Date: 19 Jun 2022
Sermon Text: Luke 11:1-13
Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong
Transcript In his book titled, “Prayer: Does it make any difference?”, Philip Yancey relates a story about a tourist who observes a devout Jewish man praying at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem. The Jew rocks back and forth with close eyes, beating his breast, sometimes raising his hands. When he finishes, the tourist asks, “What do you pray for?”
The Jew responds, “I pray for righteousness, I pray for the health of my family. I pray for peace in the world, especially in Jerusalem.”
“These prayers, the tourist asks, “Do they work?”
“Sometimes it feels like I’m talking to a wall.”
Have you ever felt that way about prayer? Like you’re not sure it makes a difference? That you’re not sure God really cares, or that he always answers. Maybe sometimes, you suspect, it doesn’t really matter. And you’re tempted to simply give up and grow accustomed a prayerless life. After all, if God is all sovereign, what’s the point?
Or perhaps you wonder, am I doing it right? If there is a right and wrong way to worship, if there is a right and wrong way to conduct baptism and the Holy Communion, surely it follows that there is a right and wrong way to pray. How then ought we to pray?
11 1Now 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.”
That is the question on the mind of the disciples at the opening of our text today. They saw Jesus praying, and they waited till he was done, and they asked him “Can you teach us how to pray?”
1. Pray submissively
Now the first thing to note is that these disciples are Jewish men. Yes, they may be a rag-tag bunch which included fishermen and tax-collectors et. al, but they were Jewish men nonetheless. Which meant that they prayed. They prayed on the Sabbath, they prayed during the Passover, during Pentecost, during Yom Yippur, during Hannukah, all the rest of the annual festivals in Judaism. And in additional to all that, Jews pray three fixed prayers a day. A morning prayer, and afternoon prayer and an evening prayer.
So, these men know how to pray. At this point in their lives, they must have prayed over 10,000 times. They know how to pray to God as Jewish men, but they want now to know how to pray as disciples of Jesus Christ.
as John taught his disciples.
John taught his disciples to pray, can you teach us to pray as your disciples?
In other words, how does a disciple of Christ pray?
Today, we are going to learn how to pray in a way that distinguishes us as the disciples of Christ.
2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
In your bibles, this prayer is titled “The Lord’s prayer”. So we have come to know it as the Lord’s Prayer, and we refer to it as the Lord’s Prayer. But it really isn’t.
It is highly unlikely that Jesus Christ prayed daily for the forgiveness of his sins. No, this prayer is Jesus’ response to the disciple’s request. He is teaching them how to pray.
This is really, more accurately, the Disciple’s prayer. Let’s take a closer look at it.
There are 5 petitions in the prayer. 5 prayer items. At face value, the first two are petitions are prayed for the sake of God, and the other 3 are petitions prayed by disciples on behalf of themselves. At least that’s what it appears to be on the surface.
I will seek to demonstrate that the first two petitions, “Hallowed by your name”, and “Your kingdom come” are the foundational petitions of the prayer, from which the other petitions emerge.
So let’s look at each in turn.
“Father, hallowed be your name.
In Judaism, a name is virtually equivalent to the person himself. So this is a prayer that God’s personhood is hallowed. Hallowed rather archaic, it’s not a word we use these days. It means to sanctify, to regard and treat it as holy. So this a prayer that God is shown and proven to be holy.
This is accomplished, not least when God’s people called by his name, are holy. When they live in holiness. When they obey his law and worship him exclusively, setting him apart from the idols of the world.
Your kingdom come.
This is a prayer for God to be king. Jesus describes Satan as the “ruler of this world”, Paul describes this world as the domain of darkness. So this petition seeks for God’s reign to break into a fallen world hostile to his rule, for his will to be done in this world, so that the domain of darkness retreats at the expansion of God’s kingdom.
This is what we see in the ministry of Jesus. Everywhere he goes, he brings the kingdom to bear upon the world. Sinners repent and follow Jesus. The sick are healed, the dead are raised to life. The effects of sin and death are reversed, mankind is liberated from the powers of darkness.
This is a petition for God’s reign to prosper in the lives of men, in the midst of this world.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
In a world where the day labourers live hand-to-mouth, from day-to-day, this is an important prayer. Now this request for daily bread is far from self-serving;, it is not materialistic either. The motivation for such a prayer is rooted in the first petition, that is, for God’s name to be hallowed.
It is an echo of the prayer of Agur in Prov 30:7-9
7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
Do you see, this petition does not stem from a prosperity theology, but from a concern for God’s name. He prays for bread so that he is not driven by his hunger to steal, and so profane God’s name. He wants instead to hallow God’s name.
The disciple asks for daily bread. Not weekly, monthly, or yearly bread. Because with abundance comes the temptation of thinking that our wealth, not God, is the reason we are secure. Our bank account, not Jesus, is the reason we face tomorrow, and ride out a stormy weather. That is, with abundance comes the temptation to deny Jehovah Jireh, our provider.
