Teach Us to Pray

11 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father,[a] hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.[b]
Give us each day our daily bread.[c]
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”[d]

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for[e] a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit[f] to those who ask him!”  ( Luke 11:1-13 NRSV)

I’m not sure what Jesus did the most: eat or pray.  He certainly understood sustenance gained from a good meal with good friends.  And he spent much time in sustaining prayer.

When he taught his disciples to pray, he kept it simple.  He told them not to fear intimacy with God while remembering that God is holy.  Seek basic needs.  That while God releases us from our sins, we pay it forward and show our gratitude to God when we forgive others.  Most of all, we pray for God to keep us near when we feel ourselves entering trials that have the potential to damage our faith rather than build it.

Jesus encouraged persistence.  In persistent prayer we can gain understanding about our situation.  We can ask questions over and over again: “Why are you silent?” “Why are you saying no?” “I don’t understand what’s happening.”  Jesus prayed like this from the cross when he cried out the words from Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Persistence in prayer isn’t nagging God until God relents.  Persistence in prayer offers you opportunity to understand your particular situation.  It’s a place where you can go to dig deeper and see the bigger picture.

Perhaps you’ve experienced prayer and almost missed God’s comforting presence.  Perhaps you’ve realized the help you’ve received from others.  Even, grace in the darkness.

Keep asking.  Keep seeking.  Keep pounding on the door.  The light of wisdom will eventually shine.

What’s on your mind right now?  What keeps you awake at night?  What wonderful things occur in your life?  What questions do you have?  Take them all to God.

Don’t worry if you think you’re being too intimate with God or not intimate enough.  Go ahead and express your anger, wrestle, listen, wrestle some more.  As you repeat your petitions listen for wisdom to slip in and enlighten you.  Your prayer will change or become more focused.

This prayer that Jesus taught his disciples is loaded.  It reminds us of the transcendence of God, the holy otherness of God; that God is sovereign;  that we are human in need of this God over all other gods in our lives.

It points us to our human needs: give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us.  We are wonderful creations of God.  We’re in need of of God’s sustenance and we fall short all too often.  We get lost at times and our vulnerability leads us to places we don’t want to go.

We pray for what we need and get what we really need.  We pray for sustenance and find it unusual places.  We pray and God says, “no.”  We pray and get what we prayed for.  The deeper we go in prayer, the more we realize how hard it is to be human.  The deeper we go in prayer, the closer we are to God.  The more we pray, the more time we spend in prayer.

God takes you seriously.  God can be depended upon.  God takes care of you.  But, let’s be very clear: God isn’t Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.  Perhaps the reason God appears to be silent is that you need time in prayer to understand that need.  We don’t simply bang on the door until God gives us what we ask for.  We ask and seek for wisdom and understanding.  We knock on the door because we know that what’s behind the door is more valuable than anything else in this world.

It’s okay to be presumptuous in prayer.  It’s okay to be yourself in prayer.  Pray that God’s ultimate reign will come.  Know that God is eager to be in relationship with you.  Yes, even you!  Pray for what breaks your heart.  Give thanks for what brings you joy.  Seek forgiveness for falling into the enticements of evil.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

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