Monday, April 8, 2013

Luke 11:1-13

One day 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 taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Jesus' disciples knew there was something different about the way he prayed. John, as well as the Pharisees, taught their disciples how to pray. Jesus' followers wanted to learn the discipline as well.

Jesus provides them with a model prayer. He begins by giving glory and honor to the Father. He prays that God's name be hallowed - sanctified and made holy. Of course his name is holy whether we pray or not, be we pray that his name will be treated as holy. We pray that people will believe God and with peaceful confidence trust what he says. We pray that we will keep his commandments with reverence and respect. “The most significant reason to pray is to ask God to glorify himself” (Piper).

His first request is that God's kingdom would be known on the earth.The kingdom of God was both a present spiritual reality beginning with the incarnation of Jesus and a future event which will be ushered in at his second coming. Secondly he requests the meeting of daily needs. He follows by requesting that sins be forgiven, since obviously we forgive those who sin against us (ahem). Yes, we are to forgive everyone, even those who don't ask or don't deserve forgiveness. “We are not bound to trust an enemy; but we are bound to forgive him” (Thomas Fuller).  He closes with a plea that we not be led into temptation. This is a great model to follow in our own prayer life, without becoming caught up in rote prayer or legalistic praying.

In true Jesus form, he follows with a parable. The man in bed in the first parable would not want to get up, have to resecure his door, and wake his children in the process of getting bread for his neighbor. As the mother of small children, I understand him perfectly! I am such a "don't answer the door" kind of girl that I have trained my children to hide when the doorbell rings. (Call first, friends.) But when the neighbor in need refuses to give up, of course the sleeping family is awakened and the need is met by the grumpy neighbor.

The message here is that we should approach God with shameless audacity, believing that our needs will be met. Through the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ, we are able to approach the very throne of God with our needs and desires. We ask with the firm belief that he will answer and the knowledge that he does hear. We are to continue praying until either our prayer is answered or God tells us to stop. Keep asking! Keep seeking! Keep knocking! Just no sane earthly father would give his hungry child a meal of snakes and scorpions, our heavenly Father will give us what we need. (Sometimes he says no, because we are asking for snakes and scorpions!) And what do we need? An outpouring of the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit will guide us as we pray, show us when our prayers are selfish, reveal when God's answer is no, and help us persist in prayer. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8:26).

God isn't Santa Claus. No matter how high your name is on the “good list", you won't get whatever you request. Even if you beg. Even if you whine. Invoking the name of Jesus is not the same as rubbing the genie's lamp. But when we ask, seek, and knock he will care for us. We do not pray to get God on our side; we pray because he is already on our side and has a plan for our lives.

Yes, we will go through trials. Yes, many true believers are hungry, sick, and dying. Yes, life can seem unfair as the sun and rain fall equally on the just and unjust. But God provides the Holy Spirit to all who call on his name. The Holy Spirit will lead us in paths of righteousness, comfort us in trouble, and give us indescribable peace in storm or fair weather. He will give us the words of God to speak in any situation and hold our tongues silent when our mouths should stay shut. “We look to God, not as our enemy or as a frustrated father who can never be pleased, but as our Father who is 100% for us because of Christ alone. Therefore, we trust him, that because of Christ (his death and righteousness), he will give us the Spirit—and everything else we need. That is how we pray ‘in the Spirit.’ That is what it means to be gospel-sustained. That is gospel-praying” (Piper).

"Father, we long to see you honored more and more in our church and our city. Cause your name to be hallowed among us. Magnify your worth and your glory in our midst. And let your kingdom come. Take up your kingly rule more and more fully over our church and our lives and our families and our city. And hasten the day of Christ's final appearing. Meet our physical needs we pray, so that we can press on with joy in the work you call us to for your name's sake. Forgive us, O Lord, where we have sinned and fallen short of your glory. And keep us from entangling temptations that will trip us up and bring reproach upon your name. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen."  - John Piper, paraphrase of the model prayer

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