One time, the disciples ask Jesus, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples’ (Luke 11:1). If not for His missions, Jesus would always be up the mountain or in a solitary place to pray. While the disciples almost always fell asleep during prayer, Jesus would pray for hours on end. This amazed the disciples causing them to ask Him how they should pray, in essence like Him. Jesus then teaches them a prayer that is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer. The prayer begins in a God-centred manner meaning that all who pray should recognize His Sovereignty, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’ (v2). So, whenever one prays, they should first recognize the sovereignty of God in their hearts, and thus approach God not just as any father, but our Father in heaven. This is because the awareness that God ‘is above all’ (John 3:31), and sits enthroned influences how we continue with prayer. Solomon puts it this way, ‘Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few’ (Ecclesiastes 5:2). In other words, prayer must be sincere, and acknowledging God’s sovereignty is one of the ways that allude to sincerity.
Jesus then proceeds, ‘your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Luke 11:2). Jesus then hints that prayer should have its core on God’s business, which is His Kingdom being manifest in the earth. Like Jesus, Believers should be concerned with ‘not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me’ (John 6:38). Thus, the will of God ought to be reflected clearly in our prayer life. Jesus continues, ‘Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us’ (Luke 11:4). We recognize God as the One who paid the price for our sins, and we remind ourselves that in prayer. It is at this point that prayer also points to a Believer, because while asking for forgiveness, it is expected that we should have already forgiven all who have sinned against us. We are expected to come before God with no grudges in our hearts against anyone because, ‘anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgement’ (Matthew 5:22). The seriousness of prayer is such that, ‘if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift’ (v23-24).
Lastly, Jesus says, ‘And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one’ (Luke 11:4). Again, prayer should recognize that God is the One who upholds our salvation, and not our own efforts or works. For, ‘Salvation belongs to our God’ (Revelation 7:10). So, prayer is a sober acceptance that only God can ‘keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth’ (3:v10). Prayer, therefore, is petitioning in advance for God’s guidance and protection from the wiles of the enemy, recognising that ‘your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3). We acknowledge that all temptations we face will not follow through, but we will overcome them not by our strength, but through ‘the author of (our) salvation’ (Hebrews 2:10). That is why Jude writes, ‘To him who is able to keep you from falling and present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever! Amen.’ (Jude 1:24-25).
While for most the Lord’s prayer ends there, it was only the beginning. Jesus does not linger on the wordings of prayer, but proceeds to explain the nature of prayer. He illustrates saying, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him’ (Luke 11:5-6). Jesus proceeds, ‘Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything’ (v7). Using this analogy, Jesus passes across the meat of His teaching on prayer. He shows that prayer is not just mere words, but it is inconvenience, intercession, precision, and asking for the impossibilities. From the parable, the friend asks for bread at midnight, an inconvenient hour to ask for something because all activity has ceased. But it is such hours of inconvenience that prayer should be made, for it shows our earnestness and willingness to forfeit comfort and conveniences to come into God’s presence. One time, when Jesus saw His disciples who were supposedly praying had already fallen asleep on Mount Olives, He tells them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’ (22:v46). Prayer is not only inconvenient; it is also intercession. The friend comes at an inconvenient hour not to ask for his need, but that of his friend who was on a journey. Paul even writes, ‘I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone . . . This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (2 Timothy 2:1,3). Jesus Himself directly tells His disciples, ‘Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ (Matthew 9:38). The essence of prayer is thus to ask God for people who are distant from Him to come to a knowledge of His saving grace – like the friend asking for bread for his friend. Interceding for others is mandatory as it take away focus on our needs, which ‘your heavenly Father knows that you need them’ (6:v32). David even notes, ‘Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord’ (Psalm 139:4).
The friend is also very precise and asks for three loaves of bread. He also states the purpose he needs them for – to give to a friend who has just arrived from a journey. Like his request, our prayers should be precise. We should tell God what exactly we need, the amount, and the reason. The friend even justifies his other friend by saying that he was from a long journey, qualifying the need for bread. While petitioning for spiritual bread (God’s Word and revelation) for ourselves and others, we are to justify with the deteriorating, fallen, blinded, and beaten state of the world. This shows the sense of urgency in our request. ‘On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink’ (John 7:37). In the same way, we are to call out the spirits of those who are away from God ‘with groans that words cannot express’ (Romans 8:26), in the Holy Spirit. This is asking for the impossible because the one being petitioned for, might not know or accept their need. Those led astray do not know God, and so them coming to the Light is like a miracle. Some have even strayed from God so much and have actually accepted darkness as their light. In fact, the world is so marred with sin and the pull of it makes it impossible to even live a righteous life so that we ask, ‘Who then can be saved?’ (Matthew 19:25). But Jesus asserts, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’ (v26). Thus, prayer is asking for what seem like impossibilities in human eyes, because we have faith in God and His possibilities. We then ask God like Joshua, ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon’ (Joshua 10:12), or say like Hezekiah, ‘It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps. Rather, have it go back ten steps . . . and the Lord made it go back ten steps’ (2 Kings 20:10,11).
By inconvenience, intercession, precision, and asking for the impossibilities, Jesus says of the man in His parable; ‘I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs’ (Luke 11:8). In a nutshell, prayer take guts. God grants our requests not only because He is our Friend, but because we have the guts and faith to ask. ‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16), because ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind’ (2 Timothy 1:7). Therefore, the nature prayer is all about boldly asking God to ‘rouse himself’ (Job 8:6), and sure enough, ‘the Lord awoke as from sleep, as a man wakes from the stupor of wine’ (Psalm 78:65). Prayer is also seeking ‘first his kingdom and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33), and beseeching Him to keep on knocking at the doors of the hearts of the lost, knowing that He says, ‘Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me’ (Revelation 4:20). Thus, prayer starts in God’s sovereignty, continues in His will, and ends in His blessing – for it is done ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24).
‘If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ ~ Luke 11:13