1 Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:
Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon.
3 Give us each day the food we need,
4 and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.”
5 Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.
9 And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 You fathers — if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
This passage doesn’t need as much commenting as it needs practice. Luke shortens the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew, making the address more personal, “Father,” which is is how Jesus prayed earlier. Luke also changes from debt to sin with regard to God. This is more consistent with his focus on forgiveness of sins, but losing the parallel does make the prayer a little awkward. Still, Luke’s version is a good deal shorter and maybe easier to keep in a brain full of other stuff. If you’re not used to praying the Lord’s Prayer, give it a try. Or if you do it all the time with Matthew’s version, try Luke’s to make it fresher for you.
The remainder of this passage is unique to Luke’s Gospel, teaching us the importance of persistence in prayer with a memorable little story. Luke will return to this theme in chapter 18. He really wanted us to pray and keep praying expecting our prayers to be answered. How often can our prayers be described as “shamelessly persistent?” Passages like this do get abused, but I think fear of such abuse is a bigger problem. We cringe at how some people go on, so then we don’t really get the message here. While bad teaching, psychological manipulation, and exaggerated results are cringe-worthy, we can also find ourselves cringing just because we don’t do shameless very well.
It’s okay to ask for what you need. My kids ask me for food everyday, several times a day, and it’s always okay that they ask. Amy and I feed them most of the times they ask, though they don’t get all the trips to Lumpy’s they request. It’s okay to tell God what you need, what you want, what your heart’s desire is, even what you would like. You might really need healing. Or you might have a nagging pain that isn’t life threatening, but isn’t barrel of monkeys either. We do okay praying when it’s life threatening (though we could still be more shameless, more persistent), but not as well on the small stuff. God cares about the small stuff too. Ask for it. And keep asking. God can tell you to stop if you’re being a pest.
The other part of this that’s important is to be honest. One of the biggest problems from those bad teaching approaches is they encourage you to lie to yourself, stating that something is true or has happened when it’s not and hasn’t. Don’t do that. Be honest. If you ask for a nagging pain to go away, don’t pretend like it went away if you still feel the pain. You will know when it leaves or when it lessens. And don’t exaggerate either. If it feels 50% better, don’t say it’s all gone, say it’s half gone, but still there. God doesn’t need you to pretend your prayers have been answered. God doesn’t do psychological manipulation. God heals. God delivers. God provides. All the stuff Jesus has been doing in our Gospel readings this year, God still does all of that everyday. When some of that stuff actually happens to you, you will know. And then the shameless persistence will start in earnest.
Pray today. Pray shamelessly. Pray persistently. Pray honest.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.