By Sam E. Stone
This month’s lessons focus on “Learning to Pray.” What an appropriate topic! The apostle Paul wrote, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us though wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).
As H. Lynn Gardner pointed out, “This prayer may appropriately be called ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ because our Lord taught it. It may also be called ‘The Model Prayer’ because it is a pattern to guide our prayers. It has also been called ‘The Disciple’s Prayer’ because Jesus taught it to his disciples and only a disciple of Christ can truly pray this prayer.”
Request and Response
Luke often referred to the prayers of Jesus (see 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28, 29). There can be no doubt of prayer’s importance in our Lord’s earthly ministry. Matthew recorded a similar prayer in a somewhat more expanded version (Matthew 6:5-15). Lewis Foster reminded us, “Differences between the prayers in Matthew and in Luke are obvious, but not great. Seven petitions are included in Matthew, but only five in Luke. That the prayer was given on more than one occasion is to be expected and that the wording should vary somewhat is understandable.”
Archibald Hunter said that “the petitions are for God’s glory and for humanity’s needs. First, we are to pray for God’s greater glory—the honoring of his name, the coming of his reign, and the doing of his will. Then we are to pray for our human wants—provision, pardon, and protection.” Leslie Thomas suggested that this prayer is a model with reference to brevity and scope, simplicity and directness, order and spirit.
Seeking and Receiving
The Master next emphasized the need for perseverance in prayer. A person who is awakened from sleep in the middle of the night will not be eager to help the man who disturbed his rest! “Don’t bother me,” most people would tell him. Literally such a visitor would be told, “Stop furnishing troubles to me.” A person trying to sleep does not welcome a request for daily bread (Luke 11:3). Jesus showed his understanding of human nature when he said, “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.”
As Lewis Foster put it, “If man, because of impatience, inconvenience, and looking for the easiest way to be relieved of an unpleasant situation, as well as being ashamed of not doing what the occasion demanded, is finally compelled to answer this petition, how much more is God, above all these petty reasons, but full of grace and love, already prepared to honor the needs of a petitioner.”
Persistence in prayer is essential. Jesus told a similar story later in Luke’s Gospel to make the same point (Luke 18:1-8). Other biblical examples of such prayer would be Abraham on behalf of Sodom (Genesis 18:23-33) and the Syrophoenician woman on behalf of her daughter (Mark 7:24-30).
Jesus called on his followers to ask, seek, and knock (see also Matthew 7:7, 8). To ask means simply to request; to seek suggests working hard to find an answer; and to knock is illustrated by this story Jesus told.
Material and Spiritual
Even a human parent with a lot of shortcomings would not give something dangerous to a child. How much more so with God! Instead he gives good gifts—what is best for his children.
Gardner explained, “If fathers who are evil give good gifts to their children, how much more will a good God give what is best for his children. . . . God promises to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for him to come into their lives. A person asks for the Holy Spirit by loving and believing in Jesus (John 7:37-39; 14:23), by repenting of sin, and by being baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38; 5:32; John 3:3-5).”
The lesson is clear. If people, despite our weaknesses and inadequacies, want to give good gifts to our children, “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Our requests are to be made to God himself. We can have complete confidence, not only in his knowledge and power but also in his grace and love.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.