Remember the manna in the wilderness? That was daily bread. God wanted to give them daily bread so that they would learn day by day dependence upon him. But some didn’t want just daily bread. They wanted more. They wanted to save for tomorrow.
That is the temptation that disciples of Christ in Singapore face on a daily basis. Every fibre of our being resists such a prayer. We want more than our daily bread. We want enough for our retirement; we want enough so that even our children do not have worry about bread in their lifetime.
In short, give us this day our daily bread, is not a prayer that you will pray if you follow the culture we inhabit today. When was the last time you heard a fellow Christian sincerely pray for daily bread? Yet it is to be the prayer of a disciple of Christ.
But the follower of Jesus is more concerned with daily dependence on God, than in futureproofing their lives with wealth. The follower of Jesus seeks first the kingdom of God, and trusts that the daily bread he seeks will be added to him.
This petition alone has far-reaching implications for what we do with our money vis a vis the needs of the world, and I hope you will explore these implications more deeply in your small group discussions.
For this sermon, it suffices to note that this petition flows from the first, a concern that God’s name is not denied, but hallowed instead, by his people’s daily conscious dependence on him to provide.
4 and forgive us our sins,
The forgiveness of sins relates to the first two petitions in this way:
First, forgiveness is necessary because God’s name is holy. If we hope to have a relationship with a holy God, then we too must be holy, and for that to happen our sins must be forgiven. As the author of Hebrew puts it, “without holiness, no one can see the Lord”.
Second, forgiveness is also necessary to qualify us for the kingdom. God’s kingdom is a kingdom where righteousness rules and sin is no more. So those who enter must be cleansed of their sins. If God’s kingdom is to come and break into the hearts of sinful men, it must come offering forgiveness for the sins of men.
So, praying for our sins to be forgiven is necessary in light of God’s holiness and in order for his kingdom to come. Which is the reason why when Jesus went about preaching the good news of the kingdom, he also proclaimed the forgiveness of sins.
But this 4th petition is unique, in that it contains a qualification. As we pray for forgiveness, we are also made aware of the reason we are forgiven.
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
The reason why we can expect forgiveness from God is because we have extended forgiveness to others.
In other words, it is the forgiving who are forgiven. Whereas the unforgiving are unforgiven.
Wait a minute Ps Luwin, we are forgiven by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Not by works of forgiveness.
Good point, very reformed.
My response is this, what then would you make of this verse, which Matthew tagged on at the end of the Lord’s Prayer.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
As Calvin said, “we are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone”. Friends, saving faith is evidenced by a forgiving heart.
And this ties into “thy kingdom come”, because as we have noted, the good news of the kingdom brings along with it the pronouncement of forgiveness. The culture of the kingdom is not one of resentment, hatred and getting even. It is filled with mercy, love and forgiveness.
Each time we forgive, we reveal that God’s kingdom has come, that its values have invaded and permeated our hearts.
Once again, there is so much to be said on the topic of forgiveness. But this is not a sermon on forgiveness, it is a sermon on prayer.
So, suffice to note, that the disciple prays for forgiveness, and when he prays for forgiveness, his confidence that his prayer is answered rests on the basis of his forgiveness of others.
4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
This petition guards against presumption. The presumption is that we as good disciples will overcome any and all temptation that comes our way. That’s what Peter thought:
Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Peter said, “Hardship, trial, temptation? Bring it on! I will be faithful to the end.” But he ended up denying Jesus. You see, the goal isn’t so much to win, as it is to avoid sin. So, this petition is important.
It was important to Jesus that his disciples pray to guard against temptation.
Luke 22:39-40, 46
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
This final petition, likewise, supports the first two. Guarding ourselves not simply from sin, but from the pre-cursor to sin, temptation, adds an additional layer between us and sin, which makes us less at risk of profaning God’s name.
Because righteousness is an attribute of God’s kingdom, guarding against temptation is also another means by which the kingdom is brought to bear upon our lives.
So, here then is the disciple’s prayer:
“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
As I said at the start, I hoped to demonstrate that the first two petitions, “Hallowed by your name”, and “Your kingdom come” are the foundational petitions of the prayer, from which the other petitions emerge.
If this is the case, then in essence, we praying to God, for God. For his name to be sanctified and glorified, for his kingdom to come and overthrow the dominion of darkness in our hearts and in the world. It’s all about God.
Of course, it is, as the traditional conclusion to the prayer states:
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
So how do the disciples of Christ pray? We pray submissively. We pray for ourselves, yes, but only so that we may better serve his glory and his kingdom. Every petition is emerges from a desire to glorify our king, every prayer ultimately points to the coming of his kingdom.
Even in prayer the disciple denies himself, takes up his cross, and follow the one who prayed, “not my will, but yours be done.”
The disciple prays on bended knees, for the posture of our prayer is submission. We pray submissively.
2. Pray Persistently
Jesus continues to teach his disciples how to pray by telling a story, which we know as “the parable of a friend at midnight.”
