Luke 11:1-4: The Lord’s Prayer: Father
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Prayer, one of the easiest and the hardest of things to do; one of the simplest and the most theologically mysterious and complex of things. I love what Andrew Murray says about prayer, ‘Though in its beginnings prayer is so simple that the feeblest child can pray. Yet it is at the same time the highest and holiest work to which man can rise. It is fellowship with the Unseen and Most Holy One. The powers of the eternal world have been placed at its disposal. It is the very essence of true religion, the channel of all blessings, the secret of power and life. Not only for ourselves, but for others, for the church, for the world, it is to prayer that God has given the right to take hold of Him and His strength. It is on prayer that promises wait for their fulfilment, the kingdom for its coming, the glory of God for its full revelation.’1 As we continue in Luke’s gospel, we are in the middle of a section where Jesus is intensively discipling His disciples. He has taught them about loving your neighbour, He has taught them about the priority of sitting at Jesus feet and hearing His teaching, another pillar of our discipleship is prayer. Luke 11:1-13 is all about prayer. In v1-4 we have teaching on how to pray; in v5-8 a parable to incentivise us to prayer; in v9-10 we have a memorable statement encouraging us to pray; and in v11-13 an illustration to motivate us to pray.
Our text begins with Jesus praying and the disciples asking to be taught how to pray, v1, ‘Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” As I look at this scene I try and imagine it. There is Jesus, praying again. Luke’s gospel more than any other talks about the prayer life of Christ. Jesus is praying when He is baptized and receives the Spirit. 5:16 tells us that it was Jesus custom to withdraw to desolate places to pray in the midst of busy ministry. He prayed all night before choosing the 12. He was praying after the feeding of the 5000 and before the first announcement of His death. He was praying on the mount of transfiguration. He wept over a sinful Jerusalem. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed on the cross while dying. Jesus is portrayed as a man of prayer. The Bible is full of examples of prayer, Daniel, Elijah, Moses, David, but none would be able to pray like Christ. Imagine what the disciples saw and heard as Christ prayed.
What was it that urged them to ask Him to teach them? Was there a holy jealousy in the disciples as they observed Christ’s intimacy with God, perhaps they saw the joy He experienced, or the relief of rolling His cares onto the Father and the peace that ensued. Perhaps they were struck by how different Christ’s praying was from the Pharisees. John the Baptist did not pray like the religious leaders of his day, nor did Christ. John taught his disciples to pray properly and Christ’s disciples longed for this instruction in true prayer as well. Matthew 6:5-8 records some of the wrong ways to pray. To pray as a hypocrite, to pray as to be seen by men, to pray by heaping up phrases and words, to pray using vain repetition. Or perhaps they saw the connection between Jesus prayer life and the powerful preaching and miracles that He performed. They saw how effective and useful He was for God and recognized the connection between prayer and effectiveness and sought this same blessing for their own ministries.
This section on prayer is going to help us in our need. Where we are ignorant it will provide instruction; where we have suffered from a lack of desire it will nurture and steer our desires; where we have had the wrong priorities it will put things in order; where we have been stopped by doubt it will fill us with faith; where we have been crippled with guilt it will fill us with holy confidence; where we have been fearful it will help us with boldness; where we have had too much confidence in the flesh it will point us to the Spirit; where we have been too individualistic and self-centred it will remind us of others; it will stimulate gratitude where we have not been grateful; penitence where we have been calloused; forgiveness where we have been bearing grudges; perseverance where we have feinted, and spiritual wariness where we have forgotten about the war we are in and the enemies we face. Christ’s teaching on prayer was radical in its own day and is necessary in our own.
We will begin by looking at the Lord’s Prayer, v1-4. Today we will make some general points about the Lord’s Prayer and addressing God as Father. So let’s begin with some general considerations about the Lord’s Prayer.