Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Luke 11: Teach Us to Pray

http://www.ellenwhite.info/images/chapt-illus/MB/RH-JesusTeachesDisciplesToPray_DSC_0159.jpg Luke 11:1-14 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." And he said to them,"When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation." 

And he said to them, "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 now 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 his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.  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.  What father among you, if his son asks for  a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;  or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He simply gave them a model prayer. There are some important points to note:
  • Short: Jesus' model prayer is short but yet cover all the key components of prayer. Luke's version of the Lord's prayer is around 35 words. It would have taken less than 30 seconds to recite it. While Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 is "longer" (about 50 words), it would still take less than 1 minute to recite it. Both versions basically tell us our prayer's effective is not measured by its quantity but quality. Whether it is Luke's or Matthew's version, the prayer is short.
  • God-focused: Jesus' model prayer begins with God's agenda, not ours. So, we pray "Our Father, hallowed be your name". This essentially defines the purpose of prayer--not to advance our interests but to advance God's name. The whole purpose of prayer is to keep God's name holy (hallowed), not keep us happy. That's not to say that if we keep God's name holy, we will be unhappy--far from it. The reverse is true--when we seek to honor God's name by keeping His universe holy, we align ourselves with His agenda. And our joy will know no end.
  • Kingdom-focused: Jesus' model prayer is also kingdom-focused: "Your kingdom come." It's not about empire-building, whether that empire is our family, business or church but it is about kingdom-building. We do not pray, "Your kingdom I come" but "Your kingdom come." That is, we are praying for God's rule to be active in our lives and we are praying for it to be extended to all His creation. We reject and resist every form of self-rule and Satan-rule on earth in favour of God-rule. That is only possible when we engage in mission and evangelism: "Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
  • Physical Well-being: God is interested in our physical well-being, so Jesus says we are to pray everyday, "Give us each day our daily bread." Since we need to eat everyday, we should pray everyday for God's provision. Of course in our money economy, this provision may come in the form of money rather than real bread. But the point of this prayer is that God is interested in our physical needs: "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matt 6:31-33). So if we put God's kingdom first in our prayer, He will guarantee our physical needs will also be met. 
  • Psychological Well-being: Just as our physical well-being is dependent on God's supply of "daily bread", our psychological well-being is also dependent on God's supply of "daily forgiveness." If we pray daily for material needs to ensure our physical well-being, we should also access God's grace daily by asking for His forgiveness so that we might extend the same grace to others: "forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone" (v. 4). Most of us do not live alone by ourselves in a mountain. We interact with people and events in this world daily. And not everyday is a perfect day--we lose our cool, say the wrong words, do the wrong things, and think wrong thoughts. Unless we are already in perfected saints in heaven, everyone of us on earth will still trip most days because of our sinful nature. And when we do sin, we need the cleansing Blood of Christ to wash us clean on a daily basis by asking for God's forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is not the same as begging for forgiveness. Confession is asking, not begging. We can ask because it's already ours. It's our birthright.It's like cashing our cheques in the bank. We ask the bank teller for cash. We don't beg her for money because the money is ours. But if we don't cash the cheque, we won't have money to spend on others. In other words, we can extend "forgiveness" to others only to the extent of we have been receiving forgiveness. It's a daily asking from God and dispensing to others. Forgiveness is our greatest gift for our emotional and mental well-being. In a family where there is forgiveness for wrongdoing, there is great emotional stability and mental wellness. But in a family where children never ask for forgiveness (and so never felt forgiven), the family becomes dysfunctional, unstable and insecure.
  • Spiritual Well-being: Jesus concludes by asking us to pray daily, "Lead us not into temptation." In a world of filled with images of violence, infidelity and sexual immorality, it's almost impossible to become partakers of others' sins. We are always exposed to people's acts of violence, infidelity and immorality on TV, Internet gaming, in the movies and even in public. So we are exposed to lots of temptation daily. The devil is constantly trying to corrupt our minds and contaminate our spirits. So, Jesus includes this prayer in order to protect us from falling into temptation. Matthew's version of the Lord's prayer includes, "deliver us from evil." Temptation is always a stirring up of our passions to do evil in God's sight. So, to keep our spiritual well-being, we must be spiritually alert by praying daily for God's deliverance from temptation to do evil.
Jesus went on to ask us to ask God for the ultimate gift that will empower our daily prayer--the Holy Spirit. So, he says, "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... If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" The best prayer we can pray is, "Father, grant me Your Holy Spirit today to keep Your name holy, to seek Your kingdom agenda, to pray in faith for daily provision, daily forgiveness and daily protection from sin. Through Jesus we pray. Amen."

Father, thank You for Jesus' model prayer. May You fill us with Your Spirit today so that we may seek Your Kingdom and so that all other things we need will be added to us. Amen.

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