It goes like this:
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
This is the situation. A distant traveller arrives at your house at the stroke of midnight, seeking hospitality. It is not usual for people to travel at night, on account of there being no streetlights in the 1st century, and the greater risk of getting ambushed by highwaymen in the darkness of night. This suggests that the traveller might have set off when it was bright, but taken a wrong turn and lost his way, which is a real possibility in a time before GPS. This also means that the food he packed for the original journey would have been insufficient because of the detour, which means that he is now hungry and thirsty and weary.
Now, in the culture of the time, hospitality is a big deal. Because it may well be a matter of life and death. And in a collectivistic culture of a 1st century Palestinian village, extending hospitality to a traveller is the collective responsibility of the village, not just a particular household.
So, this sleeping friend has a social obligation to provide the 3 loaves of bread you are asking from him. And “my children are sleeping”, is a really weak excuse to give. So you ask again. And the reasonable expectation is that he gets up and gives you the bread.
Now, it’s important to be clear about the point of the story. You don’t want to allegorise the story. For example, interpreting God as the friend, the bread as the Eucharist, the traveller as a non-believing seeker, etc. That’s not the way to interpret the story.
It has one main point, namely, that bold persistence gets the job done.
yet because of his impudence (which can also be translated persistence) he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
Meaning, we must pray perseveringly, we must pray persistently.
9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
The following verses reinforce the point.
You ask, you seek, you knock. In other words, you keep at it, you persist in prayer. As disciples of Christ, our prayers must be characterised by persistence.
But why? What’s the point of persistent prayer? Surely God doesn’t need to be persuaded by our constant petitioning, nor will he change his mind over time, and surely the application here isn’t to nag God into doing what we ask.
Right. All of that may be right.
But what is the alternative?
A wife once asked her husband, “why don’t you ever tell me that you love me?” The husband replied, “I told you I loved you at the altar on our wedding day 5 years ago didn’t I?” The wife said, “Yes, but…” The husband cut her off and said, “There you go, if I change my mind I’ll let you know”.
The alternative is to pray the Lord’s prayer once, and assume the job is done. “God, you heard me. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know”.
Prayer is more than just requesting a standing order from a bank. It’s not akin to clicking auto-renew on your Netflix subscription. In other words, it’s not just functional. Prayer is relational. Prayer is relational.
Prayer serves our relationship with God, it builds our relationship with God, it’s about our relationship with God.
Which is why we pray to God, but we say, “Our Father”. Whatever goodness, what blessings, what benefit we derive as disciples is not ultimately a result of our prayer, it flows ultimately from a relationship with God our father.
The means is prayer, the end is a relationship with God. And so communication with God must be regular, it must be repeated, it must be persistent.
In the Gospel of Luke, we see Jesus praying all the time.
And we witness this at Gethsamane,
39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.
At Gethsemane, Jesus practiced what he preached. We hear him praying, repeatedly and persistently, for so long, his closest friends, who were there specifically to pray alongside him, kept falling asleep.
As the disciples of Christ, whose aim in life is to follow Jesus, we follow too, his prayer life.
We pray submissively, and we pray persistently.
3. Pray Confidently
Jesus employs a comparison to convey his next teaching point about how to pray.
11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him 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 to those who ask him!”
The point is straightforward. Earthly fathers, with all their flaws and sinfulness will nonetheless, generally speaking, still do what is best for their children. They will provides for the needs of their children, they will take care of them, they will give to them what is good for them.
And so, as parents, we tell our children to trust us. Don’t we? We tell our children, if you need anything, you can come to us. If you need something, we’ll sort it out. We’ll do what it takes, we’ll get it for you. As parents, we’re always seeking to do what is best for our children.
In our relationship with God, we are the children. He is our heavenly Father. And unlike us, God is perfect in his love, infinite in his wisdom, unlimited in his resources.
And this should grant us confidence when we approach him in prayer. Our heavenly Father is predisposed towards answering our prayers. He is by nature, eager to give us what we ask for. He is a better father altogether.
So, we can be confident that whatever we ask for, if it is good for us to have, he will give it to us. If it is a loving thing for him to do, he will do it for us. He will not hold back a good gift from us. You can believe it. We can be confident of this.
As disciples, we can pray to our heavenly Father with confidence that he delights to give us what is good when we ask it of him.
Because if even earthly parents give good gifts to their children, how much more our heavenly father.
And here’s the proof. The evidence of his giving heart, his willing love, is the gift of the Holy Spirit. And first blush, it seems an odd for Jesus to mention the Holy Spirit in this passage.
But it is Holy Spirit that ties everything together.
He is the one who empowers Jesus to proclaim the good news of kingdom come. He is the one who indwells us, that we may be sanctified and so hallow the name of God.
He is the one who bears witness to our spirits that we are the children of God.
The disciple’s prayer life, rests upon the ministry of Holy Spirit. Which is why he is gift above all gifts. He is not just a gift from God, he is the gift which is God.
And he is living testimony that God knows how to give good gifts to us, for he has given us himself.
So, how does a disciple of Christ pray to God our father?
We pray in submission to his reign, We pray with persistence for all things, at all times, We pray with confidence that he is a good and loving Father who delights to give good gifts to us his children.