Praying Like Jesus: Luke 11:1-13

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As we continue our year podcasting through Luke’s gospel, we come to a place where Luke describes Jesus teaching His disciples to pray. While Matthew’s gospel gets the majority of attention when looking at this event, the prayer Luke describes is surprisingly simple, while also being incredibly profound.

Let’s read what Luke wrote down, and discover what Jesus wanted the disciples to know about prayer. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 11, and we will read from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 1, Luke tells us that:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this:
    May your holy name be honored;
    may your Kingdom come.
Give us day by day the food we need.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we forgive everyone who does us wrong.
    And do not bring us to hard testing.’”

While our passage continues, let’s pause here briefly. With this last request about not bringing us to hard testing, it appears as though the prayer ends. There is no “amen” or any other concluding phrase. This makes me wonder if the last portion of the prayer was lost, or if Jesus is sharing a simple example we can use as a framework for prayer.

Spread throughout the gospels are times when Jesus spent extended periods of time in prayer. Sometimes these prayers lasted for minutes, others hours, and a few even all night long. The example Jesus gives us likely wouldn’t even take us a minute to pray. This tells me that God probably values short, to the point, prayers over long prayers with lots of repetition.

When we look at this prayer Jesus told the disciples, we see four key parts. While some people can easily make acronyms and fancy models for prayer, I won’t attempt to do this. Instead, I will simply share the four big pieces I see in this prayer and how these pieces fit together in a powerful way.

The first portion of the prayer acknowledges God as our Father, and then we give Him glory, honor, and praise. Verse 2 states: “Father: May your holy name be honored; may your Kingdom come.” To summarize this first verse: Our prayer opens with acknowledging God for who He is and looking forward to the arrival of His Kingdom.

The next part of this prayer acknowledges God’s blessings and our requests for our present circumstances. We request our immediate needs focusing on God’s providing for the present moment of time we are living in. This is stated in verse 3 when Jesus says, “Give us day by day the food we need.” Not only do we ask God to be with us each day as we move forward through life, we ask Him to be actively giving us what we need every “present” moment of our lives.

The third part of this prayer focuses on forgiveness in the present, because of forgiveness in the past. We ask God to continue forgiving us because we are forgiving those who have done us wrong. Jesus states this by saying in the first part of verse 4, “Forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who does us wrong.” We want God to forgive us and we acknowledge Jesus’ promise that we are forgiven when we choose to forgive others.

The last part of this prayer focuses on protection for our future. While it sounds obvious that we wouldn’t want God to bring hard test or trials into our lives, this statement is a reminder for us that God protects our future. Jesus finishes this prayer at the end of verse 4 by saying “And do not bring us to hard testing”. We want God to protect us from things we cannot bear, and in a subtle way, we are reminding ourselves that God protects us and that anything that comes our way has been allowed into our lives because God knows He can turn it into a positive when we’ve learned from it.

This is Jesus’ model prayer.

In this prayer, we have two parallel progressive themes. The first big progressive theme is that this prayer begins by honoring God, before then asking God to provide for our present, forgive our past, and protect our future!

The second progressive summary still begins by honoring God, but then it asks God to provide for our physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. Our physical needs are represented by our food each day, our spiritual needs are represented by forgiveness, and our emotional needs are represented by our request for protection from the big tests of life.

If we keep all this in mind for our prayer time with God, I believe He will honor our prayers and answer them with our best interests in mind.

However, Jesus still has something else to teach us about prayer. Continuing in verse 5, Luke tells us:

[And] Jesus said to his disciples, “Suppose one of you should go to a friend’s house at midnight and say, ‘Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. A friend of mine who is on a trip has just come to my house, and I don’t have any food for him!’ And suppose your friend should answer from inside, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking. And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks. 11 Would any of you who are fathers give your son a snake when he asks for fish? 12 Or would you give him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 13 As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

In this additional teaching on prayer, Jesus challenges the disciples to pray purposefully and continually until we see God fully grant our request. However, we shouldn’t stop praying when God has started answering our prayers. Instead, we are challenged to shift our prayers from asking for our request to thanking God for answering our prayer.

The last big detail we have time for in this episode is where we should focus our prayer requests. When we ask God for His help, and for things that we need in our walk with Him, He knows exactly what we are asking for and He knows what the best thing we need is. God is more than willing to give us the best gift we need in any and every circumstance. However, it is worth pointing out that God has a much bigger perspective than we do, and this is why His best gifts might not always feel like the best gifts.

God knows exactly what we need, and God knows exactly the way to answer our prayers that leads us, and the most possible people, into a saving relationship with Jesus that ultimately leads into eternal life.

The best gift that God can give us is a gift that He is more than willing to give to us when we ask for it. This gift is His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the best gift God can give us, because the Holy Spirit is the ultimate guide for our lives, and the Holy Spirit is more than willing to bless us with everything we need to lead us into eternity with God when we let Him into our hearts and lives!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to ask Him for His gift of the Holy Spirit. God is more than willing to answer this request and this request is one we should persist in when praying. Also, when praying, always acknowledge God for who He is, and ask Him to provide for your present, forgive your past, and protect your future!

As I also always challenge you to do, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each day. Prayer and study are among the best ways to grow a personal relationship with God and a personal relationship with God is what leads to eternal life. Above everything else, don’t let anyone get between you and your relationship with God!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Luke – Episode 22: When the disciples ask Jesus how to pray, discover some big themes we are able to see in a very simple prayer, and also discover the one gift God is more than willing to give to His people when they ask Him for it!

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