Sunday, May 27, 2012

Prayer, Persistence, and Excuses - Luke 11 part 1

(Click here to read Luke 11)

Luke 11:1-4 (ESV)
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.”

Prayer is very important in Luke's gospel. Jesus spends a night praying before choosing his disciples. He spends a night praying before asking them who they say he is (chapter 9).

When the disciples see him praying, they ask him to teach them. The prayer he teaches them is commonly called “the Lord's Prayer, or “Our Father.

"Our Father" is a corporate prayer. Our daily bread. Our debts. Our debtors. Lead us. Deliver us. Though we often imagine prayer as a personal, private activity, Jesus' prayer is one to be shared. It is corporate. Even when praying alone, we pray in unity.

We are a family, and God is our Father. Yahweh was called “our Father” in the Old Testament as well (Deuteronomy 14:1, 32:6, Psalm 103:13, Hosea 11:1). Only Jesus called him “my Father”.

To pray for God's will to be done is as submitted and humble a Kingdom prayer as can be prayed. This is the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemene “not my will, but yours be done”, before going to the cross.

Our daily bread – We pray for God’s provision for everyone, everywhere, remembering that we are his body. We remember that everything we have to sustain our life has been provided by God. We do not need to store up food for ourselves (James 5:1-6), but trust God to provide for us each day. Also, when we each pray that God would provide for “us”, we give opportunity for God to remind us that it is often through us that he wants to provide. When our cupboards are full, it may seem strange to pray for God's daily provision. But as a corporate prayer, it applies. When one person is still hungry, we can still pray.

Notice that this verse shows that this is a daily prayer.

Daily repentance. Praying for God to forgive others (our debts) will lead us also to forgive others.

God does not tempt us with evil – James 1:13. Though James also says in the same chapter that we should consider in trials to have “pure joy” (1:2), we are still to pray that God would keep us from trials that could tempt us from him. In the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus told his disciples to pray so that they would not be tempted (Matthew 26:41). Prayer is essential for remaining in Jesus.

We rely on God both for forgiveness when we fail, and for the grace to have victory over temptation. Whether we fly or fail and are forgiven, it is all the work of Jesus. His is the power and the glory. Forever. Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:11-13 – the oft quoted scribal addition (for yours is the kingdom, and the power . . .) is scripturally sound.

Continuing his teaching on prayer, Jesus reminds the disciples to be persistent in their prayer, using a parable of a friend making a request at an inconvenient time. This isn't to say that God is unjust or that we ever inconvenience him, but that our prayers needn't be passive. We pray as though we truly expect God to answer. Passivity isn't humble. We can persistently pray “your will be done” with humility.

In contrast to the humility of an open hand and heart praying for a good God to forgive and provide daily, the pharisees and crowds demand signs and make excuses for not following Jesus' teachings. The pharisees accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan. That they would consider that authority and power such as Jesus possesses - to heal and feed and teach and set free – would come from Satan shows the depth of their own corruption. In fact, Jesus himself says that the darkness is in their own eyes. They are unable to see the truth of the light of the freedom Jesus demonstrates. With their eyes closed, their spirits are darkened.

When asked for a sign to prove his identity, Jesus refuses. He has willingly taught, healed, and performed miracles. He has commissioned disciples with his authority. He has been transfigured before his friends. But in the presence of those demanding a sign with dark eyes and hard hearts, Jesus will not oblige. The prophets have spoken. It is enough.

Jesus' call to come into God's way is not abstract, it is not inward and individual. It is not psychic or academic. It is active. It is real. It is now. He does not accept excuses. He calls to surrender.

Luke 11:28 - Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!

(part 2 of Luke 11 - Woes to the Hypocrites - will be posted in one hour.) 

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