Sometimes, I get the impression that the penny has dropped for the disciples and then there are times when they seem to be completely clueless. This is an occasion when they did something really good. The passage can be read through the excellent BibleGateway site here.
We have seen already in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus was someone who prayed regularly. Here, it has dawned on one of the disciples that if Jesus is praying all the time, maybe we should too and if we have greatest teacher and one with a perfect prayer relationship with his father; it might be a good idea to ask him about it. Thank the Lord that they did. Jesus’ teaching here lasts for only twelve verses but it is densely packed and it would be possible to spend a lifetime meditating on the content. In the short time we have we are going to look at the pattern of prayer, persistence in prayer and the promises of prayer.
There’s a lovely picture from the time when John F Kennedy was president of the US. It shows him working at his desk in the Oval Office, but underneath the desk you can see his young son playing. It isn’t easy to get to see the President of the United States, but if you are his son, you can go in any time. We are the children of God, and through Jesus, we have access to our father at any time.
Verses 2-4 cover Luke’s version of what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer. If you are old enough, and I am, you may have said this prayer in School Assemblies. I can remember saying the words and enjoying the sound of words like temptation and trespasses and having no idea what they meant. I don’t think Jesus was giving us something to learn and repeat on a daily basis, he gave us a pattern of what prayer should look like. It begins with the wonderful word ‘Father’, if you have come to God in repentance and faith you are a child of God. We approach God not as slaves but as his children, hallelujah! Next we pray that God’s name will be honoured, in our lives, in the church and in the world. ‘Your kingdom come’ is a prayer for change because we are not satisfied with things as they are. I look at my own community and I’m not content to see the young abused, the elderly neglected, so many enslaved by addictions and the apathy towards God. I see the news, the atrocities in the Middle East, British football fans bullying a black man in Paris and war in Ukraine and I am not satisfied. So we pray; your kingdom come, your kingdom come. ‘Give us each day our daily bread’, there’s nothing wrong with asking God for our daily needs, it’s a very long way from the whole ‘praying for financial prosperity’ thing as some would teach (it’s not in the Bible). We pray for forgiveness, because we are all fallen human beings and we forgive others because we are all fallen human beings. We ask the Lord to keep us from temptation because we are all….
In verses 5-10 Jesus teaches his disciples to be both bold and persistent. There is a tension here for us since we recognise that not all of the things we want are necessarily good and we certainly don’t want to be asking for things that are against God’s will. This has led to prayers that don’t ask for anything; ‘Lord, if it’s your will and if it won’t derail all of your heavenly plans, do you think that possibly, at some future date, if it’s not too much trouble, you could maybe…’ Of course, God doesn’t say yes to our every prayer, he isn’t Santa Claus, he’s God. Sometimes he says ‘no’ and sometimes ‘not yet’. Sometimes we can look back and give thanks for the prayers God didn’t answer in the way we wanted, and there are others when we have no idea, but we have to accept that he is God and his wisdom is past finding out. As I write, I have a sense that some who are reading this have grown weary from praying for the same thing. Is your prayer selfish? ‘Make me a great preacher, worship leader, youth leader etc. or give me a Ferrari etc. or is your prayer that God should be glorified? If it is, keep praying, be bold, be persistent. Ask, seek and knock.
The final section in verses 11-13, concerns Jesus’ promise that the father will send the Holy Spirit when we ask him. He will not send some evil spirit to his children, he sends his Spirit to comfort, guide and empower. We need more of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Lord, help us to be faithful in prayer, to be bold, to ask, seek and knock and we pray that you would send your Spirit that we may honour you in everything we do.