Hello, and welcome to the STC podcast. My name is Casey Strine, I’m a member of the STC staff, and I’m excited to be sharing a few of my reflections on the Gospel of Luke with you this week.
Today, we will look at Luke 11, verses 1-12, focusing on verses 1 to 4.
This passage begins with one of the disciples doing an odd thing that probably doesn’t seem odd to us at all. One of the disciples—Luke does not tell us who she or he is—asks Jesus to teach them how to pray. This seems like an obvious thing to do. I mean, who wouldn’t ask Jesus how to pray? And yet, it is one of the very rare times that the disciples ask Jesus to teach them something. Yes, of course, Jesus is almost always teaching them something. But it is what Jesus decides to teach them, not what the disciples ask for Jesus to teach them. This is different.
It tells us something about what Jesus’ disciples thought they needed to know. And it tells us why too—because John the Baptist had taught his disciples how to pray. This unknown disciple asks, at least in part, because she or he doesn’t want to be less informed than John’s disciples. Jesus obliges.
What ensues is perhaps the most well known set of words in the English language. For hundreds of years some form of this prayer has been part of Christian tradition and worship services. Even people who have hardly ever been to church can often recite it word for word from memory. The risk of that is we forget to think about what it actually means.
For one thing, there is its title: though we often call it the ‘Lord’s prayer’, many times it is called the ‘Our Father’. The latter title definitely obscures the main theme of the prayer; the former title can as well since we often forget to think about what we mean by Lord.
This is a prayer addressed to a king, dealing with a kingdom, placing the person praying it in the position of faithful servant of that king. Thus, it begins by addressing God as father, a term that would have had royal connotations in first century Judea. Yes, of course, father was also a term for one’s actual parent, but in this context it was clearly a way of speaking about a king.
If there is any doubt about that, it is dispelled by the second petition: your kingdom come. I’ve never said that to my biological father. And, unless Prince William or Prince Harry very randomly happens to be listening in today, none of you have ever said that to your biological father either. This makes it clear we are speaking about a royal dominion. That makes sense of why we ask God to make his will done on earth as it is in heaven. That’s what happened in an ancient kingdom where the King was really in control: everything worked according to the King’s command.
Next, we ask for our daily bread. That might sound like an odd thing to ask from a king, but it really isn’t. Essentially, we are asking for the King of the realm in which we live to feed us from the abundant goods of this kingdom. We’re being humble, so we just ask for bread. But, verse 13, the final one of the passage, indicates that we can trust God will give to us generously, providing more than we ask for in this prayer.
Then we ask for forgiveness of our sins. Why? We are asking this King to be merciful and gracious to us when we fail. As we saw on Monday, the call to follow Jesus comes with very, very high demands. Since we know we’ll fail to measure up on some occasions, we ask for grace in advance.
Likewise, we promise to show the same sort of mercy and grace when we are the ones impacted by the failures of others. Indeed, the logic of the passage is that we presume the King will only treat us this way if we are radically committed to treating other people in this way. It is a classic quid pro quo, but one that is ordained by God.
Finally, we ask for the King to protect us from situations that encourage us to fail in our responsibilities to the King. It might seem obvious, but it is also wise. Mostly, it shows our desire to be a good and faithful servant. Before we are even in the position to worry, we express our desire not to even end up in a situation where we contemplate disobedience. This is the sentiment of someone thoroughly committed to demonstrating the depth of their love for another.
When was the last time any of those things occurred to you when you prayed the Lord’s prayer? I certainly don’t think of them every time. I do, however, try to keep myself conscious of these ideas as often as possible. It reminds me of who I’m praying to, why I’m praying at all, and what I might hope my prayers can accomplish.
This prayer asks for nothing less than the radical transformation of this earthly realm into a place that operates exactly the way God intended it to, with all of humanity and creation flourishing in harmony with one another.
READING: Luke 11:1-13
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’
He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.”’
Then Jesus said to them, ‘Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.” And suppose the one inside answers, “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.” I tell you, 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.
‘So I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
‘Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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!’