Luke 11:1–13 On another occasion, Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”
2He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4Forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”
5He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and tell him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6because a friend of mine who is on a journey has come to me, and I do not have anything to set before him.’ 7And the one inside replies, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give it to you.’ 8I tell you, even if he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his bold persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
9“I tell you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives. The one who seeks finds. And to the one who knocks, it will be opened.
11“What father among you, if your son asks for bread, would give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, would give him a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if he asks for an egg, would give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Danny was a five-year-old boy who was given the honor of praying at the restaurant. He prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest and let these gifts to us be blest.” Then he added, “And, Lord, if Mom would add the gift of fruit pies for dessert, I would be even more thankful. God, this is your friend, Danny, signing out for the entire family. Amen.”
Most of the people at the other tables smiled, especially at the last part. Most did … but not all.
At the next booth, with her back to the family, a lady whispered, so all could hear, “No wonder this country has gone downhill. Kids today don’t even know how to say their prayers. As if God doesn’t have other things to do than provide fruit pies. And since when do we sign out at the end of a prayer.”
Danny asked his mother, “Was that a bad prayer? I didn’t know I shouldn’t pray for fruit pies.”
Mom said, “Danny, I’m sure God liked your prayer.”
One man leaned across the aisle and said, “I’ve been praying for a lot of years, and if I know God like I think I do, he would rate that prayer as being one of the best he’s heard. In fact, I think it’s a shame more people don’t ask him for fruit pies.” (adapted from Lutheran Hour Ministries devotion)
By the way, mom did buy fruit pies for the family.
Like the grouchy woman at the restaurant, all of us could use a refresher course on prayer.
The disciples saw Jesus pray all the time. They witnessed him going off by himself to pray. They heard him pour out his heart to his heavenly Father in prayer. They knew they were missing out on something in their prayer lives. So one day they approached Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray …” (Luke 11:1).
Jesus teaches prayer because praying to God is not natural to us. As Christians, we have the notion that we should pray. But we have so many barriers when it comes to prayer.
Pride interrupts our prayers. We don’t want to humble ourselves to need God’s help. With this pride we take care of the regular things of life on our own. We save God only for the really big things – like cancer, a car accident or a job loss. We think, “When all else fails, I guess I should pray.” But just like you want to hear about your children’s day at school, so your heavenly Parent wants to hear about his children’s day. Just talk to him. Even if it’s just about apple pies.
Impatience disturbs our prayers. We know God answers our prayers, so we expect all our prayers to be answered with an immediate affirmative. God does answer all our prayers. But sometimes his answer is “No.” Or even worse, “Wait.” So we pray for patience. “God, I could really use patience … right now!”
Frustration disrupts our prayers. We become frustrated with the results – or lack thereof – to our prayers. But that’s often because we confuse our will with God’s will.
We feel we are too busy to pray. Our lives are filled with work, school, children’s athletics, meals, binge-watching TV, etc. We have no time left to pray. The truth is that if we are too busy to pray, then we are too busy.
If you are too busy to pray, then you need to pray even more!
Our sinful heart does not want to talk to God. It foolishly imagines that we can hide our sins from God’s view. We don’t really want to tell God how we’ve failed him. And when we concentrate on our failures as his children, we perceive that God does not want to hear from us.
So, we stop praying.
Not praying, though, is dangerous. In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther has some strong words for those who don’t pray. “[God] will be angry and punish all who do not pray, just as surely as he punishes all other disobedience” (Large Catechism, Part III, The Lord’s Prayer, par. 18).
Prayer is one of the essential ingredients for fueling a life that will be busy doing the will of God. Jesus recognized this and spent a great deal of time in prayer (Luke 3:21; 6:12; 9:28). As the Son of God and Savior of the world, Jesus was a very busy person. Yet he was never so busy that he did not have time to pray.
God wants us to pray. That’s why he attaches a promise to prayer. Jesus teaches, “I tell you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives. The one who seeks finds. And to the one who knocks, it will be opened” (Luke 11:9,10). Jesus uses all present tense verbs in his metaphors on prayer – “keep asking,” “keep seeking,” “keep knocking.” They suggest continuing action. Jesus wants us to pray faithfully, regularly, persistently.
