LESSONS ON PRAYER

LUKE 11:1-13

But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me."
Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands..." (Isaiah 49:14-16a).

When things are going bad (and that was certainly the case in Isaiahís day), we are prone to wonder whether the Lord has forgotten us in the shuffle. But that is not the case. The Lord says that He has inscribed us on the palms of His hands.

That is not a promise which was given long ago but which has now been forgotten. Indeed, if you could look for a moment into heaven itself, you would see that the hands of the Lord still bear the marks of His great love for us. That being the case, it is appropriate that we persevere in the art of prayer.

 

A PATTERN FOR PRAYER

And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples."

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: ĎFather, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come,

Give us each day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.í" (Luke 11:1-4).

This chapter begins with the disciples coming and asking Jesus how they ought to pray. Notice that Jesus did not have to tell them about the importance of prayer. He had not lectured them on prayer. Instead, they saw it in His life. They watched Him pray. And they realized that their prayers were inadequate.

As we read over this prayer, it is immediately obvious that there are some differences from the one in Matthew 6. The general outline is the same, but there are differences in the details..

That tells me something about this prayer. It is actually an outline on how to pray. Each clause teaches us something about to the God to whom we pray.

1. Father.

The first recorded words of Jesus deal with God as His Father (Luke 2:49). The Jews did not normally pray to God as their Father. They would address God by one of His titles, but not as Father.

Every prayer that Jesus ever prayed began with "My Father" except for one. On the cross, He cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" On that day, God was dealing with Him, not as a Father, but as a Judge.

This gives us a hint as to what is contained in the idea of calling God, "Our Father." This is different from what Paul descibes in Acts 17:29 were all mankind can be describes at "the offspring of God." This is a more specific sense of fatherhood. All men have God as their Creator. Only those who have entered into a spiritual relationship with God can legitimately call Him "Father" in the sense of this prayer.

2. Hallowed be Thy Name.

The word translated "hallowed" (a`giasqh,tw) is from a root simply meaning "holy." God is holy and His name is holy. He is set apart. He is special. This is the third commandment - His name is holy and should not be taken in vain.

The name of a person in the ancient world had to do with the character of that person. We speak in a similar way when we talk about someone who has a good name in the community.

3. Thy Kingdom Come.

In the last chapter, we saw Jesus sending out 70 forerunners. They went out healing and preaching and proclaiming that the kingdom of God was come near. But now the disciples are told to pray that Godís kingdom would come.

This is not just looking to the future and some apocalyptic revelation. It is not merely asking that God would return and overturn governments and clean up all of this mess. It is asking for a present dynamic. It is a call for Godís present reign in your heart and in my heart.

Wouldnít it be nice if we came to know the Lord and commit ourselves to Him and then all of the details of our life would fall into line? It doesnít usually happen that way. The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar and our problem is that we give our lives to God and then we start making exceptions.

This is a prayer that Godís kingdom might come in MY life and in the life of MY church. It is a prayer that my life and my church might reflect the sovereignty of God.

4. Give us each day our daily bread.

Notice the use of the plural pronoun. This is not a covetous prayer. It is not just a prayer for my own personal needs. There are no singular personal pronouns in this prayer. It is a collective prayer for the needs of all of Godís people.

Do you remember the manna in the wilderness? God provided food for the people. But He only provided for one day at a time. Those who tried to hoard the manna found that it spoiled the next day. They were being taught to trust God each day.

God has provided for Christians their daily bread. You might say, "I know Christians who have not been provided for!" That is because God has given more to others so that they might share with those with less.

In the early church, we read that there was not a needy person among them (Acts 4:34). It was not that there were no poor people allowed within the church. It was that the church became a place for meeting needs.

5. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive (11:4).

Sin in our lives is the blockage in the artery of our relationship with God. It is that which separates us from God. We are in need of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a reciprocal phenomena. We forgive because we have been forgiven. God says, "You remember your forgiveness and Iíll forget your sin."

This does not mean that we EARN or DESERVE forgiveness because we have forgiven others. Rather, it is a forgiving heart that is prepared to accept forgiveness.

6. And lead us not into temptation (11:4).

This is a recognition of the sovereignty of God. He is stronger than temptation. He can overcome Satan. And so, He is able to overcome Satanís trap. This does not mean that God actively tempts us. God isnít in the tempting business.

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away by his own lust. (James 1:13-14).

God doesnít tempt. But He is able to stop you from being tempted. That means that you canít avoid temptation on your own. There are temptations that are bigger than you are so that you need His help.

