Introduction (Luke 11:1): Lord, teach us to pray! This is the only time in the Gospels our Lord’s disciples specifically asked Him to teach them something. It’s possible they did on some other occasions — “Lord, teach us to preach, teach us to perform a miracle, or teach us to exposit Scripture” — but there’s no record of it in the Gospels. This is the only given time in which they asked Christ to teach them how to do a specific thing. After watching Jesus pray, His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray as John has taught his disciples. This tells us that prayer is a learned activity. It doesn’t come as naturally as we might think. I remember my dad teaching me to ride my bicycle (running alongside as I wobbled along, holding me up). He later taught me to drive. My mom, who was a typing instructor in high school, taught me to keyboard with the correct fingers. These are learned activities. Whenever we learn anything (from shooting a basketball to decorating a cake) we need: (1) good instruction; and (2) constant practice. In Luke 11:1-13, Jesus provides the instruction; we have to supply the practice. In His instructions, Jesus emphasized three aspects of prayer.
1. Pray with Childlike Simplicity (Luke 11:2-4). Luke 11:2-4 is a shorter version of a similar prayer in Matthew, but this was given on a different occasion. In Matthew, Jesus was preaching a sermon. Here He was responding to a request. In both Matthew and Luke, we call this the “Lord’s Prayer.” The thing that strikes us about our Lord’s model prayer as given in Luke 11 is its simplicity. It’s not very long—it only takes about fifteen seconds to pray. That doesn’t mean Jesus was telling us to just pray fifteen-second prayers (though sometimes a brief prayer, if offered sincerely, is adequate for the job). I believe Jesus was giving us an outline in which as our prayer unfolds we:
- Recognize God’s Presence: We begin on a note of intimacy: “Our Father.” But instantly lest we get too familiar we add: “Hallowed (how holy) is Your Name!” In prayer we are approaching One who is both a tender Father and a holy God.
- Acknowledge His Lordship: When we say, “Your kingdom come,” we’re abandoning our own agenda for His and submitting to His will.
- Request His Help: When we say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re bringing to Him our needs and asking for His provisions.
- Confess Our Sins: When we ask Him to forgive our sins, we’re confessing that we’re struggling with faults and failures. We ask Him to forgive us our sins as we forgive others.
- Solicit His Guidance: When we say, “Lead us not into temptation,” we’re asking God to lead us in a safe and sacred pathway.
Notice also the use of the plural pronoun… Give us… forgive us… lead us…. That was our Lord’s subtle way of telling us not to pray just for ourselves but to be intercessory in our prayers.
2. Pray with Mule-like Stubbornness (Luke 11:5-9). Jesus paused, then transitioned into an illustration of a man knocking persistently on his neighbor’s door. The key word is in verse 8: “Because of the man’s impudence.” Almost every translation renders this word a little differently, because this is the only time this Greek word (anaideia) occurs in the Bible. Perhaps the best translation is “shamelessness.” One commentator has: “unblushing persistence.”
3. Pray with Christlike Confidence (Luke 11:10-13). Jesus ended His teaching with a set of promises. We must keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. For everyone who does so is answered. The ending illustration is of fathers and sons. If we, being evil, give good gifts to our children, we can be confident the Lord will give the Holy Spirit (and all that comes with the Spirit) to us.
Conclusion: We know from the Bible that God doesn’t always say “Yes” to all our requests. Moses, David, Paul, and even Jesus received “No” answers—but even the “No” answers were “Yes” answers in camouflage. For example, Moses prayed earnestly to be able to cross over into the Promised Land. But the Lord said, “No”—or so it seemed. But on the Mount of Transfiguration in the Gospels, there was Moses in the Promised Land. He was spared the stress and strain of the battles Joshua waged; was taken to the Promised Land of Heaven, and still was allowed in God’s timing to set foot on the Promised Land of Israel during the lifetime of Jesus. So as the old song says: “We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.”