains of Kansas, the hill country of Texas, the rugged North Atlantic coastline, the rolling hills of England, the mountainous terrain of Italy, the Judean wilderness, and the majestic Canadian Rockies. If God had only created these, He would be amazing. Yet the earth we inhabit is merely a little speck in this vast universe. The God we pray to is not simply the God who created the earth; He created the entire universe. As a result, we need to take Him very seriously.

Next, the holiness of God refers to His value. HE IS NOT US. Jesus compares Himself to a treasure hidden in the field and to a pearl of great price. In the first instance a man finds a treasure hidden in a field and has to sell all he has in order to buy the field. When the merchant finds this certain pearl, he has to sell all he has in order to have enough money to buy that pearl. The irony though is that the treasure he buys is worth far more than everything he sold in order to buy the field and the pearl is worth far more than everything he sold in order to buy the pearl. Even though we give it all up, we gain so much that for all practical purposes we lose nothing. That is the way we should treat Jesus. We each day give Him everything: time, money, energy, effort, agendas, desires, etc. What is giving up 15-30 mins. each day for Jesus when we gain Him in return? So what if we give up our money? We gain Him.


Thy Kingdom Come

Jesus next prays for the coming of God's kingdom. Since Jesus was actually in the process of ushering in God's kingdom, Jesus most likely is praying about the consummation of God's kingdom. Right now Jesus reigns from heaven; however, there is a vast multitude of humans and angels in active rebellion against Jesus. When He returns, that rebellion will be quelled, the universe will be radically transformed, and Christ will reign unchallenged. Jesus prays for that day to come. [The prayer for God's kingdom to come is also the last prayer in the Bible: "Amen, Come Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).]

Yet in a real sense we are to pray that God will continue to spread His kingdom throughout the world through the ministries He's given to us. He commands us to spread Christ's kingdom by going out and making disciples, by baptizing people and teaching them the teachings of Jesus.


Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Whereas in the first 3 stanzas of the prayer Jesus focuses on the Father, starting here Jesus focuses on the needs of the disciple: daily needs, forgiveness of sins, and protection. First, Jesus prays that God give us our daily bread. Since bread was one of the most vital elements for survival in Jesus' day (along with dried fish and poached eggs), bread came to stand for the vital necessities of life. Jesus doesn't pray that God will give us all we want; rather He prays that God will provide for our needs. Those are the only things He guarantees He will provide for (Phil. 4:19).

Notice the emphasis on daily: "Give us today our daily bread." Jesus does not want us to worry about tomorrow. The truth is that you and I don't know what tomorrow will bring. Most of the things we worry about never come to pass. Those which do come about are not as bad as we thought they would be, while others are well within our power to change.

Moreover, the truth is that tomorrow never comes. I have yet to live tomorrow; I always live today. There is really no past. It's gone; we have no control over it. There is just the present, and God is the God of the present. He gives us the grace that we need for right now, not for the grace that we will need tomorrow. That is what Christ commands us to pray for.


Forgiveness of Sins

Jesus next commands us to ask for forgiveness of sins. This is not the confession of sins for the purpose of salvation. The people Jesus is referring to are already His disciples (11:1). Rather Jesus is speaking of the sins His disciples will commit and which will hinder their fellowship with God. They are still His sons and daughters; however, they have sinned and have damaged their relationship with the Father.

The notable part though of this request is the clause "as we forgive those who sin against us." Although it is not something we like to think about, Jesus is saying that we are to pray that God will forgive us to the same extent that we forgive others. In other words, if I don't forgive others, then I am asking God not to forgive me. It would be illogical for me to come worship a God who has reconciliation right at the center of His being and then be unwilling to forgive others. It just doesn't fly with God.


Lead Us Not into Temptation

Finally, Jesus prays that God never lead us into temptation, that is, that He not put us into situations in which we can sin. In Matthew's version Jesus adds, "But deliver us from the Evil One." Since God and sin exist in 2 totally separate spheres, we don't have to worry about God tempting us. Satan though is the root problem of evil; therefore, Jesus prays that God bind Satan from us. Because of our sin natures and evil environment, we are still going to sin; yet the binding of Satan means that the temptations will not be as severe.

I think it is important to remember that the main problem is not each other; it is Satan. Paul claims: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness" (Eph. 6:12). Too often we personalize our problems: "That person is evil," "It's between me and that person." It's not. Whenever we are in conflict with another person, we need to pray for that person, we need to pray that God bind Satan from that person AND from us.

Notice that Jesus places this request at the end of the prayer. Some Christians can really obsess about Satan. For them Satan is behind every bush. We do need to pray about God binding Satan. Satan does exist, much to the chagrin of more "enlightened" Christians. Yet he is not all-powerful. Prayer concerning him has a rightful place in the Lord's Prayer; it's only that his rightful place is at the END of the prayer, not the beginning; neither does it take up the lion's share of the prayer.


ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRAY (11:5-13)

After instructing the disciples on HOW to pray, Jesus then feels it necessary to encourage the disciples TO pray. This section is really based upon the Lord's Prayer itself, especially on the claim that God is our Father. The fact that God is our Father should encourage for us to pray.

Jesus gives 2 illustrations which should encourage us to pray. The first involves a man who approaches his friend at midnight in order to get some bread. The man has just received a visitor for the night. Being a good Middle Eastern host, the man wants to feed his visitor, even though it is midnight. The only problem though is that he has no bread; therefore, he goes to his friend's home, knocks on the door, and asks for some bread. The friend though refuses to give the man some bread. It is late, and the household has retired for the night. If the man unbolts the door, he most likely will wake up everybody, since everybody was probably sleeping together in the same room in this one-room dwelling. (Many times the people would sleep on a raised platform in this one-room dwelling, while the animals would sleep below. This man probably risked waking up not only his family but all the animals as well, something he was NOT willing to risk.)

Yet the man persists. Failing to be a good host is inexcusable in Oriental societies; therefore, he keeps on knocking at the door, asking and seeking for bread. The friend relents not because of any affection for the man (which has already been knocked out of the ball park) but because he wants his family to get some sleep. Now that's the way people behave. If even evil people will give good things to people (for whatever reason), how much more so does our Father want to give us good things. To think that an evil person would give good things to people and yet our Father would withhold good things would be such a slap in the face of that Father. Fathers by their very nature love to bestow good things upon their children; how much more so does our perfect heavenly Father want to bestow good things upon us.

A major element in this illustration is that of persistence. The man was rewarded not simply because he prayed but because he persisted in prayer. Jesus draws out this implication in the command: "Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." In the Greek Jesus is literally saying: "Keep on asking, and you shall receive; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you." God does many times answer positively a prayer that is offered just once. Yet I find that the more I grow as a Christian, the more He makes me persist in my prayers before He answers them. Why? Because it develops us and it also makes a greater impact upon us when He finally does answer those prayers.

How does it develop us? God has made us warriors. Warriors need to be trained, hardened, and developed. Trust me that the American warriors fighting in Fallujah are some of the toughest men in the world. They became tough as a result of enduring the pain of boot camp and further training. Their perseverance has paid off immensely. They are effective warriors for this country. In the same way God has made us warriors (Eph. 6:10-18). If we are going to be effective warriors for Christ in prayer, we are going to have to struggle in prayer and persevere in prayer.

Also, whenever we've had to persevere in prayer, the answers to our prayers, make a greater impact upon us. After persevering in prayer we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has heard us and answered us positively. During the period leading up to the last 3 elections I have spent much time in prayer: 40 days leading up to the 2000 election, 100 days leading up to the mid-term elections, and a full year leading up to the 2004 elections. When election returns came in each time, I felt not only peace that God's will was going to be done but also the joy that my prayers had been answered positively (along with the prayers of millions of other conservative Christians).

Probably for me the most important illustration of this was when I prayed for a wife and children. Starting in 1977, I prayed for 8 years straight each night for the kind of wife God wanted me to have. Proverbs says: "House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a wise wife is from the Lord." So I prayed that God would give me a wise wife. God answered that prayer far better than I could have imagined. Just like God blessed Solomon with riches and fame when he asked just for wisdom, so God gave me not only a wise wife but also a beautiful, kind, loving spouse. In addition He gave me 2 of the best children I believe the world has ever seen. Some one recently said at an appreciation banquet that I had a marvelous family. Trust me, it's not because I am a wonderful dad and husband that this is true. It's because God answered far more wonderfully my prayers for this kind of family.

Appealing once more to His claim that God is our Father, Jesus tells us that we can have confidence in our prayers. When we persevere in prayer, God does not answer our prayers positively because we wore Him out. He answers our prayers positively because He love us. Even evil fathers don't give their children stones (something useless) when they ask for bread; neither do evil fathers give their children serpents (something harmful) when they ask for fish. Well, if even evil fathers give good gifts, how much more so does our heavenly Father give His children good gifts when they ask Him?

Notice that the good gift in particular God gives us is His Spirit, His presence. We think so many times that this or that will make me happy; yet the truth is that the ultimate source of joy is God being with us. Recently I was in the home of a young couple in our church. They had their home decorated so pretty and so creatively. Yet that place was still just brick, mortar, sheet rock, and paint. What made that home so special was the love so evident there, their teasing each other, the sparks of love in their eyes towards each other. Relationships made that pile of bricks and mortar a home. As good as these relationships are though, they don't begin to compare with the relationship we can have with Jesus. As sweet as it is to be with my family, it is even sweeter to be with Jesus. That is the ultimate gift God gives us, the presence of Jesus.