This prayer seeks to deal with sin at its very roots. It looks to root out sin at the temptation level. That is the best place to stop sin - before it has had a chance to tempt us. What tempts you? Whatever is your area of weakness, you will do well to avoid that which tempts you.

 

SOME LESSONS FROM THE LORDíS PRAYER

  1. Jesus tells us to Pray this Prayer: And He said to them, "When you pray, say: ĎFather, hallowed be Thy name...í" (11:2).
  2. It in good and appropriate for us to actually pray this prayer upon occasion. Not all of the prayers recorded in the Scripture are meant for us to pray verbatim. There are prayers in the Scriptures from which we can learn principles of prayer but which are not necessarily meant as a prayer for us to pray.

    I donít think that we are called to pray for God to deliver the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if there are at least 10 righteous people to be found in those particular cities.

    There has been a little book making the rounds entitled "The Prayer of Jabez." It is taken from 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 where a little-known character by the name of Jabez calls upon the Lord and prays, "Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldst keep me from harm, that it may not pain me!" The author of the book goes out of his way to say that this should be the pattern for our prayers.

    Jesus could have said to His disciples, "When you pray, just look up 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and pray that prayer." But He didnít do that. Instead He gives them THIS prayer. And we would do well to pray it.

  3. This Prayer is given as a Skeletal Structure of Prayer.
  4. If we look at the parallel passage in Matthew 6, we see the same general outline for this prayer, but there are a few parts of the prayer that are fleshed out in greater detail.

    Matthew 6:9-13

    Luke 11:2-4

    Our Father who art in heaven

    Father

    Hallowed be Thy name

    Hallowed be Thy name

    Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

    Thy kingdom come

    Give us this day our daily bread

    Give us each day our daily bread

    And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

    And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us

    And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil

    And lead us not into temptation

    For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

    -

    The fact that one account fleshes out and builds upon parts of the general outline that is given in the other account is an indication that we can do the same. We can use this prayer as a general outline for our prayers.

  5. This is an Appropriate Prayer for our Corporate Prayers.
  6. There is a corporate emphasis to this prayer. Jesus doesnít say that you should pray, "Lord meet my own needs but I have absolutely no concern for the fellow who sits in the next pew." Each aspect of this prayer takes on a corporate significance. We pray this prayer as a part of a unified body.

    That marks quite a difference in the popular book, "The Prayer of Jabez." I think that one of the attractions of that prayer is that it is very self-centered. Even those aspects of the prayer that are mirrored in the Lordís prayer have a self-centered focus instead of a corporate focus.

    Matthew 6:9-13

    Luke 11:2-4

    Prayer of Jabez

    Our Father who art in heaven

    Father

    -

    Hallowed be Thy name

    Hallowed be Thy name

    -

    Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

    Thy kingdom come

    Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border...

    Give us this day our daily bread

    Give us each day our daily bread

    ...and that Thy hand might be with me...

    And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

    And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us

    -

    And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil

    And lead us not into temptation

    ...that Thou wouldst keep me from harm, that it may not pain me!

    For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

    -

    -

    Donít get me wrong. I am not saying that it is always wrong to pray with the personal pronoun. But I think it is significant that when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He taught them a corporate prayer.

  7. This Model for Prayer has a Focus both on our Devotion to God as well as on our Life among Men.

Looking at the previous chart, one immediately notices something that is grieviously lacking in the popular prayer of Jabez. Missing is the God-ward emphasis of our prayer. Instead, the focus is upon ME. Jesus taught us differently. He taught us to make the Lord a priority in our prayers.

Do you remember the context of this passage? In the last chapter we saw how that a person who has eternal life is one who loves God and who loves his neighbor as himself. That was illustrated with the parable of the Good Samaritan and with the living parable of Mary and Martha where one sister demonstrated her love and devotion to God instead of being preoccupied with the details of this life. This prayer is an application of that teaching.

 

PARABLE OF THE PERSISTENT FRIEND

And He said to them, "Suppose one of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, ĎFriend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him;' and from inside he shall answer and say, ĎDo not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.í

I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs." (Luke 11:5-8).

This parable is an explanation of the prayer that Jesus has just taught His disciples. We could title it, "How to Have Answered Prayer." The reason that we do not pray more is because we do not really believe that our prayers will be answered.

This man had a "Do Not Disturb" sign on his door handle. Has anyone ever called you for something at 3:00 in the morning? My initial response in such a case will be to tell you to call me in the morning. But there have been times when a persistent call has resulted in my getting up. This was such a case.

This man does not want to get out of his warm bed to help his friend. But he does anyway. Why? Because of the persistence of the petition.

