“Lord, Teach Us to Pray”

(Luke 11:1-13 – Pentecost 10 – August 14, 2022)

Luke 11:1-13 – 1Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” 2So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 3Give us day by day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” 5And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. 9So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13If you then, being evil, 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!”

Dear fellow Redeemed in Christ Jesus:

“Lord, teach us to pray.” This request came from one of Jesus’ disciples who had noticed Him praying (vs. 1), perhaps even overhearing His words. No doubt, this disciple felt a lacking in his own prayers, in contrast to the perfect prayer life of Jesus. No doubt, we feel the same.

In Scripture, we hear of Jesus praying on all occasions. He was in constant conversation with His heavenly Father, at each step of His earthly ministry. Not only did He pray on special occasions like at His baptism, and before going to the cross (Luke 3:21; 22:41); but we also hear of Jesus praying as a regular practice, as when He gave thanks before breaking bread (Matthew 14:19; 26:26). Often He would go alone to a solitary place to pray (Luke 5:16). Prayer was a regular part of Jesus’ walk on earth. He prayed for strength in what He must do as our Savior. He interceded for the sinners He came to save. He prayed right up to the time of His last words on the cross: “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Jesus kept a perfect prayer life as part of working out our salvation. Also His prayer serves as an example, as His Word invites us to keep on praying in the Spirit at all times, with all kinds of prayers and requests (Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2). We pray knowing that, even now, Jesus is seated at the right hand of His Father interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What a great privilege we have to approach the throne of God’s grace in every need, invited by Him who loved us and bought us with His blood for eternal life! So let us join that disciple in our text asking: “Lord, Teach Us to Pray” – 1) For the proper things, and 2) In the proper manner.

1) For the proper things

First, “Teach us to pray – for the proper things.” Here Jesus responds with petitions we have come to know from the Lord’s Prayer. He teaches us to pray three kinds of requests. First, requests for spiritual blessings for all people: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come” (vs. 2).

When we pray “Hallowed be Your name,” we ask that God’s name may be kept holy among us. “God’s name is kept holy when His Word is taught in its truth and purity, and we as children of God live holy lives according to it” (Catechism). When God’s name is kept holy among us in this way it brings spiritual blessings, not only to us but to others. For by our words and our walk in the truth, we share our Christ-centered hope with the world around us; so that, as Jesus says, others “may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Therefore we also pray: “Your kingdom come.” “The kingdom of God comes when our heavenly father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity” (Catechism). God’s Kingdom of Grace comes as His Spirit works saving faith in people’s hearts through His Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Here we ask that our heavenly Father would continue to strengthen faith in our heart, and also to work faith in the hearts of others through His Gospel; to the end that finally, we may all be gathered in His Kingdom of Glory. So Jesus teaches us to pray for spiritual blessings for all people.

Secondly, He teaches us to pray for material blessings for all people: “Give us day by day our daily bread” (vs. 3). As we pray this, we remember that “God certainly gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all the wicked; but we pray that He would lead us to acknowledge this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving” (Catechism). As Jesus reminds us: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). So with thanksgiving to God we request for ourselves and for others “everything needed for this life; such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, fields, cattle, money, goods, God-fearing spouse and children, faithful servants and rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, order, honor, true friends, good neighbors, and the like” (Catechism).

Thirdly, Jesus teaches us to pray for spiritual blessings for the people of God: “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (vs. 4).

When we pray “Forgive us our sins,” “We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins, nor on their account deny our prayer; for we are not worthy of anything we ask, neither have we de­served it. But we pray that He would give us everything by grace, for we daily sin much and deserve nothing but punish­ment; and we on our part will heartily forgive and readily do good to those who sin against us” (Catechism). This request particularly benefits believers as we pray together in faith, “Forgive us,” trusting that Jesus has indeed won our forgiveness on the cross. We pray this petition in the spirit of Ephesians 4:32: “forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you”; then we are empowered to share that same forgiving grace we have received from God with one another.

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” This is a request for our spiritual safety as believers – “that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world and our own flesh may not deceive us nor lead us into misbelief, despair and other shameful sin and vice; and though we be thus tempted, that we may still in the end overcome and retain the victory” (Catechism). It is a prayer that God would deliver us from every evil of body and soul, and that He would preserve us in the saving faith through every trial in life and even in death, until He graciously takes us from this valley of sorrow to Himself home to heaven.

So first, Jesus teaches us to pray for the proper things – for every sort of spiritual and material blessing, not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

2) In the proper manner

Since He invites us to bring all kinds of prayers and petitions to Him, let us now ask: “Lord, teach us to pray – in the proper manner.”

In response, Jesus teaches us to bring our petitions to “our Father in heaven” with boldness and persistence; and this is based on our relationship to God through faith in His Son. He gives the following illustration for emphasis: “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “ (vs. 5-10).

See the man’s boldness! The word for “persistence” really gets at a “shameless boldness.” He just would not stop asking, seeking, and knocking at the door, all at an untimely hour in the middle of the night, until the man in the house gave him bread, just to get him off his back! Yet in teaching us the proper manner in which to pray, Jesus invites us to be so boldly persistent.

Jesus is not teaching us to put our faith in repetition of prayers. For He also says: “When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8). We can boldly persist in our prayers because we know our heavenly Father hears us for Jesus’ sake. God hears, not because by our many prayers we merit His favor, but because He looks on us through the perfect prayers and merit of Jesus. God has cleansed us of all sin by the blood of His Son. He has baptized us into His Son and clothed us in His purity. Since God knows us as His own dear children, He tenderly invites us to bring every need to Him.

Jesus promises: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23). As we pray for our needs and the needs of others we will receive, we will find, the door will be opened. For God hears and answers. His Word tells us that as we pray, the Spirit of God Himself, who dwells in us: “makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

So as Jesus teaches us to pray to “Our Father in heaven,” as children ask their dear father, because He promises to hear us and to answer us as we pray in the name of His Son!

And God promises to answer in the way that is truly best for us. Again, Jesus illustrates this by saying: “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, 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!” (vs. 11-13).

We parents, though sinful, love our children very much. If they ask for something good, something they really need, we would not think of giving them something harmful instead. We provide for them in love. And if our children ask for something they think they need, but which would actually be harmful, again in love for them we would not think of granting their request.

If we sinful parents so love our children and know how to give them good gifts, how much more does our perfect Father in heaven love us and know how to give us what is best. His answer may not always be what we thought we needed, but it will be what He knows is best. Above all, God is working for our eternal good in whatever situation we face. In answer to our prayer, He gives us the perfect gift of His Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith unto eternal life.

We can pray confident of our heavenly Father’s good will for us, for “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). God promises to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). So we can also pray as Jesus taught us: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (vs. 2); as we commit our lives to His loving care for time and eternity.

We can pray confidently, for His Word says: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Even now, Jesus is at His Father’s right hand interceding for us, presenting us as His righteous children on the basis of His saving work for us (Romans 8:34). “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). “What a privilege to carry Ev’rything to God in prayer!”

Let us pray:  Lord, teach us to pray for all things – for every spiritual and material need, for ourselves and for others. Lord, teach us to pray with bold persistence, just as You did, in constant conversation with our heavenly Father at each step of our earthly journey.  Lord, teach us to pray this way, until at last we pray with You: “Heavenly Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” Then Lord, take us into Your kingdom of glory, where we will rejoice with You forever. Thank You for always loving us and answering our prayers in the very best way!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.