Learning to Pray (Luke 11.1-4)

When you truly desire to learn something worthy of your time and effort, you will do well to turn to a teacher who actually practices the very thing that he teaches. It is evident from Luke’s gospel that Jesus taught prayer by being a person of prayer. Jesus engaged in prayer, often in desolate places and alone (5:16). At other times he prayed with a few of his disciples at his side. Occasionally, such as before a meal, he led in prayer so that others might participate. So, when Jesus instructs, we can have confidence that we are learning from the master.

In Luke 11.1-4 Jesus teaches what we have come to know as the “Lord’s Prayer.” It is slightly abbreviated from the more familiar prayer taught by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel.  Luke’s version is as follows:

“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”*

Exploring the lessons condensed into such a short prayer, we come first to the fact that God is to be sought as “Father”. Though our society today is very comfortable with familiarity in addressing parents, it has not always been that way. Father’s used to be addressed respectfully as “Father.” Today it is not unusual to hear children call their parent’s by their first names. But, here in the Lord’s Prayer, “Father” is an affectionate term of family intimacy and love with respect to the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe.

Search the prayer book of Israel – the book of Psalms. You will not find one where God is addressed as “Father.” True, Psalm 89 tells us that the Messiah will “cry to me [the Lord], ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’” That makes sense in the light of the promises made to David in 2 Samuel 7.14,15. The Lord’s Prayer is a part of the fulfillment of that covenant promise. In that context, it is amazing that Jesus teaches us to join him by praying his prayer.

But the whole concept of privilege begs a related inquiry. What baggage does the title “Father” carry for you? Each of us understands that word differently. We do not think of a “father” in the abstract. Our own father’s strengths and weaknesses fill that term with meaning that we love, regret or even hate. It simply is not a neutral term for us. Even an absentee dad, teaches his children with powerful, enduring lessons about what it means to be a father. True, adult children learn to celebrate their father’s strengths and forgive their flaws, but it is amazing how difficult that is for someone whose father was hurtful and unkind.

When Jesus says that you should address the Sovereign Holy Creator God by the title “Father” you must throw off all personal conceptions and seek to know the richness of that term as Jesus intended it. Jesus used “Father” affectionately. The Lord’s Prayer itself proves that. The first petition is: “Hallowed be your name.” Such longings flow from the depth of his love and admiration. Nothing less than a true apprehension of who his father is and what he has done will satisfy that petition. Everyone must know him. Love, reverence and obedience will follow. To the degree that men do not know him as Jesus revealed him, they cannot honor him or “hallow” his name.

Luke includes Jesus’ statement to that fact in 10.22. “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” This affirms the same intimacy. Jesus and his Father know one another fully! Jesus’ revealing work is therefore essential to the salvation of men and to the hallowing of his “Father’s” name.

Jesus’ purpose is to make his Father known as he knows him. His Father is both just and merciful. God is holy and yet full of grace. The Sovereign is the Creator of all, exalted high above the distant orbs of starry light and yet the light by which men see genuine meekness and kindness. This is the one that Jesus knows as “Father.”  He is the one to whom we are taught to come in prayer and to whom we must come in prayer. “Father” we begin, and we know that we are addressing Him who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”  Do you know God as Father?  Pray!

Roger G. Collins, Grace Presbyterian Church, Byram; *English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. Exported from Logos Bible Software; Originally published in the May 2014 Byram Banner, Byram Mississippi.

 

 

 

 

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