The word which is translated "persistence" in verse 8 is from the Greek word anaides, a compound using the a privative and aidos, the old word for shame.

This describes one who is without shame is his asking. It is like Abraham bargaining God down over the life of Lot, asking first on behalf of 50, then 40 and so on until God agreed to spare Sodom if there were even 10 righteous within the city.

 

THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PARABLE

"And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened." (Luke 11:9-10).

Asking implies a consciousness of need. You do not ask for that or which you have no need. This means that when we do not ask of the Lord, we are saying in effect that we do not want what He has to offer.

Seeking is asking plus acting. It adds to it a certain earnestness. Knocking is asking plus acting plus persevering. We are to continue to ask.

Actually, all three of these verbs are in the present tense. In the Greek language, a command in the present means to continue to do something.

You need to know that the householder is NOT being likened to God. God is not sleepy or too busy or uninterested in answering our prayers. To place God in the role of the householder is to try to make the parable stand on all fours.

This is even more obvious when we look at the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-5). There the story is of a widow who continues to make appeals to an unrighteous judge who only dispenses justice because it is convenient to him.

Neither the householder or the judge are being LIKENED to God. Rather, they are being CONTRASTED to God. If continual prayer causes even such as these to respond, how much more will our loving Father provide for our needs if we continue to ask Him?

What this parable is teaching is the necessity of persisting in prayer.

Baroness Blixen was a Danish noblewoman living on a coffee plantation in Kenya. On her plantation lived a portion of the Kikuyu Tribe. Because of financial reverses after World War One, she lost her land, including the property on which the Kikuyu lived. When she learned the plans of the new owners to evict the Kikuyu from the land where they had lived all their lives, she began a crusade to save it for them. She had no money to buy it back, and so she tried to go through government channels.

After failing at every turn, the Baroness attended a large reception for the new governor of Kenya. She made her way to the receiving line and, as the governor and his wife passed by, she fell on her knees before the governor, holding onto both his hands and pleading on behalf of her Kikuyu. Shocked guests tried to pull her up, but she continued to beg the governor to give his word to look into the matter. Suddenly the governor's wife said, "You have mine!"

Why was she successful? It was because of her unashamed persistence and her willingness to humble herself. You could say that she asked so much because she loved so much.

Now I want to ask you a question. It this a blank check on prayer? Can I keep asking God for a solid gold Cadillac and expect to get it on the basis of this promise?

No. The prayer mentioned here is the same one that is given in verses 1-5. When we pray for the things in the Lord's Prayer, then we will receive them. Within these parameters, we ought to expect an answer from God.

 

ILLUSTRATION OF A FATHERíS RESPONSES

"Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?" (Luke 11:11-12).

Jesus asks two rhetorical questions. It is clear in the Greek text that these questions expect a negative answer. Fathers donít give intentionally evil gifts.

If a son asks his father for...

A fish

That father will not respond with a...

Snake

Will he?

Am egg

Scorpion

Our problem is that so often we go to the Father and ask for things that are not to our spiritual benefit. We go asking for snakes and for scorpions and wonder why our prayers go unanswered.

This brings me to another question. What is the purpose of prayer? If God knows all of my needs even before they arise, then why doesn't He head them off at the pass? Why does He allow them to arise in the first place?

It is so that I will be forced into a relationship of dependency upon Him. You see, when everything is going well, my impulse is to stop trusting God. Therefore, my needs become the calling card of heaven.

 

THE POINT OF THE ILLUSTRATION

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13).

The point of the illustration is that God answers prayer perfectly. It is an argument from the lesser to the greater. If the lesser is true that sinful fathers are able to give good things to their children (and it is), then how much more will the greater be true that a holy and righteous Father be that much more faithful to give good gifts to His children?

By the way, did you notice the prerequisite for answered prayer? It is the prerequisite of relationship. I donít buy birthday presents for the kids who live down the street. They arenít my kids. And in the same way, the Lord doesnít guarantee to answer all of the prayers of all men. On the other hand, He does offer "family status" to all men. You have been invited to join in the family of God.

There are a lot of people who want God to be there to answer their petitions, but do not want to enter into the commitment of a permanent relationship with Him. They are like the man who wants a woman to meet his sexual needs but does not want to commit himself to a permanent marriage relationship with her. The Lord will not allow Himself to be cheapened by such a non-committal relationship.

Notice how God answers this prayer. He does not give...

ē money.

ē cars.

ē material possessions.

He gives the HOLY SPIRIT. He gives Himself. And that is the greatest gift of all.


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