The story is told that when Martin Luther’s dog was looking to get some scraps which might fall from his master's table, the reformer commented, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”
To illustrate the persistence we need in prayer, Jesus tells two stories. The first story: “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and tell him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine who is on a journey has come to me, and I do not have anything to set before him.’ And the one inside replies, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give it to you.’ I tell you, even if he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his bold persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11:6-8). The point of the story is to be persistent in asking of God in prayer.
The second story: “What father among you, if your son asks for bread, would give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, would give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, would give him a scorpion?” Obviously, no father would do this. As parents we want to give our children good things.
These two stories are illustrations from the least to the greatest. If we who are evil sinners know how to give good things to our neighbors and our children, then “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13)?
God is honored when we come with our prayers. He is not bothered as though we were pestering him with our requests. The fact that we recognize our dependence upon God and our trust in him to give us what is ask brings glory to God. We are invited to pray for everything – physical, but especially spiritual. There is nothing to big for the God who created the universe to handle. There is nothing so small for the God who became an embryo in the womb of Mary to control for our good.
God speaks to us in his Word in our Bible. God invites us to speak to him with our prayers. This is how we carry on a conversation with the Almighty God.
But we need to be taught to pray. Prayer is a language. As children, we learned how to speak from our parents. To learn how to speak properly, we had to listen as our parents spoke to us. We then repeated their words back to them.
Just like you taught your children to speak, so our heavenly Father teaches us to speak to him. When my daughters were born, the first word that my wife taught them was “Daddy.” That way, when they woke up in the middle of the night, they would cry out, “Daddy!”
Our heavenly Daddy teaches us to call out to him. He teaches us to begin with “Our Father in heaven.” He even gives us specific words we can use in speaking back to him. We call these words, “The Lord’s Prayer.”
We can approach the Almighty God who created the universe and the holy God before whom no sin can abide, only because of our relationship with Jesus. Our divine Brother, Jesus, has made us children of our heavenly Father through baptism and conversion. Because of Jesus, we now have the right and the privilege of calling God, “Daddy, Papa, Abba, Father.”
The Lord’s Prayer is God’s Word to us. He speaks to us and teaches us what to say and what to ask for. We speak God’s prayer back to him.
Luther wrote about the Lord’s Prayer, “There is no nobler prayer to be found upon the earth.” (Large Catechism, Part III, The Lord’s Prayer, par. 23).
However, Luther also called the Lord’s Prayer “the greatest martyr” because “everybody tortures and abuses it; few take comfort and joy in its proper use” (AE 43:200).
Since we know this prayer so well, it is a great temptation for us to allow our mind to wander as we pray these familiar words. That’s why over the course of this series, we will sing and say the Lord’s Prayer in many different ways.
We may at times utter the Lord’s Prayer thoughtlessly. Yet, our Father is fully attentive at all times to our needs and desires. This is our comfort and our joy. Jesus, our High Priest, perfects all our prayers as he intercedes on our behalf to the heavenly Father. (Hebrews 4:14-16). Jesus covers our sinfulness with his righteousness. In this way, he pushes our prideful selves onto our knees to humble ourselves before God’s throne of grace. He absolves our impatience as we patiently wait for his will to be done. He forgives our frustration and then we see the results of prayer are not always what we want, but always what we need for our eternal salvation. Instead of clinging to our sins and hiding from God, Christ teaches us to cling to his cross and running into the arms of our heavenly Father.
The heavenly Father loves giving to his children, so if he hasn’t given to you the things you are praying for, then you don’t need them or they aren’t good for you or God has a greater plan in store. So, pray to your heavenly Father in faith, with all confidence and certainty, knowing that he hears you and answers you. Be assured that he will always give you good things, because he already has. He has given you forgiveness, life and salvation in Christ. That’s all you need for heaven. Everything else is only for this life. And this life only leads to the next life with our heavenly Father.
There is much that Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer. That’s why over the course of nine weeks we will closely examine the Address, seven Petitions and the Doxology of the Lord’s Prayer.
This prayer encompasses everything we could possibly pray for. When we don’t know what to pray, pray the words of the Lord’s Prayer. As you pray these words, the Holy Spirit will teach you how to pray to your heavenly Father with words of your own.
The life of a Christian is a life of prayer. That life of prayer begins with the Lord’s Prayer. Amen.