Proper 12 • Luke 11:1–13 • July 24, 2016
By Todd Jones
It might seem like an odd thing to do, but notice how our first reading in Luke 11 takes on a slightly different tone when it is considered in light of the last of our Lord’s words in chapter 10, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
The disciples’ request in chapter 11 might seem reasonable and natural; it could have been prompted by the anxious desire to “get prayer right.” Apparently, John, as with other great rabbis had taught his disciples to pray. Each rabbi had a distinctive prayer model. The disciples did not want to be left out. They had experienced the demands of ministry at the beginning of Luke 10 and knew they needed to become confident prayer warriors. Their request reflects a perspective that prayer is about the proper technique, the correct words, perhaps the proper poster. So they asked and Jesus answered their request. He taught them to pray, but he also taught them that the heart of prayer is not technique, structure, and terminology. The heart of prayer is our relationship with God, our Father. For the sake of time and in view of our familiarity with the text, little time in this homiletical help will be spent on the portion of the text most often called “The Lord’s Prayer.”
The Lord’s Prayer provides a framework through which we can understand prayer in the context of our relationship with God, our Father. While it can be recited, as it is in most of our churches every Sunday, it also provides a framework that challenges the foundation of prayer.
In teaching them to pray, Jesus challenged the disciples to rethink the very nature of prayer. Christian prayer is not like the prayers of the people of this world. They view prayer as a negotiation process with a superpower. They appeal to God’s ego with flowery speech and generous portions of praise. They appeal to God’s greed with their promises and pledges. They appeal to his sense of justice by offering many prayers in the hope of shaming God into action. The prayers of Jesus’s disciples do none of these things.
Prayer springs not from our need but from our relationship with our heavenly Father. While we readily acknowledge the omnipotent and benevolent nature of God, we begin our prayer with an acknowledgement that God is our Father and we are his children. Our adoption as daughters and sons into God’s kingdom is a gift from God granted to us through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The fact that God is our Father changes everything in prayer. Now, we are bold in our petitions to our Father. Verses five through eight contain a teaching offered in parabolic form about prayer. Many people get caught-up in the details and miss the point that the parable is more about our prayers than about God’s answer to our prayers. In this story, the sleeping friend yields to the persistence of the knocking neighbor, primarily because the knocking neighbor is bold. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the friend gets up and opens the door with bread, not a bat with which to silence the offender. In other words, Jesus celebrates the boldness because the neighbor is confident in the relationship he has with his sleeping friend. God desires us to be confident in our relationship with our heavenly Father; so confident that we persist in asking, seeking, and knocking.
The ultimate expression of confidence in our heavenly Father is our trust in God to give us good gifts as he determines best for us. We can be at peace knowing that every good gift comes from our Father.