Jesus Teaches Us about Prayer
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Luke 11:1-13
July 28, 2019

In the Gospel reading this morning, Jesus teaches us to pray. Jesus gives us some teaching about how to pray. He also teaches us how faith and prayer relate to each other.

First, Jesus teaches us to pray that God’s Name would be “hallowed,” that is holy (Luke 11:2). We can recall Luther’s explanation in the Small Catechism. God’s Name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it would be kept holy among us. Jesus teaches us that we should want God’s Name to be kept holy in our lives.

God’s Name is who God is, what He has done, and what is true and right according to God. Jesus teaches us to ask our heavenly Father to work in our lives so that we are faithful to His Name in what we teach, say, and do. We need the Father’s help in doing this.

Let your kingdom come (Luke 11:2). God’s kingdom comes without our prayer. But we pray in this petition that it would come among us (Luther’s Small Catechism).

God’s kingdom is not so much a place as it is God’s active reign and rule. The Apostle Paul says that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Certainly, Jesus is not teaching us that we need to pray to tell God how to exercise His reign and rule. We do not make God, God. And God knows quite well how to function as God.

But Jesus teaches us that as Christians, we want God to exercise His reign and rule in our lives. So we pray, Heavenly Father, please come and reign and rule in my life, as my good Heavenly Father, so that my life would be shaped according to Your good will.

This cannot happen without the Holy Spirit. So Jesus promises that our Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for Him (Luke 11:13). There is a direct connection between this petition and the promise of the Father giving the Holy Spirit. We should, therefore, ask for the Holy Spirit to be at work in our lives, to reign and rule, so that God’s Name be kept holy among us.

Praying like this is an affirmative request, but it also leads to confession of sin. This is because we know that our sinful flesh does not want God to be God in some way or another (Romans 8:7). So Jesus also teaches us to pray for forgiveness, as we forgive others (Luke 11:4).

So He teaches us to pray thus: Father, reign as God in my life, even as rebellious sin within me does not want you to. Father, strengthen me to resist what is wrong in me, and forgive my sins, as I ask this, because praying this causes me to recognize that I don’t always want your reign and will to be done in my life. Strengthen me in Your love, so that I love You and others as you would want me to. Give me the patience, kindness, and self-control I need and that You want me to have. And grant my request because of Your grace and mercy in Jesus, my Savior, the One You sent to be Savior for me and in whom You receive me unto Yourself.

Moving on, Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread (Luke 11:3), so that we recognize where our daily bread comes from and give appropriate thanks to God, our Father, for it (Luther’s Small Catechism).

Jesus also teaches us to pray for daily bread, however, because God our Father cares immensely about our physical well being, as well as our spiritual well being. Jesus teaches to seek the Father’s aid, provision, and blessing with respect to this, as we go about our vocations and work in Christian faith.

Finally, there is the petition lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:4). Luther’s Small Catechism says it well. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not lead us into false belief, sin, and despair.

Notice where the emphasis lies. The emphasis is on our petitioning God to act on our behalf, to guard and to keep us from the assaults of temptation. Jesus teaches us to pray this way because we want God to act to guard and protect us from the assaults of the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature, because there can be far more going on in temptation than we may even be aware of. We need God to act to guard and protect us.

Now let’s turn to how faith and prayer relate to each other. Jesus uses a colorful parable to talk about this.

Let’s say you have a friend, who has come to visit. That friend has driven all day, has arrived late, and is hungry. You didn’t know your friend was coming, so you are not prepared.

It’s the middle of the night.

What do you?

You go to another friend, because you are confident that they will have some bread. All you need to do is ask.

Did I mention that it’s the middle of the night?

You go to your other friend’s house and pound on the door. Hey, get up. A friend has come, and I need some food.

Groggily and a little irritated, your friend says from within. What? It’s the middle of the night. I’m asleep and must get up early. Go away. Come back tomorrow.

Here is the surprising part. Jesus says that your friend will give you the bread in the middle of the night, not because of friendship, but because of impudence. That’s the word the ESV translation uses.

What does impudence mean? According to Merriam Webster, impudence can mean bold asking, but it also has connotations of cocky and insolent or arrogant disregard for how one’s behavior effects others.

Actually, using the word impudence is not the best translation. It would be better to translate the Greek word involved as unembarrassed persistence, or just persistence. Other translations do so. There is also a footnote in the ESV that suggests using the word persistence. What Jesus means, then, is persistence without regard to scruples and embarrassment.

What is our reaction? Don’t we want to say to Jesus that He has this backwards? No friend would give me bread in the middle of the night because I was being shamelessly persistent. That is like being rude, and I’m not rude. If my friend will grant my request it will be because of friendship, not persistence. And besides, I probably wouldn’t be knocking on my friend’s door in the middle of the night like this.

So what is Jesus trying to say? He is trying to get our attention to emphasize a point. He is teaching us that faith is persistent in prayer and that this is the way God the Father wants it. Faith pounds on God’s door in the middle of the night, so to speak. It trusts God so much that it believes that our heavenly Father will not be put off by the pounding on the door in the middle of the night, but that He delights in His people seeking His help, whenever it may be.

In teaching this, Jesus is steering us away from a false humility.

This false humility says: “I would not be so rude as to seek God’s help when it is not convenient for God. I would not wake God up in the middle of the night, so to speak, to ask Him to help me. God is not concerned with my insignificant problems. He must have better things to do. I will do God the honor and respect of not bothering Him about my needs and difficulties.” And it sounds so pious.

But here is what Jesus says. God wants us to believe and trust that God cares so much for us that we would dare wake Him up in the middle of the night, so to speak, without even considering whether it would be rude to do so, whether our problems are significant or not.

This is what faith does. Faith pounds on God’s door in the middle of the night. Faith troubles God persistently with one’s troubles, without shame or embarrassment. Faith does not think that God does not care about one’s problems. The opposite is true. Faith believes that God cares about us completely, and, therefore, it seeks and pursues God’s help, at any time of day or night.

 Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For the one who asks receives. The one who seeks finds. To the one who knocks, the door is opened (Luke 11:9-10). These are wonderful promises that call forth our faith, which leads to prayer.

As you lay out your troubles to God the Father in Jesus and seek and expect God’s help, you will find an open door and a listening ear. This is because God loves you in grace in Jesus, has called you by His Name in baptism, and pledges Himself to you. Faith believes this, says amen, and then prays persistently: “Heavenly Father, I need your help. Please help me, according to your good and gracious will.” Amen.


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