Thursday, March 1, 2018

Jesus Teaching Prayer: Luke 11:1-13

In Luke chapter 11, Jesus' disciples ask him to teach them how to pray. He responds with a slightly condensed version of what has become known as the Lord's prayer.  Then Jesus  relates the parable of the guy pounding on his neighbor's door for bread in the middle of the night.  He writes the lyrics to the second verse of Seek Ye First ("ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and ye shall find").  Finally, he says that when our children ask us for good things, we don't give them bad things, so, if we ask, God will give us the Holy Spirit.  

This week's BLOGFORCE question only deals with the Lord's Prayer, but since Jesus didn't stop there, neither will I.  These instructions of Jesus tell us four important things about prayer.

1. While the Lord's Prayer could be expounded line by line at great length, the basic format tells us something important.  We can have a short, easy to memorize, rote prayer that covers the most important bases and can be used as often as we wish.  We can't spend fifteen seconds, rush through Our Father, and be done with our prayer for the day.  Yet we also don't have to spend fifteen minutes finding the exact right words to say.  If we are uncreative, if we don't know what to say, if we don't even feel like praying, Jesus gives us a simple way to come before God and enter into his presence through prayer.

2. Jesus also says something about the opposite situation, when we really know what we want to pray for.  In the parable of the guy who finally gets up to throw a loaf of bread out the door at his neighbor in the wee hours of the morning, Jesus tells us to be persistent.  Keep asking, keep praying, keep the angels of God up all night until the Almighty sends them down with whatever we need.  Make clear to God what we want and that we really want it.

3. The parable moves seamlessly into Jesus' next point, which is that we only have to ask and we will receive.  The stress seems different, however.  Seek and you will find feels a lot different to us than bang on the door all night.  In reality, however, it may not be.  Part of this instruction is that God wants to give us what we want, especially when what we want is good.  We may have to tell him what that is, however.  Part of prayer can be clarifying our desires, since we often want different, and even contradictory things.  We want nothing to change but we want a better job.  We want to lose weight and eat more ice cream.  We want to support a charity and to go on a cruise.  God is inviting us to ask for what we really want so he can give it to us.  Maybe we need to knock on God's door repeatedly until we are clear in our own minds.  Our persistent prayer is more for our sake than for God's.

4. Jesus says that our heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.  Since no one had been talking about the Holy Spirit so far this chapter, Jesus' must think this point is particularly important.  In the midst of all our other prayers, we should ask God to give us his Holy Spirit.  As we receive the Holy Spirit, we activate our spiritual gifts to build up the church and reap the benefits of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  If we want love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control and the other fruits of the Spirit, we need to ask God to fill us with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus says he will.

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