Teach Us to Pray (Luke 11.5-13)

Willingness is a very important element in all our choices. We like to think of our will as completely free to act. While it is true that our desires govern our actions, it must be admitted that desire can be directed by many outside influences. Perhaps you remember the “Hornet Song”:

“He (God) does not compel us to go, No! No! He does not compel us to go. He does not compel us to go ‘gainst our will, But He just makes us willing to go.-

If a nest of live hornets were brought to this room, And the creatures allowed to go free, You would not need urging to make yourself scarce, You’d want to get out, don’t you see. They would not lay hold and by force of their strength Throw you out of the window, Oh No!  They would not compel you’ to go ‘gainst your will, But they’d just make you willing to go.”

Before Jesus concluded teaching his disciples to pray in Luke 11 he focused on two remaining issues. They had asked: “Lord, teach us to pray ….” That is a big request!  It involves content and desire. Like a good coach, he taught the fundamentals of “what” to pray. He then sought to challenge and motivate them “how” to pray. To teach “how”, he utilizes an illustration.

 “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, “Do not bother me; the door is shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is a friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.”*

Well, we would be reluctant to do just that. I can hear myself saying to my wife, “You ask.” But for a needy friend we would do it. We would wake up a neighbor, even at an “ungodly hour,” for the right reason. Now Jesus deals with that reluctance in the matter of prayer. Simply put, you do not need to be hesitant with God! He is glad to answer and supply!

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”*

“Come on,” I can hear many thinking, “we all know that God never gave Janis Joplin her Mercedes Benz. That promise doesn’t work!” If I tell you that you must pay attention to the context, would you think I am weaseling out of an obvious problem? I don’t think I am. Here the context is clearly essential to a proper understanding as it always is!

The promise of answered prayer is designed to teach the disciples to pray. The first part concerns the “What should we pray for?”  The second part is the “How should we approach our heavenly father?” When we ask as instructed, we should ask boldly with great expectation. Those who learn this lesson well will ask and they will see God’s name hallowed, his kingdom come, daily need provided, sin forgiven, and deliverance from evil.  When they pray, they will rightly know that their heavenly father is more than able and more than willing to grant all that they ask. Such answers motivate.

Knowing these things, why do we pray so little? That is the third lesson of Jesus that Luke includes. The heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (v.13). It is the Holy Spirit who will enable us to pray, giving the will and the passion to pray as Jesus prayed. Jesus devoted himself to prayer and he knew how to teach disciples how to do the same. Are we attentive students? Are we listening?

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

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